Keeping Hedges neat and tidy
Hedges serve many purposes including shelter and privacy, but do require maintenance.
Late summer is a good time to have a look at your hedges and probably give them a trim. Decide on the height you require. Using a string line keeps the height uniform. You could try a topiary if you are really clever. Use sharp secateurs if minimal pruning is required or shears or a hedge trimmer for larger areas, but make sure you use the right safety equipment too!
Hedges can be divided into evergreen, deciduous or flowering.
Evergreen hedges create all year round boundaries, and include yew, box and holly. These plants will benefit from pruning back by 1/3 when they are first planted to encourage growth. In the first year after planting a light prune will tidy up and after that you can trim to your desired height or shape.
Deciduous hedges will lose their leaves in winter. These include beech and hornbeam. Again, trim on planting back to approm 1 ft (30cm) and then trim lightly in the first year. Following years will require regular pruning to keep them in check and beware of solid branches that the hedge trimmer will not like - use secateurs or loppers.
Rosa rugosa, lavender and hawthorn are flowering plants that make good hedges. They tend to be more 'informal' and can be trimmed as required. If you are using the lavender, harvest this in August before you trim.
Always check before cutting that you are not disturbing nesting birds!
Hedge trimmings can be extensive - how do you manage them? Small quantities of cuttings could be chopped up and used as mulch, either under the hedge or in the garden. Chunkier or larger amounts could be put through a shredder and then used as mulch. If you are putting them on the compost heap, mix the grass cuttings to help faster decomposotion, or put in a seperate area to be left to decompose slowly. Thicker branches can be pile up to make a 'bug shelter' - great for the kids!, or can be taken to a green waste collection point.
Good exercise in the fresh air - enjoy your garden!