Why is my hedge dying and how can I save it?

box blight

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If you have a hedge that’s dying, it can be extremely frustrating. After all, you’ve probably spent a lot of time and effort getting it to grow in the first place. But don’t despair – there are a few things you can do to try and save your hedge. 

In this article we will outline the most common reasons that your hedge might be dying or wilting, and offer solutions that you can do at home with little cost and effort. 

Is your hedge beyond repair?

Sometimes, no matter how much we might try to revive a hedge, it is simply beyond repair and needs to be replaced. The two reasons are age and extent of damage. 

  1. How old is your hedge? Check online how many years you can expect your hedge to last. It could just be at the end of its life, in which case, no amount of care would bring it back. 
  2. How invasive is the damage?  Take a good look inside the hedge to see how far the damage has spread. Do you still see a significant portion of healthy plant, or is the damage beyond 80% or so? 

If it’s time for a new hedge, this article on choosing hedge types that will flourish in hardier conditions and will be more resistant to pests and disease than box hedge will be useful. 

Hedge Diseases

box blight
Box Blight

There are many common hedge diseases in the UK, however most are particular to a type of hedge, so you’ll need to identify which type of plant you are dealing with. For example Box Hedges (Buxus sempervirens) are susceptible to Box Blight, a fungal disease that is characterised by black or brown patches on the leaves and stems of the plant.

To check for and identify disease in a garden hedge, first look for discoloured or wilted leaves and brown/black spots on the leaves.

If you see any of these symptoms, you have two options, the cheapest is going to be to simply google your hedge type to see the most common disease culprits.

You’ll likely be able to identify which disease, if any, is affecting your hedge using pictures specific to the hedge type.

The second option is to take a sample of the affected leaves to your local nursery or garden centre for diagnosis. Once you know what disease your hedge has, you can take steps to treat it.

Solution

Depending on the severity of the disease, you may be able to save your hedge with some basic treatment. 

Here is a step-by-step guide for treating a diseased hedge: 

1. Take a good look inside the hedge to see how far the disease has spread. Would there be anything left if you removed all of the disease? If not, it’s time to pull it out and plant a new hedge. If you can still see healthy branches, move to number 2. 

2.Prune away any dead or diseased branches and remove any affected leaves from the hedge. Prune into the healthy-looking branches to make sure that you remove all of the disease. You’ll need to be fairly ruthless, but remember your hedge will grow back healthier. 

3.Apply a fungicide specifically designed for the type of disease affecting your hedge. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label. 

4.Water the hedge regularly. This will help the hedge to recover and fight off the disease. 

5.Monitor the hedge closely. If the disease does not improve, or if it worsens, you may need to consult a professional gardener or landscaper.

Insect infestations

spider mite on hedge
Spider Mite

Insect infestations are another cause of hedge death, and can also be specific to the hedge type, such as Box Caterpillars, which commonly plague Box Hedges in the UK. Other common culprits include aphids, scale insects and caterpillars.

Insect infestations are quite easy to identify, first check for the presence of any insects or their webs, another symptom of an insect infestation in a hedge is small holes in the leaves. 

Do some internet research on the type of hedge you have and you should be able to identify the type of insect common to the plant and find specific solutions easily. 

Solution

If you do find insects, there are a number of ways to get rid of them.

  • Soapy water – If aphids are your problem, a simple solution of soapy water sprayed on the leaves is a low-toxicity and easy way to remove them. 
  • Insecticides – If the soapy water didn’t work or you have a more hardy bug infestation you can consider using a specific insecticide. Check which insecticides are effective for the hedge and insect type. 

Soil pH

Soil pH

If the pH of the soil is too low (acidic), it can kill a hedge. The soil may become discoloured, and the plants may show signs of distress, such as yellowing leaves.

If the pH is too high (alkaline), the hedge may also die. The soil may become crumbly and the plants may wilt. To test the pH of your soil, you can simply buy a kit from a gardening store. A pH of 0-6 is classed as too acidic, while a pH of 7-14 is too alkaline.

Solution

If your soil is too acidic you can add lime to raise the pH.

If your soil is too alkaline, you can add sulphur or aluminium sulphate to lower the pH.

You should test your soil regularly to ensure that it remains at the correct pH.

Drainage

poorly drained grass

Poor drainage can kill a hedge by causing the roots to rot. This can be prevented by ensuring that the soil is neither too wet nor too dry.

It’s quite difficult to gauge the water level in soil, but you may notice puddles or bogginess, indicating that the drainage is poor. The opposite – crumbly and dry soil may indicate that the hedge is suffering drought.

Solution

If the soil is too wet, it can be drained by adding sandy soil to the area around the hedge or introducing some garden drainage.

If the soil is too dry, it can be watered using a garden hose or adding compost and other high water retaining soil to the area.

How to keep your hedge healthy

prune hedge

Once you’ve resolved the issues affecting the hedge ​​it is important to prune your garden hedge at least once a year. 

Pruning helps to encourage new growth and keep the hedge looking full and healthy. Additionally, it helps to remove any dead or dying leaves or branches, which can help to prevent the spread of disease. Finally, pruning can also help to shape the hedge and keep it looking tidy.

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