The New Year is always a time for new beginnings, and especially for resolutions to do better in the coming year, wherever we think our lives need improvement. Gardeners too are always looking to improve things, and if you take a look at your hedge and think, “Hmm, not so great!”, then maybe this season of the New Year is a good time to make some resolutions to do better by your hedges in the coming year. Here are some ideas for things you can do to have better hedges around your garden, and to help you make a set of New Year’s Resolutions you can easily keep.
New Year’s Resolutions for Your Hedge
- Grow the Right Plant – maybe it is time for a change
- Have a Fertilizer Program – the most effective way to improve any hedge
- Trim Regularly and Well – faulty trimming shortens the life of a hedge – and spoils the look too
Grow the Right Plant
Let’s start with the worst-case situation – your hedge doesn’t work because the plants are the right choice for your needs. Maybe the prospect of starting again scares you, but don’t worry, you can replace a hedge in a few years, and never regret it. For example, maybe you have a hedge of a deciduous tree – willow perhaps, or some other fast-growing tree. The trouble with a deciduous hedge is that it is, well, deciduous. In winter you can see right through it, and you don’t like what you see. Plus, of course, people can see right through too, and you miss the privacy of a green, leafy hedge. As well, many fast-growing deciduous plants need a lot of trimming, and they always look messy and tend to develop big trunks with all the leaves at the top.
Alternatively, you might have a broad-leaf evergreen, like laurel, and are tired of looking at brown edges on those big leaves after trimming. Maybe your hedge is in shade, or in a hot, dry area, and the plants are not well-adapted to their location, so your hedge is thin and wispy, or brown and burned looking. Perhaps in spring a lot of it is burned and brown, from the winter cold, because it just isn’t hardy enough for your location. It could be that you have a very old hedge, and it is thin at the bottom, or bulges out and blocks paths and driveways. There are lots of reasons why you don’t like the hedge you have, but you don’t have to keep it.
Whatever the reason, if your hedge offends you, pluck it out. Really. You will be surprised how easy it is to remove a hedge, especially if you bring in a contractor, or use a truck to pull the trees out by the roots. A quick session with a chain saw, into the dumpster, and it’s done. A load of compost, then run a roto-tiller over it once or twice, and it’s ready to replant. Once you remove an old hedge you will be amazed at how much room you get back. Hedges can grow wide without realizing it, and lots of valuable garden space will suddenly be yours. A bigger lawn, or room for garden beds – that space is yours to enjoy.
Now you can re-think a more suitable plant for the spot. Luckily, for most areas and most locations, there is one available – Thuja Green Giant. It’s evergreen, so all-year-round screening is easy. It grows across most of the country, and it’s tolerant of some shade, as well as sun, so it will grow well in many parts of your garden. It grows well in most soil, except for areas that are constantly wet, so that is probably not a limitation for you either. Best of all, this is the proven fastest-growing evergreen available, so you won’t have long to wait at all until your new hedge is looking great and doing the job for you. Of course, in the far north you will need something hardier – maybe Emerald Green Arborvitae. In really hot, dry areas a tough juniper, or Italian Cypress are often better choices, but across most of the country, nothing beats Thuja Green Giant.
Have a fertilizer Program
If putting in a new hedge is more than you need, maybe the reason your hedge isn’t doing well could be down to feeding it properly. Hedges are like lawns, that is, plants you trim a lot need extra nutrients, and they can become weak and wispy without it. If you have a new hedge too, then a regular feeding schedule will get it growing at maximum speed and keep it healthy and dense too.
Using fertilizer is especially important if you garden on sandy soil, where there are few nutrients available. You can take too approaches – improve your soil by adding organic material that will release nutrients, or you can add the nutrients directly from fertilizers. The ideal thing is often to do both. Obviously when you are planting a new hedge is the right time to add organic material mixed right into the soil, but even an established hedge will respond amazingly to mulching on the soil, without any digging in needed. It doesn’t matter a lot what you use – garden compost, rotted animal manure, city compost or mushroom compost (if these are available in your area), or any other similar kind of material available locally. All these materials improve your soil, retaining moisture and simultaneously improving drainage, and most importantly, slowly releasing lots of nutrients as they rot down. You will soon see your hedge greening up and sprouting strong new growth. Add more each spring for a few years and that tired old hedge will be looking brand-new again.
For maximum growth, combined this with fertilizer. You can find out more detail about fertilizing hedges here, but the secret is to add plenty of nitrogen, spread out over spring and early summer, with a boost of potash in early fall to strengthen your hedge for the winter. Modern slow-release fertilizers are available today that only need one spring application to feed all season long, which is a great time-saver. You can use chemical or organic sources, as you choose, they all work well. For the small cost and time needed, regular fertilizer is the most effective way to have a better hedge.
Trim Regularly and Well
Good trimming will prolong the useful life of a hedge, and keep it looking its best. Start trimming while a new hedge is first growing and do it as often as you can. If you wait until it reaches full size before starting, you will never have a dense hedge that stands up to bad weather.
Young hedges especially benefit from three or more trims a year, and light trims take just a short time, so you don’t spend so much extra time in the end. The best hedge is the one with dense growth, and many small branches, and regularly trimming is the best way to achieve that.
Slope a hedge inwards slightly, while keeping it flat. This lets more light down to the lower parts, so they stay green and healthy right to the ground. A hedge that bulges outwards as it goes up is much more prone to breakage, and to becoming a nuisance. Round the top to prevent snow and ice building up, and of course always use a good hedge trimmer that is correctly sharpened and adjusted – during winter is a good time to drop it in for repairs and sharpening, so it’s ready to go in spring.