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Cutting Hedge

To an extent, this is a difficult one to write…. To cut a hedge properly is like putting in writing how to kick a football. Anyone can do it, but how many can do it right or more to the point how many have ever done a seriously bad job on attempting to do good 😉

I asked a friend recently for her hedge cutting tip. She told me…

just make sure you don’t wear socks and sandals at the same time….

A fair point. But fashion aside, there are some things that should be considered before one even dreams of looking at the hedge.

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The machine: there are hedge cutters and hedge trimmers. Petrol and electric. My advice. Buy once and buy well. Also, from my experience, when that machine konks, won’t cut as well or goes stiff because it was left outside over winter…. you’ll thank me for [maybe] paying that extra ten euro.

What I bought was a petrol hedgecutters. With blades on one side only and a protector on the other side. Some like the double sided blades, but it’s not for me. The cutters will take about 2″ width in growth. A big strong sturdy baby, I’ve had it about 4 years now and believe me it is well  tried and tested. It is also regularly serviced.

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The Fuel:

Most machines will take a petrol and 2 stroke oil mixture. The biggest problems I have ever heard are caused when one does not add the mix in and the machine grinds to a halt or the mix is in the wrond doage.

As far as I am concerned, 2 stroke oil is just that. I chose to mix up the [small] green can [5 litre] to 100 mls of oil [the smallest white one]. That’s a 1:50 mix ratio. Or a wee bottle into a green can. Can’t go wrong. Some may say a different ratio but thats a little dependent on the machine. Whatever you do, like not putting diesel in a petrol car… keep them – mixed and not mixed – very separate and label well if you have to.

The Cutting:

This is the tough bit…. if you honestly believe you are going to get into trouble and are one of those that is just not for DIY garden chores; if you are nodding your head as you read this…. just call me. It will cost you money but your partner will still love you 😀

If you are going to cut it yourself…. remember the measure twice cut once rule.

There are a tips to getting it right…

The first: if you have a fence on the peripheral this can be used a guide where the blades or guard rest against and this is your straight line. This also works as regards the topping – if – the hedge is to be maintained at that height.

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If you don’t have a fence type guide you could make a temporary one that can be used year after year. The only other way is to select by eye, the lowest/ deepest point existing in the hedge and making an indent nearby and on again…. one then simply joins the dots makes the indents meet up. Note: This is where you really need to be able to use your looking down the barrel of a gun close one eye type of view. Funny as it sounds level hedge cutting is very much a case of practice make perfect and the day before Marys big 40th bash is not the day to start training.

If one removes an inch all the way across and you make hedge bevels, in the growing season it can be cut back out again, when it grows back. But when you are in the middle of October and the hedge will not grow back until the following season…. take a look at the above video 😉

The tips are fine for compact hedges; For those that are more sparse/ less formal, like the bay laurel [for eg] one can take elements of height out with a secateurs first and once again join the dots with the machine.

Other than that, I also like to use a garden shears. For height I very simply use some builders tressles [like small scaffolding] or a telescopic cutters – basically a hedge cutters on an extension pole.

Whatever you do, if you are doing it yourself… take your time, enjoy it and don’t forget to allow for sweeping up time before you start.

How do you cut yours….?

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trees – crown raising, topping or training

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There should be no question of whether one ‘tops’ a tree. Trees should first be selected based upon a horticulturally educated basis. That is the right tree for the right place rather than a choice based on price. In practice generally – the shorter time a tree must spend growing in nursery to become a saleable plant the cheaper it is. Cheaper does, particularly in the case of trees does *not* mean better value.

However, when that tree you bought comes back to haunt you, the oirish thing to do is to ‘top’ the tree. No! I say.

The problem with this is that the auxins or the growth hormones will not not push to the growing point [tip] of the tree but down and then out the sides. Thus one ends up with a tree that takes up too much space and results in the appearance of an overgrown bush. That’s not bad practice, if you own the Phoenix Park…

When trees are quite young – I start pruning them early because I want movement of light through them. I want them [in theory] like a telegraph pole and then to start to produce foliage above that point. For fruiting trees this would be extremely different but they generally should not grow so tall and you also need to be able to reach the fruit. For a while they will look a little ‘scrawney’ but long term wise – it is the best thing to do.

The reality is also that if the mass/ weight above which the branches start – is greater than that below – then eventually it will not be supported by that below; the branches therefore will shed weight [more a theory of gravity] and the tree will naturally drop limbs. Imagine giving a ‘jockey back’ to ten people and trying to walk – they will start to fall off or you will be brought down! So in ‘crown raising’ early on, a thicker girth [the width of the stem] is encouraged; one which will support the branches above and inevitably less work of a chainsaw like nature will be required later on. It is I suppose training a tree rather than solving an issue.

I should therefore need nothing more than my secateurs for the first few years. Mine is a felco no. 30. The swiss [made] army knife of the horticultural world. Very deserved of a mention because with these you can replace every single piece individually – when the spring goes – one replaces only the spring. I have this one about eight years now… as you can see!

My advice: choose the right tree for the right place with a good idea of what type or style you like. Buy good healthy disease free stock ensuring that it has its plant passport where necessary. Take good sound advice – don’t mind Mary Maginity and the book she bought that says…. Garden Centres and gardening groups [et cetera] will give more relevant free advice that is probably more specific to you and your exact requirement.