How to Trim a Hedge

If you have hedges in your yard, you probably enjoy the appearance of a formal-looking cut hedge with clean lines and a boxy effect. Luckily, that traditional look is easy to achieve without any professional experience or help. The most important thing to remember before you start is that how you prepare for the trimming will truly decide how the results will look when you’re done. Before you start, you should map out the design and measurements of how you would like your hedges to look so you will be easily guided while shearing.

Mapping Out the Shape Before You Start

Now is the time to decide what shape you would like your hedges to be and map out that shape with clearly places stakes. It is often recommended to map out an upside-down keystone shape where the tops of the hedges are narrower than the bottoms. The slight slope toward the top of the hedge promotes healthy growth thanks to the allowance of sunlight provided to all branches. The shadows at the bottom will also help keep weeds from growing and allow you to not need to water the hedges so much.

Be very careful with your measurements, as this step will ultimately decide how the hedges turn out. When you are confident in your measurements, map them out with stakes; you can adjust these afterward (before shearing) if anything seems off. Although metal stakes are preferred to work with, they are also easy to be caught in the teeth of hedge trimmers, which can cause damage to the blades. You can simply shear carefully around the metal stakes or use stakes of a different material, instead, like plastic, bamboo, or wood.

Use twine stretched between the stakes to mark the edges of where the hedges should be trimmed. This twine should be pulled tightly to make sure all cuts are straight. Make sure the twine is taut by driving the stakes deeper into the ground or by inserting more stakes into the middles of the hedges along the twine to keep things even and more level.

how to trim the side of the hedge

Beginning to Trim the Hedges

Before you do anything, make sure the blades on your trimmer are sharp. When you start to finally shear the hedges along the guidelines you have measured out, remember that it’s better to trim little by little than to take off too much. You can’t add back what you trim; you’ll have to wait for it to grow back, which could take one to two years depending on how deep the trim is. Take your time when trimming to make sure the cuts stay even and level along the guides you have traced. Each passing trim should be light because it may take several passes to create a smooth, level surface.

If you do happen to trim too deeply into any of the hedges, you could fix the issue by trimming the rest of the hedges deeper to match. You might also choose to rearrange the branches in that area to fluff them into an illusion of being thicker.

When trimming the tops of the hedges, make sure to give yourself time to rest so that your arms don’t get tired and droop, creating a deeper cut than you might have intended. Taking breaks is incredibly important for your health as well, disregarding the risk of cutting into the hedge because of tired arms. If the hedge is dense and thick enough, you could potentially let the trimmer rest on the top for support while you pass it along for a flat cut, but this does not take away the need for breaks. If you’re hedge is very tall, it may be a good idea to look into purchasing a pole hedge trimmer. These take a lot of the strain off your arms and body, making the job lighter, making the end result look lots better as well.

Making the Finishing Touches

When you’ve trimmed your desired shape into the hedges as marked by the stakes and twine, you should always take a few steps back to check the hedges from a distance. Sometimes mistakes or uneven areas are easier to see when your farther away than when you’re right up close to it for too long. A change in perspective could also open your eyes to see things you might have been missing before.

Sharp edges that have been trimmed can often look too empty or messy. This can be fixed by making a bevel cut at a 45-degree angle along the edges. Beveled edges also help keep the hedges healthier in the winter by allowing ice and snow to be shed easier. In the end, you’ll also be left with a much tighter and softer appearance than before with the sharp edges.