Planting A New Hedge


If you wish to create a hedge which is really dense and bushy from the ground upwards it is advisable to plant young, small plants. Many people look at the small bare rooted seedlings or transplants and imagine it will be years before they will achieve anything which looks like a 'hedge'. If larger plants are chosen the result can often be that the hedge is rather gappy at the base. Also larger plants are more expensive and are more likely to fail than small ones.

To show how quickly a hedge can be created with the young plants we have taken a series of pictures of a few species in their first and second year of growth. Further photographs will be taken in the future until the hedges are mature. The site this experiment is taking place on is windy and on the top of a hill in a nearby village. If it was in a sheltered warm valley faster results should be obtained, but the site chosen will give a better idea for average conditions in Great Britain.


Please ensure you are ready for your plants as deliveries are made during week days when you may be unable to plant them, or the ground could be frozen or snow-covered. Plants deteriorate if left in their packing too long, so have an area of cultivated soil in a sheltered site prepared in advance. Do this by digging a trench about 50cm (20 inches) deep and cover the area with polythene to keep it dry and prevent it freezing. When the plants arrive, unwrap them and any bare-rooted ones should be soaked for up to two hours in water. Bed the plants into the prepared trench and cover the roots with soil, which should be watered if dry. The plants can remain in this state until you are able to plant into their final place. Any pot grown plants should be watered if necessary then kept in a sheltered position until planted.


If possible, get the preparation done before the winter planting season - while the weather and soil is still warm. Irrigate dry soils copiously before any cultivation is carried out.

To prepare the soil for hedges, dig a trench at least 45cm (18in) wide and 30cm (1ft) deep along the length of the proposed hedge infilling with improved soil as necessary. For individual trees or shrubs clear a circle approximately 1 metre (1 yard) diameter of grass and weeds. Dig the area to at least 30cm (1ft) deep and improve the soil structure as necessary.

To improve the structure of the soil, incorporate generous quantities of compost, such as well-rotted garden compost, well-rotted farmyard manure, mushroom compost or composted bark. If the soil has poor drainage add sharp sand or coarse grit (make sure it is lime-free). If the soil is heavy clay take care not to create a solid basin at the base of the trench that will stop the water from draining freely.

If this preparation is done in advance of planting the soil can then settle and will be workable when you come to put the plants in during the winter. Even if the soil is cold and frosty on the surface, it will be relatively easy to turn over if it has been correctly prepared.

Plant the new plants and mulch well with at least 5-10cm (2-4in) bark chips or other mulching material around the plants. You can put down landscape fabric first and plant through this, mulching on top. The mulch is very important as it suppresses weed growth and helps retain valuable moisture in the surrounding soil.

It is essential that all evergreens are sheltered from drying winds during their first winter and growing season. If the weather conditions are particularly severe or the site is subject to strong prevailing winds a protective windbreak should be erected, for example windbreak netting. This will help to prevent the plants drying out before their roots are established.

For all plants it is essential that they are kept well watered during their first year even in winter when they are dormant. It is important to keep them moist in March, April and May just before they break dormancy. As a guide, in dry weather at least two gallons (10 litres) of water per square yard/metre should be applied twice a week. Also, it is advisable to spray over the foliage of evergreens in the evenings as well as watering. Use a hose-end diluter to make the task easier.

Ensure that all tree ties are kept secure but not too tight, and that no grass or weeds are allowed to grow around the plants for at least a year.

In the first year plants often come into leaf and flower much later than established plants and it should not be assumed that the plants have failed should they be late into leaf. Evergreen shrubs may drop their leaves when transplanted, they should re-grow new shoots within three months of planting.


Whether planting bare root, ball root or pot grown plants, we would strongly recommend using Rootgrow. Rootgrow enhances plant’s root system so a newly planted plant can find more food, nutrients and water. This means you need less fertilizer, the plants will establish faster and it reduces failure rates. The product can only be applied whilst planting as it has to be in contact with the roots, but as it is so effective it may be advisable to delay planting until you have purchased enough to treat the roots of your plants. It is available from the Garden Centre or by mail order. Find out more about Rootgrow here.


When planting and caring for a new hedge it is very important to follow the pruning and planting instructions which will come with the plants, or are available from the Garden Centre shop. Some people do not like to cut their hedging plants back, or forget to do so, and with many varieties this will result in a hedge which is not dense at the base. The best hedges develop from a good basal re-growth – so ensure this prune is carried out at planting time or in the first spring.