How To Fix Patchy Hedges? Our Top Tips!

Written By James
Updated July 7, 2021 by James

How To Fix Patchy Hedges? Our Top Tips!

If you're looking into tending to overgrown hedges this summer, we've got all the gardening expert tips needed to give your harden a bit of care and help nourish it into healthy hedge growth.

Beautiful hedges act as a frame for your garden, which you can consider the painting you're about to photograph. They can really enhance the overall look of your garden, whether they are an evergreen hedge, a boundary hedge, allotments hedge, or if they're deciduous hedges. If you're new to hedging, you've likely come across a photograph of a perfect hedge (most likely a boundary hedge, the type with a dense body to help guard your garden from prying eyes)- with all those geometric shapes carved in, perfect box shapes, straight edges, and a gapless body. 

When you really get into hedging at home, you'll come across more hurdles than you think, giving you patchy hedges and sometimes even a dead plant. Don't worry though, it can easily be fixed.

There are two main points at which you need to perform different steps to ensure a non-patchy hedge growth: when planting, and when it's mature. Root rot is a culprit of a hedge with gaps too.

1. At the Time of Planting

There are four steps to follow in order to ensure non-patchy hedge growth from your overgrown hedge, and these can be done during the planting process. These preliminary steps will help build a solid foundation for the entire hedge and growing area for each individual plant. 

  1. Allow a Good Amount of Space: You don't need to be dealing with wide hedges to implement this technique- the width of each individual plant's separation is crucial in ensuring non-patchy hedge growth; wide hedges or narrow. To prevent a balding hedge, ensure you keep a constant spacing between each plant. While plant growth is non-uniform and varies between each inter-species plant, as well as amongst various plant species, keeping a constant spacing will be a great preventative measure. As a general rule of thumb, keep the spacing as narrow as you can. 
  2. Pruning/Hedge Trimming: For privacy screens to provide...privacy, you need to take the extra care to ensure you're pruning regularly and efficiently. My father always spoke of the old adage, "prune early, prune often". We recommend emphasising this guideline on the top of the hedge- this is usually the part that catches attention at first. Once you've planted each individual one (we recommend box-hedge plants to help reduce the need for or time spent on this next step), give it a light trimming along the top. This will even the tops so they're all along the same height. 
  3. Maintaining a Uniform Appearance: If there's one thing you take away from this cutting guide, then make it this; don't wait another year before pruning again! Especially during the early years of hedge growth. Pruning is an ongoing, lengthy, and highly beneficial/rewarding process and will need attention on a monthly basis during the core, fundamental growth years. Once the hedge is established and matured, pruning can be reduced in annual frequency. We recommend pruning the top to encourage lateral branches. 
  4. Narrow Spacing: Finally, ensure that you don't space your plants out too far from each other. You don't want a ghastly gap under the row- we want to nurture a stout, filled, substantial hedge that will accentuate your garden and frame the entire appearance of it. Don't try to go for the biggest space amount (to cover all feet of gardening space) you could go for to keep costs down, rather try to fill the entire space with more plants, equally spaced apart. 

2. When the Hedge Has Matured

You've completed the preliminary steps, and are now facing a mature tree/adult tree. Or you perhaps weren't able to perform the preliminary steps, and would like to fix patchy growth in an already matured hedge. Regardless, these steps can be performed to tidy up overgrown hedging.

As we mentioned before, overgrown hedging is usually a result of inconsistent plant spacing and irregular pruning. 

The main thing to do is to keep allowing sufficient width. In many cases, lateral hedge branches are seen to be heavily hacked, with dead branches and missing foliage. Hence, unwanted branches (wood) are showing and the whole hedge appearance is ruined. Provide your hedge plants with room grow in a lateral direction, this will help fix the hedge shape that is currently disorderly. Any unwanted branches will soon be covered up, crossing branches will also be covered up, and above all- major branches will be covered up.

Sometimes, proper care can nurture a faster-growing hedge, provided optimal conditions are sustained- giving you excellent privacy hedges.  You'll need to determine whether you need dry soils or moist- and ensure you aren't using imperfect soil. Improper soil can give rise to disease transmissions of fungal diseases and give you crumbling, dry leaves. 

I Couldn't Do Any of This: Am I Too Late?

If you weren't able to get around to performing any preliminary steps or any matured-hedge steps, don't worry. All hope is not lost. 

In the case of having cut your hedging plants back on the sides a little too much as a result of poor pruning or damage, you don't have to worry. They'll grow back, just give some occasional deep watering to help nourish and sustain them.

The solution is less simple if you find the gaps at the base of the hedge. This may have been because your plant spacing was too wide, or absence of pruning near the top. In this case, you have two options:

  1. Cut Extra at the Top: You will need to cut back hard near the top, which will likely have to be below your desired hedge height. Continue to regularly prune along the top to help maintain a steady growth, until the foliage starts to properly grow back. Your plants will receive a motivational boost to grow extra foliage towards the base of your hedge too.  
  2. Underplant with Another: You could underplant your main hedge with another plant. This is a more expensive option, and will likely take more time too. Make sure you select a low-growing variety.

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My father, and his father before him, and his father; for the past 3 generations, my family have always been into gardening. The green fingers is a gift passed down to me and I thoroughly enjoy it! I also have worked in the manufacturing department for Bosch and DeWalt so I like to think I know a thing or two about tools and such!
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