Well-groomed hedges are not just attractive demarcation lines; they can enhance the overall quality of your landscape design and the commercial value of your property. They can also serve as privacy screens from prying eyes. Sturdy and well-maintained hedges are also reliable windbreakers, and can protect more delicate plantings from the wrath of storms and gales. As such, growing and grooming hedges is a great skill to have for homeowners. With that in mind, we’ve prepared a few brief pointers below to give you a head start.
Growing Healthy and Lush Hedges
Hedges can be grown from a variety of shrubs, bushes, trees and even vines. Speak to local nursery owners to find species which thrive in your local climate and soil. You could also survey existing hedges in your neighbourhood to identify good hedge plants. For what it’s worth, privet, hawthorn and hollies are some good, reliable options to consider.Hedges are effectively living fences, so they will need time to grow into their role undisturbed. So please choose an area near your property boundary with a low amount of human and animal traffic. In addition, time the planting near the end of winter to give the young saplings or cuttings plenty of sunlight during their adolescent stage.
Before planting, give the soil a boost by fertilising it. Try to do it a month, or at least a couple of weeks in advance, to ensure the nitrogen and minerals permeate deep within the soil. When planting, please provide adequate room for the saplings to grow. Bunching them up close together might not help to create dense hedges since competition from resource could make them reedy, with fewer leaves.
Maintaining Your Hedges
A fertile soil will definitely attract unwanted weeds, so spend time removing any small weeds in the first few months of the saplings’ life. This will reduce competition for nutrients and water. Speaking of water, make sure you water the new shrubs regularly, as required. Be mindful also of diseases and pests. Such infestations can occur within a short period of time and cause permanent damage, if not death, to the shrubs.
At this stage, you can start fixing stakes or wooden posts to help the plants grow upright. In some instances, you may need to affix rails between the stakes for added support. In addition, install four stakes connected by strings to create rectangular blocks that will provide future guidance on the desired size and height of the hedge. For most plant species, the hedges will fill out the rectangular blocks within a year.
Grooming Your Hedges
By the end of the first year, your hedges will have come into shape. However, do not start any grooming before they finish blooming. At this early stage, you don’t want to make major cuts, so your first equipment should be just a simple hand shear. To minimise cleaning up, lay down a tarp at the bottom of the hedge. Grooming should start at the bottom of the hedge. Make multiple small cuts instead of large ones to reduce the risk of mistakes. Try to cut at an angle slanting slightly inwards to create slopes on the sides – this will help sunlight reach the bottom part of the hedge. Otherwise, the lower portion of your hedges will become less lush, which will over time create noticeable gaps. As you switch to different sides of the hedge, or move to a new one, remember to drag the tarp along.
Once the hedge grooming is completed, you will have very little cleaning up to do since most of the branches and leaves snipped off will have fallen on to the tarp. Before disposing of the leaf clippings and branches, give some thought to composting. Composts make excellent mulch, and mulch spread on the ground around the base of hedges will help to regulate ground temperature and soil moisture. They will also discourage weed growth and provide nutrients to the hedges.