How to Trim Evergreen Hedges

Article written by P. Allen Smith

One of the most useful design elements in a garden is an evergreen hedge. Hedges make great walls, dividers and accents. And if you start with small plants, you'll save money. The tradeoff is maintenance. Most evergreen hedges need trimming once or twice during the growing season to keep them tidy and encourage dense growth. The good news is that this is an easy task. Dare I say, even enjoyable? The key is using the right equipment.

Hand shears are suited for small shrubs, but a gas-powered trimmer is where it's at for tackling a hedge. Do yourself a favor and get a trimmer with double-sided blades that cut in both directions. You'll find the job goes much faster when you can make a cut with each swing of the trimmer. And gas equals no cord to manage. Just fire that bad boy up and you're ready to roll. At the farm, I use Troy-Bilt's AH721 TrimmerPlus® Add-on Hedge Trimmer. It is an attachment that snaps right on my TB675 EC gas trimmer.

Start trimming on the sides of your hedge using an up and down arc motion. Picture a sideways windshield wiper. Cut on a bevel so that the bottom sticks out a little further than the top. This allows sunshine to reach those lower branches, which keeps the hedge thick all the way down. Once you are done with the sides, you can move on to cutting back the top. You'll want to skip this step, but take a few minutes to set up a string and a line level. It will mean the difference between a straight and a sloping top.

You can cut back an overgrown hedge. It's not hard to get it back into shape unless it is a conifer evergreen such as a spruce. You never want to cut conifers all the way back to the trunk or to a bare stem because they won't recover.

Trimming hedges is one of those chores that gives me a great sense of accomplishment. When the job is done, I can see the results. And the new growth that springs forth tells me how much those shrubs appreciate my efforts too. So get out there and get your hands dirty. Just remember the right equipment makes this task easy and enjoyable.


The Dirt from Troy-Bilt

September/October 2014