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How to Trim Your Hedges by Hand: Our Gardening Guide

If you have ever pruned individual shrubs before, you might think that trimming hedges won’t be that different, but this is not precisely true. You see, hedge trimming requires a different technique because your goal is to keep them from looking wild while maintaining the privacy that they provide.

This means that the sides should be pruned at a specific angle because you want the top of the hedgerow to be significantly narrower than the bottom. By doing so, you can make sure that branches in a higher position won’t shade the lower branches on the sides of the shrubs and get enough sunlight to grow properly and give your hedge that ‘body’ that you want to achieve.

If this is your first time to trim hedges by hand, you’re in the right place as Northside Tree and Garden Services, the best landscapers in Sydney, offers helpful info on how to do it right.

Tools That You Need

Remember that you won’t need sophisticated tools and equipment to trim your hedges, but these are your essentials for the task.

  • Hand pruner
  • Hedge trimmer
  • Hammer
  • Carpenter’s level
  • Tape measure
  • Stepladder
  • Stakes or poles
  • String

Once you have prepared the tools, here is how you should trim your hedges by hand:

Set the First Couple of Stakes

First, you need to drive a stake into the ground at one corner of the edge using a hammer, which will be your marker for where you want the hedge’s bottom end corner to be. To make it easier for you to work with, make sure that the stake is angled in such a way that it’s leaning in. 

When you are working on the side facing direct sunlight, just make the stake lean slight while doing a more pronounced lean on the shadier side. The second stake should be placed at the opposite corner of the hedge but on the same side as the first one and angled similarly.

Set All the Strings

Tie a string around one of the stakes going to the other, close to the lowest branches of your shrubs, and the distance from the ground to the string should be equal on both stakes. You might want to use a line level for precision.

Do the same process as you did with the first string but only at the level where you want the upper edge of the hedge to be. To make sure it is level from one end to the other, measure from the lower string to where you tied the upper string and apply the same distance on the other end. Note that if you have a sloped ground, it would be better to measure from the ground instead.

Once you’re done with one side, you just need to do the same on the other sides. Don’t rush this part because you have to ensure that all the strings are straight and pulled tightly. If any branches are getting in the way, you can still prune them.

Start Trimming the Top

Always start trimming at the top of the hedge. Follow the top guide strings to create a flat plane. Then, keep the hedge trimmer level as you go. Also, be extra careful if you are on a stepladder.

Trim the Sides and Ends

Once you are done with the top of the hedge, you can move to the sides, again using the strings as your guide. If needed, switch to hand pruners, especially for thick branches. Don’t stress yourself over any thin spots or slight unevenness, as the trimming will stimulate the growth of the shrubs. Once you’re done with the sides, you can move on to the ends. You can choose to square it up or do it at an angle like the hedge’s sides.

Water and Fertilise the Shrubs

Keep in mind that trimming can be stressful for the shrubs. Because of this, you must ensure to water them sufficiently and feed them with slow-release fertiliser or compost to facilitate their growth.


Hedge trimming is not the easiest gardening and landscaping task you’ll do, but you can certainly handle it by following the steps above. At the same time, remember that this task requires patience and precision. If you want your hedge to look perfect, then you might want to leave it to the experts instead!

Northside Tree and Garden Services is a trusted name for landscaping, turf laying, tree removal and cutting, and gardening services in the Northern Beaches, Sydney. We can trim your hedges and transform your yard into your dream garden! Contact us today to learn more about our services!