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How to improve these poor Portuguese laurel and make them bushier?

mmg2711mmg2711 IrelandPosts: 6
Hi,

Planted a row off Portuguese laurel in Aug 2017 and they haven't done particularly well although most haven't died either. I have kept them well watered and suspect they are not thriving due to the poor quality soil in the area. I am no major rush to get them to grow upright but would like to get them to bush out a bit and long term have a 6 foot high hedge. My question is what can I do to make some of these bushier. I think the leaves that are them are smaller than they should be and smaller than others that are doing better (pic 1). Also, some that are further along (pic 2) should I cut these smaller to help make them bushier and should I leave any cutting now until winter or next Spring.

I applied some chicken pellets and I am trying to source mulch (Local garden centre has only tonne bags - too much for me) as am forever clearing the grass and weeds.

I thought I would try this forum as was reading the forum from befuddled and was impressed with the transformation in his laurel hedge so hoping I can one day have a decent hedge.


Pic 1:


Pic 2:

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  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,245
    First thing to do is remove all the weeds. Then apply a think layer of organic matter - well rotted manure, good compost or similar. Water well, and then mulch with more compost or bark to help keep those weeds away. It would also help to remove more of the grass to give a better width of border. A proper edging will help keep it at bay too, but not vital.
    Those weeds, and the grass are just competition for water and nutrients. 
    A slow release food in spring will help, and the odd feed of something like seaweed through the growing season is also beneficial. Seaweed is excellent for foliage plants.
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • mmg2711mmg2711 IrelandPosts: 6
    Thanks. Did put a small handful of chicken pellets around the roots of each plant today would it still be ok to put well rotted manure around the base and is that something that can be got in the garden centre. Currently on the look out for mulch but perhaps compost will suffice.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,245
    Any organic matter will suffice. It'll be fine to add that just now  :)

    Adding compost/manure etc at regular intervals will improve the soil structure, so that's always a good idea. Just be careful not to bury the main trunk of each specimen - just leave a small gap round it. The compost will get worked down into the soil and improve it over time  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • mmg2711mmg2711 IrelandPosts: 6
    Thank you. I will purchase a few bags of compost. Any advice on the cutting to help thicken them out? Should I hold off on that for the time being?
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,245
    You could probably trim back some of the sideshoots just now. The most important thing is to keep all that weedy growth away though.
    There seems to be a bit of 'other' planting to the right of them in that 2nd pic - another sapling of some kind? Beech or similar? That will be competition too. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • mmg2711mmg2711 IrelandPosts: 6

    Not sure on my trees but is a birch maybe. There are two trees in the garden here which I guess doesn't help the hedge. The fact the hedge didn't die off though gives me some encouragement. Do you think with the right care I could have a proper hedge with privacy screening here one day?  Going to dig away all weeds and will fill around all plants with compost or similar.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,245
    Yes - birches. They are very near, which is always a problem, but if you keep the laurels well watered and mulched etc, they should get there eventually. You could also take a few of the lower branches off the trees to raise their canopy a bit. That will allow more light in to the hedge as well. That's best done in autumn though :)
    I had several mature trees in a previous garden and I planted a bare root Hornbeam hedge. Wasn't easy in parts because of roots and the nearby footpath etc, but once established, they were fine.  The ones nearest the trees took longer, but they made a good hedge within a few years. Portuguese laurel isn't as tough as cherry laurel, but with enough care, it should be ok. 
    Certainly taking a bit more of the grass away, and clearing everything to keep the competition at bay, will pay dividends.
    Like us here - I expect you'll get plenty of rainfall, but it needs to be very persistent to get through tree canopies too  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • mmg2711mmg2711 IrelandPosts: 6
    Thank you very much for the feedback. Yeah with hindsight I would have gotten a different laurel hedging. I see them all around neighbouring houses growing wild with little maintenance it seems. Ok will do my best to follow your instructions and see how I get on. I did take some branches from the tree to allow the hedge space to grow but will clear a bit more in autumn as advised. I will report back in progress.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,245
    Good luck  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • mmg2711mmg2711 IrelandPosts: 6
    Ok so I dug out a layer on top with most of the grass and weeds. I then covered again with compost with some farmyard manure mixed through it. Then I put a layer of bark on top of that again. Does this look better?

    Do you think it will now be next summer before I see significant improvement in some of these bushes?
    Should I cut some branches back in winter/next spring?


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