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Renovating hedge

I have a long native mixed hedge that has not been looked after, most of the growth is now at the top with little at the bottom.  It includes beech and hawthorn.  There is a lack of standing dead wood to provide insects etc in the countryside.

My query is rather than cut every (e.g.) 5th plant down to encourage re-growth can I ring bark them in the place I would have cut them to provide dead wood AND to encourage re-growth from below.



  • Hi Kestral,

    Do not ring bark - see Its bad practice and not recommended.

    I have a 200ft  long native hedge which I have inherited and have been managing this for 3 years. Its a complete mixed bag from extremely tall and leggy to very wide and in some places gaps in it.

    Unless a plant is obviously dead, (you need to replace this) then you need to start by stopping the top growth on a regular basis so cutting this twice a year and not letting any leaders grow. If its too high then lop off. Mine was 2.5 meters in places so i have taken off 1 meter (well a tractor man did). It may not look its best next spring but I am trying to get the whole hedge in relative uniformed height and thickness. I think I have another two years to go before I achieve this. Its long term but once you get the shape and height right the you will be able to manage it and it will look superb. I will try and post some pics of what it was like this summer and what its like after its haircut.

    In relation to the deadwood. If you start cutting on a regular basis you will create the deadwood. I also add to this by chucking leaves from the trees into the hedge too.

    Hope that helps

  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,551

    Good advice.  Ring barking is asking for all sorts of infections to invade your hedge plants and kill them.

    Much better to use clean, sharp tools such as secateurs or loppers or a pruning saw depending on girth and make clean cuts that will heal quickly.   Don't do when frost is present or expected within a few days as this can also lead to tissue damage and infection.

    Plants like hawthorn and beech will recover quickly and grow new hoots form below and make a fine home for wildlife of all sizes.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Mark56Mark56 Windsor, BerkshirePosts: 1,653

    I agree with both suggestions made, just make sure you do it outside of bird nesting season. Hedgehogs, small mammals & reptiles will love the deadwood & leaves below. 

    Last edited: 19 December 2017 15:46:05

  • what about laying the hedge? if its tall and leggy and contains hawthorn then you could lay it.

  • Some kind of laying does sound like it might be the best option. Doesn't have to be hawthorn - most native hedging shrubs/trees should recover OK.

  • Hi,

    Thanks for the helpful replies. 

    So the ring barking is out. Layering, a good idea, but I think to late for it.  In the 175yds I've done so far I haven't found 1 nest nor even an attempt at one, so whilst generally I wouldn't cut in nesting season we have so much hedge and so little evidence of nesting I will have to continue cutting into the New Year.

    Any thoughts on savageing every (e.g.) 5th tree so that over the course of 5yrs it all starts re-growing from the bottom, would be appreciated.

  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,551

    Nesting season is early spring to late summer depending on how many broods they lay and hatch.  Renovative pruning of hedges is best done in winter when you can see what you're doing while the branches are bare but not much later than end Jan/mid Feb depending on how far north you are as after that the sap starts rising and the plants can be weakened or even killed by "bleeding" from fresh wounds.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
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