The first summer after planting is the most critical time for a newly planted hedge, it really is essential that new hedges have enough water, light and nutrients to establish and grow away well. They must be kept free of all weeds including grass over the whole width of the planting area (even the short grass of a lawn will compete for moisture and nutrients) for at least the first 2 years. New hedges need to be kept well-watered if the weather is dry, especially evergreen rootball plants and larger potted hedging. As a guide, a new hedge will need at least 5-10 litres per metre of hedge, twice a week but larger rootball plants will need substantially more. Evergreen hedging plants also appreciate misting over the leaves which like all watering should be done in the evening when the heat of the day has passed.
Late into leaf
In the first season after planting a new hedge will almost always come into leaf much later than an established hedge of the same species. Bare root plants need to establish new roots before coming out of dormancy and need a close eye kept on watering, especially as the new leaves emerge.
Many evergreen plants, (especially bare root and rootball hedging plants) will ‘moult’ or defoliate many leaves, or the leaves may turn yellow following warm weather (this can happen very quickly). This is a perfectly normal response from the plant trying to conserve water while establishing new roots. With good care and watering, new shoots will emerge a few weeks later and the plants will catch up.
The best way to minimise these effects is to do everything possible to encourage a new strong root system – good soil preparation, applying bonemeal, using Rootgrow, keeping the area completely free of weeds and grass, mulching and watering regularly and sufficiently. Windbreak netting can also be useful to protect new bare root hedging plants from drying out excessively. Well-tended plants will grow away more quickly and will tend to resist pests and diseases.
Rabbits can cause serious damage to new hedges, if you have a rabbit problem there are three options:
- Plant species that rabbits don’t eat (Box or Yew)
- Use spiral tree guards to protect the stems, smaller plants will need a 90cm bamboo cane to support the plant and the guard.
- Multi stemmed or bushier plants will need either circles of wire netting for the individual plants supported with a small stake, or the whole area secured with rabbit netting.
Other animals can also cause damage so please do check your new hedge regularly.
Strong winds (even moderate breezes) can cause newly planted hedging plants to rock and sway opening a hole around the stem that can then fill with water which will eventually kill the plant. Really strong gales can even dislodge plants to the point that the roots become exposed which is also fatal. Check your new hedge regularly and re firm plants where necessary until they are well established. Straightening up a newly planted hedge is much easier than trying to take remedial action when they have grown much larger. Taller plants may need staking, particularly on windy and more exposed sites where (firmly supported) windbreak netting may also be useful.
Trimming and pruning
Most hedging plants do not need pruning after planting except for quickthorn, blackthorn and bare root privet and laurel which can be cut back by between a third and a half of their height to make them really bushy from the start. Other deciduous hedging can be lighly ‘tipped’ after planting also removing any damaged or wayward stems.
In the following years deciduous hedges will make a denser hedge more quickly of the annual growth is shortened slightly. Most evergreens will not need trimming until the second year onwards when the sides can be lightly clipped to shape as required. Give the top of your new hedge its first trim just short of the proposed final height as this will make it fill out.
As a rule, deciduous hedges can be trimmed in mid to late summer while evergreen hedges are best trimmed in early spring or early autumn but there are always exceptions, recommended timings for trimming all hedge species can be found on our website or in our catalogue.
Looking after your established hedge.
Most of the work is done by the time your plants have established and ‘filled out’, it should then be healthy and growing strongly. To maintain this, we recommend an annual feed and mulch in spring keeping the hedge in tip top condition.