How to Prune Bay Trees & Beech Hedges in Summer

You might find by mid-summer that your bay trees are starting to get out of shape. Even if they’re fairly young or have been cut back previously, a good trim will definitely be in order. Pruning your bay tree will encourage bushy growth and ensure your trees continue to develop with shape and volume, so what are you waiting for?

This blog post explores how Martin Fish and our friends from Pots & Trowels undertake those summer pruning tasks and the best tools to use to get the job done. They have also created a useful video all about this, which you can check out below. Happy pruning!

How to Prune a Bay Tree

The first thing to note when pruning your bay tree is that you can’t go wrong. It is a really simple garden task, but an important one. Remember, if you trim too much, don’t worry, it will grow back!

Bay trees should be a nice round globe shape. The best way to achieve this is to undertake a small amount of trimming to coax them into that perfect sphere. The weather over the summer, with both heat and lots of rain, has meant the growth of these types of plants has been good and strong, and so they may have lost their shape.

To get started, you’ll need a sharp pair of secateurs. Here at Darlac, we have some incredibly precise and sharp pruners to help you get this job done. The Darlac Professional Pruner is an award-winner that will slice through your bay tree stems with ease.

Take your secateurs and start pruning! You’ll want to cut the stems at a leaf joint or bud. If you don’t and you trim to the middle of a stem, you’ll find that stem will die back and may look unsightly, and the tree might lose shape. 

As you start moving across the tree, you should be able to see the intended and original shape of the tree, but you may find long spindly growth. Keep trimming throughout the whole plant. Some stems will need more than others.

If you’re not sure how much to take off, only make small cuttings and then go around again and take more off. You are aiming for an even shape all round. You can spend as much time as you need trimming the plant to really get the shape right and, if you’ve got two plants, you’ll want to bring them next to each other.

Quick Tips for Pruning Your Bay Tree

  • Remember that after a few months your plant will have grown back, so any mistakes in the trimming process will soon be forgiven.
  • Beware if you are growing your bay tree near a wall, as it can become flat on the side nearest the wall. It’s a good idea to just twist the plant around, or move it away from the wall slightly, to allow the light to get in.
  • Occasionally, you’ll find the plant has suckers growing out of the base. You’ll need to get your secateurs and cut these out, otherwise you’ll finish with a thicket of growth around the base of the plant.
  • Keep your bay tree well-watered and well-fed (at least once a week). Slow-release fertiliser can really help too.
  • If your plants are growing in a terracotta pot, it is worth remembering they tend to dry out quicker. You could add a saucer to the base of the pots and the plants can drink through the day.
  • Midsummer to the end of summer is the perfect time to get your bay in shape.
  • All of these instructions work for pruning bay cones too.
  • Keep your bays leaves! You can dry them and use them for cooking or even for craft projects, so don’t waste any of your cuttings.

When to Prune a Beech Hedge

By the middle of summer, it’s time to start thinking about trimming those hedges. Not all hedges need to be cut, but some do – especially beech hedges.

You’ll see the new growth on your hedge at this time of year by its wonderful colour, but you might find it’s also growing out onto your lawn. That’s how you’ll know it’s time for a trim.

The summer trim is really about a small tidy up. Then, in the autumn, it will need another prune to ensure the shape remains throughout winter and into spring.

Hold back trimming your hedges until the end of July, as birds are nesting and it is illegal to remove or disturb their nests. Always check your hedges for nests, eggs, or chicks before trimming.

If the trimming is left until the autumn, the hedge branches will be much thicker, woodier and harder to cut.

How to Prune a Beech Hedge

The traditional way to trim your hedge is to use shears, such as the Darlac Light Shears. Sharp shears will make the work seem easy, and long shears can help to give leverage and smooth action. Cut through the growth with quick, short cuts. Be sure to check from different angles that the trimming is even.

A little tip that can help with the aftermath is to pop some tarpaulin down to catch the leaves and stems as you trim.

If you’ve got a bigger hedge, you may need a hedge cutter, or you could use a battery or electrical trimmer. These are lightweight and easy to use, and are not noisy like petrol trimmers.

Why not take some time out this weekend and get some pruning done? At Darlac we’ve got the tool to help you with your pruning jobs. You can find these in store from your local garden centre. Read more about Darlac stockists here.

If you enjoyed this blog post and the Pots & Trowels video, be sure to subscribe to Pots & Trowels on YouTube and to follow them on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for weekly practical videos all about gardening.

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