Cutting back your overgrown hedge

Using your hedge trimmer and other tools to put your hedge back in its original boundary is not a difficult task, provided you do it in these stages.

Cutting back your overgrown hedge

Hedges that are overgrown are not only unsightly, but they can also cause a number of other problems too, such as:

  • Blocking sunlight from entering your garden 
  • Invading neighbours outdoor spaces
  • Overcrowding and sheltering other hedging shrubs, stunting their growth 

Not to mention that you could also get in trouble with your local authority, depending on what the height regulations are in your area. Thankfully, you can avoid any inconvenience by following the below guidance and having a hedge trimmer to hand as well as the following tools:

  • PPE, including protective gloves and eyewear
  • Ladder or step-ladders
  • A telescopic pole plus a hedge trimmer and pole saw attachment 

Taking control of your overgrown hedge

Depending on how overgrown your hedge is, you may need to spread the task out over a maximum of three years. This is because you don’t want your shrub to go into shock by cutting and trimming it back too much in one year if it is severely overgrown. 

Having said that, if it is only slightly overgrown, you can simply use a battery hedge trimmer to cut it back and restore it to its original glory. The optimal technique for giving your hedge a trim is to:

  1. Firstly make sure your hedge trimmer blades are sharp and in good condition - this shouldn’t be an issue if you have properly maintained your hedge trimmer blade
  2. Start at the base of the hedge and using your hedge trimmer, make large, sweeping cuts in an upward motion
  3. Once you have cut the sides of your hedge, you can now tackle the top and make parallel cuts, being careful to keep the cut height the same as you go
  4. After you have trimmed back your hedge, collect all the hedge clippings and either compost them or use them in the same way as you would pruned wood

However, if your hedge is severely overgrown, you will need to cut it back over the course of a few years like suggested above.

First year

Firstly choose a side of your hedge you want to start from. This is the only side of the hedge you will cut this year. When cutting back the hedge:

  1. Make sure to cut a minimum of 15cm less than how wide you want your hedge to be. This is to allow room for growth in the following growing season. 
  2. Cut the hedge side so it is sloping inwards bottom to top. In other words, the base of the hedge should be wider than the top. 

Now that you have cut the one side, leave the other side and top of the hedge for this year. However, do mulch around the base of the hedge immediately after cutting to encourage new growth. 

You can now leave your hedge for this year to allow it to recover. The only extra care you will need to do is to water it during any dry periods over the course of the growing season. 

Second year 

In second year, cut back the other side of the hedge, in exactly the same way you did the year prior. Again, don’t bother with cutting down the height of the hedge just yet, and wait until the following year. 

For this year though, again mulch around the base of the hedge with organic well-rotted manure or compost. This will give your hedge a boost of nutrients to aid new growth and recovery. 

Walk away from the hedge and leave for a full growing season to recover, watering well during any dry spells that occur. 

Third year

This is the last year you will tackle your severely overgrown hedge to restore it. With the sides both cut, now you can take a hedge trimmer to the top of your hedge to reduce the height. 

To effectively cut back the height of your hedge:

  1. Set up a string line that runs in a straight line from one end to the other just below your desired cutting line. Alternatively, use a white-wash as a paint indicator for the same function.
  2. Cut the hedge back above the cutting line, making sure to stay parallel to it to ensure a good, even cut.

Again, mulch and feed your hedge straight away after cutting and water well in any dry periods that may occur. 

Best time to start renovating your hedge

Knowing when the best time to start renovating your hedge will minimise the risk of any diseases occurring and also allow your hedge to undergo a full recovery. 

  • Late winter or early spring is a great time to start cutting your hedge with a hedge trimmer, but be aware that birds nest in hedges from March to August. Provided there are no nesting birds, look for new buds on your hedge, and if you see any then this is the ideal time to start shearing.
  • Trim your hedge with a hedge trimmer when humidity levels are low. Clear skies and cooler weather means the risk of infection and disease will be significantly lower.
  • If you live in a temperate climate, we advise you not to trim your hedge in early to late autumn. There are a lot of fungi spores in the air at this time and you risk them attacking the open cuts if you use your battery hedge trimmer and trim your hedge at this time.