How to trim a conifer hedge

How to trim a conifer hedge

Many conifer hedges grow quickly and can soon out-grow a space. When left to grow big they can block light from yours and neighbouring gardens, and can potentially be a source of conflict between neighbours. To prevent your conifer hedge from becoming too big, cut it regularly to keep growth in check.

Conifer hedges should be cut up to several times a year, and at different times, depending on what needs doing. Pruning should be done from late winter to early spring when the trees are dormant, but trimming conifers should be performed from late summer to early autumn, typically after conifers have shed their needles.

The easiest way to trim an established conifer hedge such as Thuja plicata is by using a powered hedge-trimmer to give a regular, even finish. Quick-growing conifers will need about three cuts per year during the growing season, at roughly eight week intervals.

Before you start, inspect your hedge thoroughly before trimming it to ensure there are no birds nesting within. It’s an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built. Then test any ladders and platforms to make sure they are stable before getting on them with a hedge-trimmer. You can make them more secure by tying them in to the hedge with a strong rope.

You Will Need

  • Hedgetrimmers or hand shears
  • Safety goggles
  • Gloves
  • Garden string
  • Bamboo canes
  • Ladder

Step 1

Pushing canes into the hedge
Pushing canes into the hedge

Use long bamboo canes to mark the top edge along one side of the hedge. Push the canes down into the hedge.


Step 2

Tying string between the canes
Tying string between the canes

Tie strong string between the canes to mark a straight edge as a guide to cut to. Check the string line is taut.


Step 3

Trimming the hedge horizontally
Trimming the hedge horizontally

Trim the top of the hedge by holding the hedge-trimmer horizontally with both hands and using the string line as a guide. Wear protective goggles and gloves and make sure you have a firm footing on a ladder or a platform for tall hedges.


Step 4

Trimming the side of the hedge
Trimming the side of the hedge

Clip the sides of the hedge using the string as a guide. Hold the hedge-trimmer vertically and make long sweeping strokes to ensure an even finish.


Step 5

Tidying up the hedge edges
Tidying up the hedge edges

Remove the canes and string line before using the hedge-trimmer to tidy up the top edges. Hold the cutting bar at a 45-degree angle.

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