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The Art of Hedges: Basics for Better Trimming

by Joe Cooper, All About Lawns Columnist

The art of hedge trimming can be mastered by an amateur trimmer with planning and patience, not necessarily perfectionism. Fall and spring are generally good times to trim hedges, depending on their type (others require more ongoing maintenance). Take a look at these trimming tips before you tackle your hedges.

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Master the basics.

How high? How deep? How to start? Here are a few hedge trimming basics.

  • Main stem of hedge: leave uncut until the hedge reaches the height you're going for.
  • Stems of hedge: these should ideally be cut to around half of their length. This helps prevent the lower branches from losing their leaves.

How to start: landscapers recommend cutting vertically along the sides first, along the side of the hedge. Then, tackle the top, holding the trimmer at an angle of 0-10 degrees.

Shape up and shape successfully.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no magic to hedge shaping. It takes planning and patience to shape a hedge successfully.

Shaping hedges: not an expert hedge trimming? Tying a string along the desired edge can help you keep things straight as you trim. Over-trimming is the most common hedge trimming mistake, and can lead to limbs losing their leaves (and the trimmer losing his or her mind).

Evergreen and conifer hedges can be tricky, so read up on these types before diving in.

Trim for health, then looks.

Creating complicated sculptures out of hedges should generally be left to the gardeners, but creating basic shapes can be fun. When you do, remember that the whole hedge needs light, so if your hedge shape is too top-heavy, that can affect its overall health.

  • Boxes and spheres are good hedge shapes.
  • Don't forget your own health and safety! Gardening gloves and safety glasses are must-haves before trimming.

As you make your way through the basics, remember that sustainability is an important part of hedge trimming. Just like all yard maintenance, trimming can be consuming, so choosing simple shapes and sensible sizes will help preserve your weekends and give your hedges the best chance at a long, healthy life.





About the Author
Joe Cooper writes education, home services, and design articles, and manages corporate communications. He holds a bachelor's in American Literature from UCLA.

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