How To Cut A Hedge Straight? Our Top Tips To Straighten Yours!

July 26, 2021

How To Cut A Hedge Straight? Our Top Tips To Straighten Yours!

While using power tools is already a daunting task, having to use a hedge trimmer to shape a hedge in a perfectly straight, level surface doesn't make the it any easier than a difficult task. However, there are a few tips and tricks for the craft of gardening that will ensure you create a linear, balanced hedge shape; giving your garden a more polished appearance. 

Our guide will inform you on how to craft a perfect hedge, whether you're dealing with evergreen hedges, formal hedges, wide hedges, conifer hedges, overgrown hedges, thicker branches, or straggly growth. These simple steps are universally applicable for a core part of gardening- maintenance of an overgrown hedge, whether you use a powered hedge trimmer or not. 

My father had a great piece of advice which is a great rule of thumb to follow when it comes to gardening and lawn maintenance.

"Make sure you trim your hedge at least once every year. The more you do it, the denser you'll keep it- which looks striking and also keeps the state of the lawn healthy, and rich with wildlife. Who doesn't want to wake up to the sound of birds chirping?".


1) Pick the Right Time to Cut Your Hedge

The first and foremost piece of advice in hedges to note for maintenance trimming is to ensure your overgrown hedge has straight edges along the hedge height (and crisp edges) is to pick the correct time.

Generally, hedge pruning is for healthy growth during the summer months- that's around late May to August. In the UK, the air starts to get colder towards the end of summer. In fact, global warming has only shortened our length of the summer- hence it starts getting colder around mid-august. Hedges are usually cut once every year, but this may be more depending on the type of hedge you're dealing with. 

  • Conifer hedges are cut in the summer, when there's maximum sunlight to enhance the hedge size
  • On the other hand, evergreen hedges (such as the cherry laurel- which we mentioned in another article is the best option to go for if you're after a fast-growing, tall hedge and evergreen leaves), are to be cut around two or three times. You can cut them at any time between late spring (early May) and the end of autumn (up to early November)
  • Holly hedges have compact leaves and are another popular, prevalent type of hedge- they should be cut once annually, towards the end of summer (late July to early August)
  • Deciduous hedges such as the beech variety or hornbeam are best cut once annually- ideally during late summer (August). The Hawthorn variety of hedge needs more pruning than usual, so bear that in mind if you have it. As their leaves do shed in some seasons, keep a leaf blower handy- or use clipped leaves in a compost bin to utilise excess growth and the subsequent loss of leaves for even greater green growth!
  • Maintenance trimming for the Privet variety is about three times annually, between the spring and autumn. While this is a pleasant hedge option to go for, as we discussed in our guide on the fastest-growing hedges, maintenance for healthy growth is more laborious.
  • As hedges grow naturally, they won't grow with a clean edge. You will often need to even out the height and width of the hedge. Branch direction must be taken into account to prevent unhealthy splitting.
  • Neglected hedges will need more time 

Top Tip: Do not cut back beyond the greenery of any conifer hedge, because they won't grow back! The only exception are Yew hedges, otherwise, be careful and bear this in mind.


2) How to Cut Straight Hedge Tops

The best way to ensure you cut straight lines (the classic hedge shape) when you're in the process of hedge trimming is by using stout poles and a piece of string. Make sure you have a lot of string handy, for convenience's sake.

The method is by setting up the string line between the stout poles- the string must be tied at equal heights along the poles. The use of geometric shapes here is what will create a mechanical 'stencil', allowing you to stay within the boundaries for a straight hedge. This method works for wide hedges, just use a longer piece of string. 

First, cut the top. The string line should be no more than a centimetre below the height you want the hedge to be cut at. To make sure the entire hedge grows in a uniform shape onwards, you have to make the bottom of it slightly wider. This is because leaves need sunlight to photosynthesise- the process required to keep leaves green.


3) How to Cut/Trim Your Hedge

Now you know how to keep the tops straight, it's time to get into the main business of this trade.

Even if you're someone with impeccable manual dexterity, a string will make all the difference. This isn't because you're not capable of making a level line yourself, it's all down to perspective. You're far likelier to cut a straight line if you're standing a long distance away from the hedge, as this is what will improve your depth perception. That's why it's easier to draw straight lines freehand if you inch a little further from your page. The same principle applies. Use a string.

Depending on your handedness, you'll want to cut with your dominant hand holding the front handle, lining it up with your dominant side's eye. Then, you'll cut from the opposite side, in towards your dominant side. We recommend starting from the bottom and working your way up.

If your hedge is especially unruly, use a 45-degree angle method to tackle it. Sweep the head upwards at an angle. To clean it up, flatten your trimmer blade against the hedge. This will snip off any anomalies that may be sticking out. 


4) Keeping Safe when Using Garden Power Tools

The next crucial factor to bear in mind is safety. When trimming your hedge for a beautiful garden, you'll be dealing with garden power tools such as a powered hedge trimmer (cordless hedge trimmers included), various types of hedge trimmers (manual included), and power trimmers. 

Since these are electric power tools, avoid contact with water at all costs. Hence, trim your hedge on a dry day. When cutting taller hedges, use a platform. Even if you're tall! Ladders can also be a good option to go for, but we always recommend someone else being around you. If you find that you only have a ladder on hand, we strongly recommend using stabilisers at the bottom, in addition to having someone watch over you.

Power tool accidents are never the best thing to be caught up in. 


5) After-care: Maintenance Advice

If you leave hedge trimmings along the top of the hedge, you're creating an optimal breeding ground for fungal diseases. They thrive in moist, airless conditions.

To prevent this from occurring, simply snip off excess clippings from the top of your hedge to keep it clean. It would help to have a device in place to catch clippings, so they can be disposed of correctly. This may be a plastic sheet if you haven't anything else on hand. 

In terms of promoting healthier growth, it's always a great idea to throw in a bit of fertiliser. Make sure you do some thorough research on your particular hedge type, to see which type of soil and compost works best for it. During the spring, lay down the fertiliser. You can add a mulch of compost too. Not only will this improve the soil structure and moisture levels, but you'll also find far less prominence of weeds. 

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James

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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