Hedges are an important part of many gardens, providing privacy, shelter, and a green backdrop for planting. A fast-growing hedge can be a great way to create a garden boundary quickly, but it’s important to choose the right species and to care for it properly to ensure it thrives. In this blog post, we’ll look at some of the best ways to make a hedge grow faster.
1. Fast growing species
Without a doubt, the most important factor in how fast your hedge will grow is the species you choose and its natural growth capacity.
Before opting for the most rapid one on the list, check that the environment of your garden (soil pH, water, sunlight, temperature) is suitable for the hedge, otherwise you may be planting something only for it to fail, costing you time and money.
More details on the growing environments of each hedge and a comprehensive list of hedge types can be found in this blog post on the best fast growing hedges for privacy.
The top 3 fast growing hedges suitable for the UK have above average growth, they are:
A mature Laurel plant can grow 2-4 feet per year
- Leylandii cypress
This can grow up to 3 feet per year
- Thuja Green Giant
Which can grow up to 3 feet per year
Remember that young hedges will tend to grow slower on the top than more established hedges. That’s because young hedges need to focus energy and resources on putting down firm roots before they focus on the top end.
2. Use Mulch
Assuming that you have already chosen and planted your hedge in the right soil, with adequate sunlight, water and drainage, the next thing you can do to help your young hedge to grow faster is to use mulch.
Mulch is a material, usually organic such as decaying leaves, bark and wood chippings or compost, that is spread over the surface of the soil. Its main purposes are to protect the soil from erosion, to improve its fertility and to suppress weed growth.
Adding a layer of mulch to the soil around your hedge’s roots (but not touching or covering the stem) will help to protect the roots from the cold weather as it moderates the temperature of the soil. Mulch will also help to retain moisture in the soil further protecting your hedge from any harm that might occur.
To promote hedge growth apply a layer of mulch in early spring, before the hedge starts to grow, make sure that the mulch is intact again in the autumn and throughout the cold winter months. Apply a layer of mulch around 5cm (2in) deep for the best results.
3. Prune in winter – early spring
It may seem counterintuitive to cut a hedge if you want it to grow, however all good gardeners know that pruning is the magic in creating a thick, tall and fast growing hedge.
When we prune a hedge we are mimicking the natural process of animals nibbling bits off it, this stimulates the growth of new leaves and branches.
This process helps the hedge to quickly fill in any gaps that have been created by the pruning and encourages the hedge into a growth phase. Additionally, pruning helps to encourage the growth of thicker, healthier leaves and branches giving your hedge a better overall appearance.
The best time to prune a hedge for fast growth is during winter and early spring. For the first few years your hedge will need formative pruning to help establish its shape, after that you will only need to maintain the hedge once a year or so to keep it looking tidy.
The best way to prune a hedge for fast growth is to use simple shears and stems back to one third of their length each year.
Fertiliser might sound like the magical answer to make a hedge spring up faster than ever. However, whilst moderate use of fertilisers, where needed, can help a hedge grow fast, overuse will do more damage than good to your hedge and the surrounding grass and vegetation.
Hedges need nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in order to remain healthy and to produce new growth. Nitrogen is needed for the leaves, phosphorus for the roots and potassium for the overall health of the plant.
Your soil may already contain enough of these, so it is worth testing your soil before adding any chemical fertilisers into the mix. If your hedge is looking healthy and growing well, try organic fertilisers before chemical.
There is a big debate over which type of fertiliser is better for hedges – organic or chemical.
Organic fertilisers are made from natural products and are therefore considered to be more environmentally friendly. However, they are often not as effective as chemical fertilisers, which can contain higher levels of nutrients.
It is important to read the labels of any fertiliser before using it on hedges, as some chemical fertilisers can be harmful to plants if used in excess. It is also worth bearing in mind that organic fertilisers can take longer to work than chemical fertilisers, so patience is required when using them.
Well-rotted manure or compost are both excellent organic materials that can be used to fertilise a hedge and promote fast growth.
Manure is a particularly good source of nitrogen, which is essential for healthy growth.
Compost is also a good source of nutrients, and can help to improve the drainage and structure of the soil.
When choosing a chemical fertiliser for a hedge, it is important to consider the plant’s needs.
Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are all essential nutrients for hedges, so a fertiliser that contains these would be ideal.
It is also worth checking the labels to see how much of each nutrient is present, as too much of one can be harmful.
Too much nitrogen, for example, can cause the hedge to become leggy and produce too much growth. This can make the hedge difficult to manage and can also lead to problems with pests and diseases.
Always be careful with the type of fertiliser you choose and be sure to follow the dosage and concentration instructions correctly.
5. Check regularly
Check your hedge at least once per season for any early signs that something might be going wrong that would prevent it from growing into the full, lush hedge you desire.
To check a hedge’s health, first look at the leaves. Are they green and healthy, or are they yellow, brown, or wilted?
Next, look at the stems. Are they strong and straight, or are they weak and bent?
Finally, look at the roots. Are they deep and healthy, or are they shallow and unhealthy?
Also check for any signs of pests or parasites such as eggs and webs, as well as signs of disease or infection such as spots, lesions, or discoloration. Worried about something on your hedge? Check out our comprehensive guide of why your hedge might be dying and how to fix it.
If you see any signs of weakness, disease, or damage, then get a second opinion from someone who is savvy in hedge knowledge – you could take a clipping to your local garden centre for advice.
There are a few common pitfalls to watch out for when it comes to caring for a hedge.
- Not trimming the hedge often enough. This can cause the hedge to become overgrown and unruly.
- Trimming the hedge too much, which can damage the plant and make it look unsightly.
- Not watering the hedge regularly can cause it to become dry and brittle.
In conclusion, to encourage your hedge to grow quickly and healthily, start with a fast-growing species that is suitable for your garden conditions. Be sure to trim it every year and apply mulch, especially through the colder winters. Finally, think about using an organic or chemical fertiliser if your soil is lacking in any essential nutrients.
Following these steps should lead you to a lush and tall hedge in no time.