Winter hedge trimming: reasons to rethink

4 May 2023

During winter many will be hedge trimming when ground is frozen hard. Megan Gimber from People’s Trust for Endangered Species, which co- ordinates the national hedgerow surveys, shares her tips on hedge trimming. Just a few small changes can bring unexpected advantages.

To help your hedges to grow taller and bushier, consider not trimming this year or wait a while.

Annual trimming stresses hedges, making them less able to cope with other stresses. They only have four months with leaves on. Younger plants cope, but older hedge plants struggle with this. Four months is not enough leaf to support their frame.

Hedges providing both shelter and food for wildlife. Trimming hedges removes the berries mammals, birds and insects need for winter. Delaying hedge trimming helps avoid this.

Waiting until later in the winter before you cut means they can store sap in their roots, giving them a healthier start in spring.

Consider trimming HIGHER and WIDER than previously so:

  1. You are not trimming near the ‘hard knuckle’ line. This is scar tissue that develops at the trim line when you cut your hedge to the same height each year. Cutting slightly higher each year avoids this scarring and means you don’t blunt your flail!
  2. You are making smaller cuts, reducing the stress on the hedge plants. Less stress means longer lives.
  3. You help create a dense, bushy hedge, as trimming the tips encourages lateral branching. This makes a hedge extra dense for stock-proofing and wildlife.
  4. You always have second year fruiting meaning it’ll flower and fruit every year. This is great for pollinators, birds and wildlife, and often lost when you trim a hedge to the same height each year.

“This is very much how we have been managing our hedgerows over the last 5 or 6 years – higher, wider and later. The hedges are far healthier and fuller in summer as a result. This year we will leave some uncut altogether,” Michael Williams, Pembrokeshire.


  • Do you really need to trim this year? Maybe not
  • There are many advantages to delaying, e.g. until berries have been eaten
  • Cut higher and wider each year to increase your hedge size over time