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Beech hedge reduction advice

I've been asked to reduce a mature beech hedge by around half down to a height of 6 foot requiring cutting through stems of up to wrist thickness.

I've not done this to beech before and would just like to know if this is advisable during a drought?If not when is the best time of year to do it?

Many thanks.

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  • PRO

    Beech responds well to this type of renovation and is also good for 'laying'. I  would only do this type of work on any deciduous hedge during Autumn or Winter though. 

    Good luck 


  • Beech renovation should happen in winter. To reduce size usually only do one side at a time. But if you're just doing top, that can be done in one go. I'm sure there's more info on the RHS website. I usually go there for advice... Or hedging suppliers online. 

  • PRO

    Winter was what I thought would be best. I'll offer them a trim to tidy for now and hope that they go for the reduction in winter as be nice to have one in the bank.

    • PRO

      iIf you do this in the winter i wood give it a very good feed in the spiing fish blood& bone or somthing like that

  • wait until the early spring. its no advantage doing the pruning in winter unless you have nothing to do. early spring is the most advantageous time for the plant as it can immediately set about recovering and reforming. good feed and as important a good mulch of compost and your off.


    good luck

  • From RHS website...

    To renovate an overgrown beech hedge, cut it back hard in February while still dormant but delay if the weather is very cold. If the height needs reducing by 50 percent or more, then stagger pruning over two seasons rather than doing it all at once. If the sides need drastic reduction, then do one side and the top in the first year, leaving the other side to the second year. However, where recovery is poor, with little new growth, delay completion of cutting back for a further twelve months.

    To obtain accurate levels and angles when renovating, use garden lines stretched tautly between sturdy canes or stakes driven in at the ends and at intervals along the hedge. Cut so that the sides slope slightly inwards; the hedge narrowing a little from base to apex. This encourages lower growth. Use a pruning saw for cutting thicker growths. It is not necessary to apply any wound treatment to pruning cuts. Mulch and feed after renovation, to encourage regrowth. A general purpose fertiliser such as Growmore is ideal, applied along both sides of the hedge where possible. Water thoroughly from time to time during any dry periods in the first growing season following cutting back.

    Nesting birds

    When undertaking work on garden hedges check that there are no birds nesting, as it is an offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 to damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built. The bird nesting season is usually considered to run from 1st March to 31st July (though it may last longer for certain species or multiple broods so always check if in doubt).”

  • a customer got me to cut back a beech hedge, this spring, every branch back to 6 inches from the stem.. I was horrified but it looks great now. 

    Sounds to me like you should lay it or get someone else to, perfect size from your description and a nice feature for the winter garden

  • PRO

    I have never before heard it said that there is no advantage pruning a deciduous plant in Winter. Pruning in Spring as the sap starts to rise is probably the worst time to do it and on some varieties (most notably Birch) you can kill them by doing this.

    • its no advantage to the plant Jim. certainly if your talking about Birch, cherries etc you wouldnt do it then.but pruning Beech in winter has no advantage to the plant as it sits there doing nothing. A hard winrer could lead to dieback. Thats not going to happen in early spring(perhaps with an unexpected late cold snap)but generally you want the sap moving to repair those cuts . I was talking about best practice of course. In reality you cant wait that long as you'd be overrun with just pruning at possibly a very busy time of year for gardeners   I read the question as 'whats the best time to do it'.

  • PRO

    I should say it's a one off job for a care home that I've never worked at before so there is not really scope for messing about doing bits here or there and they just want a more manageable hedge and more light in their garden/property.

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