How To Remove A Hedge

In short; with difficulty and determination. So, you must be certain that you do indeed want to remove this hedge. Is there a problem with disease that could be cured without removing the whole hedge? Maybe it’s a case of wrong hedge in the wrong place and there’s somewhere else in the garden that would benefit from the plant. In which case consider moving the hedges during their dormant season (in much the same way we supply our bare-root hedge plants) into a suitably prepared space.

Finally, are you sure you couldn’t simply prune better or incorporate elaborate topiary to improve a situation?

If after all this consideration you still want to remove your hedge, read on…

Hedge plants, in all their great variety of form have one thing in common: tenacity. Any remaining stumps or part of a root ball could bring forth suckers and the plant will regrow. Also, even if you leave behind a stump that is completely dead it could become a vector for fungal problems such as honey fungus that could infect others parts of the garden.

This means that once you have really made a firm decision to remove a hedge, some more planning is necessary. To start with, do some research. Check that your 30-year-old Leylandii (or whatever hedge you’re removing) isn’t directly above significant infrastructure such as drains or cables. If it is then you will have to reconsider your initial thought of bringing in a mini digger to quickly pull out the stumps. This might lead to the collapse of a drain or the severing of an important cable, the repair of which could lead to significantly more cost associated to the removal of your hedge.

Whether you find drains or nothing beneath your soon-to-be-removed hedge, the easiest option is to hire a tree surgeon or landscape contractor. They will cut down the plants to their stump and then remove the remains safely and quickly.

However, if you fancy a challenge yourself and the opportunity for some exercise, get out some basic safety equipment. You’ll need safety glasses and ideally steel-capped boots to protect your feet. Long sleeves and long trousers are also wise to protect your skin from splinters.

After that get some pruners, hedge shears and loppers to start cutting the branches down to the stumps. Once you’re at the stump stage, you have a few options for their final removal:

  1. Mini Digger. Although quick, the weight of these bits of equipment can compact the soil causing future gardening problems.
  2. A spade, crow bar and brute strength. Arguably the most personally satisfying and cheapest method of removing stumps but hard, hard physical work.
  3. Stump Grinder. You can hire these but be aware these can be a dangerous bit of kit so only consider using one if you are confident with other heavier pieces of garden machinery. This method removes most bits of the stump and root and any remains should rot down. The depth you grind down to depends on what you will be planting next. 20-25cm is fine for turf whilst 30cm is necessary if you’re planning on putting other plants in. The sawdust that is left from the grinding process can be mixed in with appropriate soil, compost or fertilizer. Do note though that if you are removing a diseased hedge plant then take away as much of the remaining sawdust as possible to reduce the spread of disease.

Whatever you do, don’t try and burn the stumps whilst they are still in the ground. They’re inevitably too wet and the wood too green to burn properly.

So, now you’ve removed your hedge, give yourself a well-deserved cup of tea or glass of wine. It’s now time to plan what to do with all that space you’ve created. Another, more fitting hedge perhaps?