Hedge cutting advice: when and how to trim hedges

Hedge cutting advice

Keeping hedges tidy goes a long way towards the overall upkeep of your garden. Untidy hedges can spoil an otherwise immaculate garden.

Are you unsure how to trim hedges? How much should you cut off? Find out answers to all this and more and learn all about hedge trimming.

Hedge maintenance: formal vs informal hedges

The main difference between formal and informal hedges comes down to how they are clipped. Formal hedges are kept very neat, and require more regular attention. Formal hedges have obvious sides, and generally form regular shapes, such as rectangles.

Informal hedges have a more natural shape, and don’t require as much maintenance. They won’t need trimming as regularly - perhaps every year or two so they don’t get too large.

What hedge trimming equipment do I need?

From light pruning to more radical changes, you’re going to need different tools to get the job done. We recommend getting the following hedge trimming equipment for the best results:

  • Secateurs: also known as pruning shears, secateurs are basically scissors you use in the garden. They are ideal for cutting small bits off your hedges and bushes to smarten them up. Secateurs are perfect for branches up to 2cm thick.
  • Loppers: loppers are essentially long handled secateurs, but capable of tackling thicker branches. The longer the handles, the less effort you have to put in yourself. Use loppers for any branches up to around 5cm in diameter.
  • Curved saw: for thicker branches, use a saw with a curved blade. For best results, do long, slow strokes – making use of the whole blade. Even the thickest branches won’t stand a chance.
  • Shears: think of your shears as a bigger version of scissors, ideal for cutting back overgrown hedges.
  • Hedge trimmers: unlike the other tools, hedge trimmers are machines, designed to make trimming easy. Their steel blades are powered by electricity, petrol or battery, and are perfect for tidying up your largest hedges and bushes.
Gtech hedge trimming equipment

With all your hedge trimming equipment, make sure that all your blades are sharp enough. Working with blunt blades can be extremely dangerous.

How to cut a hedge

Formal hedges

When trimming a formal hedge, you’re best off using a hedge trimmer. Knowing how much to trim hedges isn’t always easy: really it’s personal preference. If hedges mark boundaries between yours and your neighbours’ gardens, don’t cut them too short if you want privacy!

  • 1. Decide how much you want to cut off your hedge.
  • 2. If the hedge isn’t too big, you can probably trim it by eye. If not, put two wooden stakes in the ground and attach a piece of string and put it a centimetre or two below your desired height.
  • 3. Start trimming the top of the hedge to make it flat.
  • 4. Cut along the sides of your hedge. Make sure that the bottom of the hedge is wider than the top, so it is in a wedge shape.
Informal hedges

To keep an informal hedge’s shape, make sure you prune it after it has flowered. These hedges should only be trimmed once a year, but you can leave them for longer if you prefer. You’re best off using hand tools rather than a hedge trimmer, because you don’t need to take as much off as you would with a formal hedge. Use appropriate hedge trimming equipment for the thickness of your branches.

When to cut hedges

There isn’t a right or a wrong time to cut hedges – it’s best to cut them when they need it. You may want to cut your formal hedges twice a year – once in the spring or early summer and again in the autumn, in preparation for the winter.

Informal hedges won’t need doing as often, so give them a tidy-up in July or August.

Animal wellbeing: when not to cut hedges

Wildlife, especially birds, tend to find a home in bushes and hedges. Before undertaking any hedge maintenance, always check to see if there’s a bird’s nest in your hedge. Deliberately damaging a nest is illegal, and disturbing birds may lead them to abandoning their eggs.

If you’re planning to trim your hedge, keep an eye on it in the days leading up to it for any wildlife activity. If there is a nest, you’re best off extending your hedge cutting dates until the birds move on.

Hedge trimming tips

  • • Don’t lean a ladder against a hedge when cutting the top. Instead, use a step ladder and get someone to hold it for you.
  • • Always wear appropriate protective equipment, including gloves and goggles.
Gtech HT20

Is your hedge cutting equipment not up to scratch? At Gtech, we have a range of hedge trimmers, designed to simplify your hedge trimming.