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How High Can I Grow My Hedge?

Top tips on hedge trimming as online searches show a 234% increase for ‘how to trim a hedge’ since June 2022

Legislation states that your hedge may be up to 2 metres tall – but there are additional factors to consider.

There have been a number of high-profile cases over the years where homeowners have let hedges (often Leylandii) become very large to the point that their neighbours have been deprived of light and enjoyment of their own property.

This has led to the development of the High Hedges legislation in 2003 which offers affected homeowners a route of complaint to their local council. If the council considers that the complaint is justified, they can take enforcement action although this only happens where all other reasonable courses of action have failed.

This legislation forms part of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act and enables local councils to take and manage complaints in relation to hedge height – but only if it is believed that all reasonable steps have been taken without their involvement.

It states that a complaint is likely to be taken seriously if your hedge is:

  • Growing on land owned or occupied by someone else.
  • Made up of a line of 2 or more trees or shrubs.
  • Mostly evergreen or semi-evergreen.
  • More than 2 metres tall.
  • A barrier to light or access (even if there are gaps)

Top tips for trimming down a hedge

  1. Check for wildlife – Before you start trimming any type of hedge, it’s important to check for signs of wildlife to make sure there aren’t any birds nesting. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it’s considered an offence to damage or destroy a wild bird’s nest while it’s being used or built.
  2. Understand the type of hedge you’re trimming – Different types of hedging will need trimming more or less often. Informal hedging only needs trimming once a year, whereas formal trimming needs to be trimmed twice a year. Also, upright plants, stocky deciduous plants, and evergreen plants have different ways of being trimmed.

    To trim an upright plant in its second year, you should cut growth by half and trim side branches over the Summer. That Autumn, you should also trim the top branch to your desired hedge height.

    For stocky deciduous plants, trim leading and side shoots by a third when you plant them and repeat the following Winter.

    When it comes to evergreen plants and conifers, leave the leading shoot when you plant it and cut back straggling side shoots. Continue to trim these side shoots over the Summer.
  3. Choose the time of year carefully – Generally, maintenance trimming happens in the Spring, but be mindful of trimming during nesting season as you’re likely to find wildlife in your hedges.
  4. Consider what type of shears you use – If you are trimming a smaller hedge then using hand-held shears are perfectly fine. However, if the hedge you’re trimming is large, you should consider using an electric or petrol hedge trimmer. When using an electric trimmer, take extra care so as not to cut through the cable accidentally.
  5. Keep on top of maintenance throughout the year – If you regularly prune and trim your hedges, you’ll have less of a job each time. Some hedges may only need pruning once a year, but when they’re first planted they often need more frequent pruning and trimming. If you don’t keep on top of it, you could risk your hedge becoming overgrown which will make your job more difficult, and may even give your neighbours a reason to complain.

Research by Hopes Grove Nurseries

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