Trimming Hedges: When to Trim (and How)

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Landscaping is important to any property owner in Connecticut who wants to get the most out of the exterior of their property. Trimming hedges is an important aspect of maintaining your property, but when and how should this maintenance be performed? Find the answers you need in our guide below.

Trimming Hedges in Connecticut: When to Trim (and How)

How Frequently to Trim Hedges

Before deciding how often you need to trim the hedges on your property, it’s important to first understand the difference between formative pruning and maintenance trimming. Formative pruning is done to stimulate growth on newly-planted hedges and remove any disease or pest-ridden branches from the new hedge. Formative pruning should be performed regularly throughout the first one or two years after planting to ensure the hedge grows to its full potential.

On the other hand, maintenance trimming is the trimming you perform throughout the hedge’s lifespan to keep it healthy and looking its best. For informal hedges, this should be performed once a year. Formal hedges have a tightly-clipped, neater appearance that needs a bit more thorough maintenance to keep up. You should perform maintenance trimming twice per year for these hedges to get optimal results.

When to Perform Maintenance Trimming

You need to time your maintenance trimming correctly to get the best results. Trimming hedges in the dormant season, in other words, late winter or early spring, is ideal in most cases. The lack of foliage at this time of year will give you a clearer picture of what branches need to be removed to improve the aesthetic of the hedges. This timing also allows a faster healing process and doesn’t expose a hedge to pests present during warmer weather.

There are a few notable exceptions to this rule to keep in mind. The first exception is hedges that bloom in early spring, such as forsythias or lilacs. These should be pruned immediately after they bloom for the first time that season instead to get the most out of your maintenance. Another exception would be if there are any dead, diseased, or damaged branches present, which should always be pruned right away no matter what time of year it is.

Step-By-Step Trimming Guide

Now that you know when to do it, you may be wondering about everything that goes into the trimming process. Here’s a breakdown of each step that is involved in keeping your hedges looking their best and promoting strong, healthy growth.

Gathering the Necessary Tools

Before you even get started on any hedge-trimming project, you need to make sure that you’re properly equipped. The first thing to check is whether or not you have the necessary safety equipment to do the job. A sturdy pair of work gloves along with safety glasses are a good place to start. You’ll also want to use ear protection if you’re making use of any motorized tools that generate a lot of noise.

With all of that protective equipment accounted for, you’ll want to make sure you also have the tools necessary to do the trimming itself. A ladder may be necessary, depending on the height of the hedges that you’re working on. You’ll also want a good pair of hedge shears on hand and a curved pruning saw and bypass hand pruners to ensure that you’re able to get at any hard-to-reach parts of your hedges.

Lay Down a Tarp

Trimming hedges can get messy, so you want to do everything you can to allow for a quick and easy cleanup. This involves laying a tarp down underneath the hedge so that it can catch any bits of branches or foliage that fall as you clip them away. Once the work is done, the tarp will allow to easily gather up and dispose of the clippings.

An effective alternative to a traditional tarp is a yard waste bag. These bags are specifically designed to catch the debris created from yard work and allow for easy removal after the job is done. In order to keep your yard work as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible, you should try to find yard bags that are constructed from durable reinforced paper instead of plastic.

Remove Dead or Diseased Limbs

Before you begin shaping the hedge to achieve the look that you envision, you should start by removing any dead, diseased, or otherwise damaged limbs from the hedge. One rule of thumb to follow is to remove up to one-third of the oldest branches present. Doing so will allow sunlight and air to reach deeper inside the hedge to stimulate growth in the younger limbs of the hedge to give it a full, healthy appearance.

Disease prevention is one of the primary reasons that it is essential to do your trimming at the proper time of year. Plant diseases such as oak wilt disease are known to spread extremely quickly during the warm months. You’ll leave your plants vulnerable if you do your trimming while this disease is present. Do the trimming early in the year instead to give your plants ample time to heal after maintenance is complete.

Begin Trimming to Desired Shape

Once you’ve cleared out any unhealthy or dead branches from the hedge, it’s time to start working it towards the shape and aesthetic that you wish to show off on your property. However, it’s important to remember that you should start slowly when trimming a hedge back. A good rule of thumb to live by is to not trim any hedge down by any more than one-third of its starting length.

As you’re working the hedge towards the shape you’re aiming for, step back frequently to assess your progress. Make adjustments as necessary and keep an open mind; your initial plan may need to change as you go depending on the results you end up with. If possible, try to trim the hedge so that the bottom is slightly wider than the top. This will help sunlight reach the lower branches to help the hedge grow healthy and strong.

Remove and Compost Clippings

Once the job is done, it’s time to clear out any of the clippings that fell during your work. This is necessary for the aesthetics of your landscape but also has practical benefits. Foliage lying around creates a great place for pests to flourish, for one thing.

If you put a tarp or yard bag down before working, clean-up is as simple as picking up the tarp or yard bag to gather up your clippings. If possible, compost your clippings to dispose of them in the most environmentally-friendly way possible.

Keep Your Lawn Looking Its Best

Keeping up with all of the demands that go into maintaining your hedges can be a lot of work. When you need a helping hand to meet all of your landscaping needs, we’ll help you find the right professional landscapers to assist you with your project. Our database of fully licensed and insured landscapers will give you the resources you need to achieve your ideal yard.

Have any landscaping needs that you need to be met? No job is too big or too small for the professionals we’ll help you find. Start your search on Landscaper Locator and get the most out of your landscape design!