Pruning beech hedges: when & how

Pruning beech hedges: when & how

Beech hedges need to be trimmed regularly. In the following, we will give you all the information you need to know about pruning beeches.

Beeches (Fagus), especially young ones, tend to grow very fast. Pruning new beech hedges is therefore extremely important for a perfectly dense hedge. Otherwise, the lower branches will not get enough sunlight and your hedge will become bare at the bottom. Cutting back your beech hedge will ensure that it is thinned out sufficiently and that it develops nicely spread out shoots. We will show you how and when to prune your beech hedge in this article.

How much does a beech hedge grow per year?

Young common beeches can grow up to 40 to 70 cm in a year, both in height and width. However, for your own beech tree to grow at this rate, you need to keep it in the right location and take good care of it. You can find more information on how to grow your hedge as tall as possible in our article on beech hedges.

When is the best time to cut beech hedges?

Cutting beech hedges twice a year is necessary for a healthy and bushy growth. The initial pruning should be done in February or March, before the main growth period starts. The milder the winter, the sooner the beeches should be pruned. Ideally, you should do the second round of beech hedge trimming between June and August, towards the end of the growth period. Diseased and injured shoots should be removed all year round. This way, the spreading of diseases can be prevented, and no energy will be wasted on those shoots. It is best to prune beeches on a mild and overcast but dry day.

What is the best way to trim beech hedges?

During the first two years, long and protruding shoots should be trimmed with sharp, clean pruning shears. The tips of shorter shoots should be removed, too. From the third year onwards, the initial beech hedge pruning differs from the one done later on in the year. Initially, it is important to prune more thoroughly to help shape the hedge. This should be done in such a way that the hedge tapers from the base to the tip and forms a flat roof. In this way, the entire hedge will get enough sunlight and won’t suffer a lot from snow damage in the winter. To be sure that you are pruning the hedge evenly, mark the desired height and shape by attaching some rope or string to the hedge. You should also keep in mind not to let your hedge grow too big to prevent any dangerous falls while pruning.

In the second pruning session, you only need to trim the hedge into shape again. Beech hedges are popular nesting sites for native bird species, so you should be very careful when doing this. Keep your distance from the nests or wait until the end of July for the second trim. By then, the young birds should be fully fledged. Water your beech trees well after each cut.

Note: Pruning new beech hedges directly after planting (i.e. reducing them to a third of their previous size) will promote bushy and vigorous growth.

Pruning beech hedges thoroughly

Beeches are very tolerant to pruning, especially older trees. Therefore, they can be cut back quite drastically if rejuvenating the hedge is necessary. This more thorough type of pruning should take place in February or March and should only be done every couple years. Very old branches should be removed, and the inside of the hedge should be thinned out to make room for new shoots. Alternatively, the entire hedge can be cut back to leave just the older parts of the trees. It’s sufficient to even just leave three buds to let new shoots develop.

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