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When developing your property you may be faced with the challenging task of removing hedges.
Hedges can be a cost effective way to create screening and form a physical boundary. Many hedges however, over time can become large and manageable for many people.
As hedges grow tall, they also grow outwards reducing the size of your garden. As hedges grow larger they can also steal nutrients and sunlight from other plants.
Consequently many seek to remove hedges from their garden by the roots. In this article I will explain how to get rid of hedges from your garden by the roots.
I will also answer some common questions regarding removing hedges.
Is it difficult to remove hedges?
It really depends upon how large and established your hedges are. Generally speaking if you want to remove a hedge it has probably become too large or unsightly.
Hedges are often planted very close together meaning their roots become intertwined. This makes them rather difficult to remove without the correct equipment and process.
Typically the best way to remove large hedges is with a small excavator machine. As one plant is removed the next one can be pulled loose into the hole of the previous.
This process can be heavy and messy, you will also need to dispose of the old hedges.
Should you remove a garden hedge?
It is always worth carefully considering if you should remove your hedge or not.
You may find one removed you may open your boundary and find yourself feeling very exposed. If you wish to replace a hedge you must bear in mind it can take a few years for a newly planted hedge to become established.
A hedge which is very established and made up of native species it could be an old hedgerow. In some countries such as the UK old hedgerows are protected by law.
Consequently you may want to check with your local authority. Many hedges are planted to create shelter from prevailing winds across your property.
If you live in an exposed location you may want to consider what shelter your hedge is providing.
How to regenerate a garden hedge
If your hedge has become very overgrown and sparsely vegetated you may be able to regenerate it.
As hedges grow older they use up most of the nutrients within the surrounding ground. Consequently many hedge species can be regenerated with a good prune and soil amelioration.
Please note this is not possible with some species of conifer especially leylandii. However robust hedging species such as privet can be cut very low to the ground.
The stumps can then be mulched with well rotted manure and bark mulch. This can stimulate very fast growing whippy foliage which can be reformed into a new hedge.
It must be said however, this strategy does not always work especially if the hedge is very old.
How to remove a garden hedge by the roots step by step
Step 1: Pruning
It is easier to remove a hedge by the roots if you trim off all the side branches of your hedge.
This will leave you a vertical step which can be used for leverage. A great tool for this is a hand saw or long handled loppers.
Pruning out single stems will also help compact down your waste materials. These branches can then be shredded or laid down methodically inside a skip.
Step 2: Excavation
The next step is to excavate around the first root ball as much as possible to expose the root mass.
I find a spade is effective for digging around the roots and a digging bar good at breaking soil from under the root mass. Keep digging until you can wobble the root ball by pulling on the trunk.
Step 3: Snap the anchor roots
Using an axe, mattock or digging bar snap through the large anchor roots. These are the thick horizontal roots spreading out from the centre of the hedge.
When these are severed, pull the central stem back and forth to flake soil away from the deep taproot. Excavate any loose soil away to expose the vertical tap root.
Step 4: Break the tap root
With some hedges you may be able to snap the tap roots by pulling at the trunk. If not, try to cut through the deep vertical roots with an axe or digging bar.
As you cut into the tap root it should weaken and eventually snap, the whole hedge should now be loose. If your vehicle has a strong tow bar some strong rope can help pull out the stumps.
Your hedges and stumps should now be removed completely by the roots!
What is the best tool for removing hedge roots?
Bar far the best mechanical method of removing hedge roots is an excavator machine. For large stumps and roots a stump grinder is also very effective.
The best hand tools for removing hedge roots are long bars with a blades at the end. The two most common are grafting spades and long digging bars.
These can be thrust down into the ground deeply to cut through anchor roots. Mechanical leverage can then applied to lever out stubborn stumps. It helps however to excavate around hedge stumps first with a digging spade.
How deep are hedge roots?
Hedges like most shrubs have many more horizontal roots than many people expect.
They do also have one or more central tap roots which can go quite deep. How deep the roots of hedges are however depends on the species and size of the hedge.
When removing hedges you should dig up horizontal anchor roots while severing vertical tap roots.
Will hedge roots grow back?
If you cut hedges down to the ground there is a fair chance the plants may grow back.
The closer to the soil level you cut them the less chance they will have of re-sprouting. However some coniferous species of such as Leylandii will not be able to regenerate new foliage from old wood.
If you want to remove a hedge it is always best to remove them with the roots. This will make it easy to grow other plants or install a new boundary of some sort.
What are the disadvantages of a garden hedge?
The main disadvantages of growing hedges are that they take long to establish and require ongoing maintenance.
Another big disadvantage is they can become very broad over time taking up much valuable garden space.
Thank you for reading our article on how to remove garden hedges by the roots. Below I will link to some other articles you may find useful.
Hedge Removal Made Easy: Step-by-Step (evolutiontreesurgeryltd.co.uk)
How to Remove a Hedge and Dig out the Stumps (youtube.com)
How to Remove Hedges - Step by Step Guide (myjobquote.co.uk)
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