Small hedge in a garden.

How to Make a Formal Hedge

Yew, hornbeam, and beech make excellent closely clipped hedges, and you can reduce the cost by buying young bare-rooted plants from late winter to early spring from specialist nurseries and growing them on yourself. Prepare your soil in advance and plant immediately, unless the soil is frozen or waterlogged.

When to plant: Late autumn to early spring.

At their best: All year round.

Time to complete: 4 hours or more depending on hedge size.

You will need: Young bare-rooted hedging plants (like yew, Taxus baccata, for example), well-rotted organic matter – such as manure, spade, fork, stakes, garden string, watering can or hose, all-purpose granular fertilizer.

Prepare the site

Six weeks before planting, remove all weeds from the site and dig a trench the length of the hedge and 3 ft (1 m) wide. Fork in organic matter, and refill the trench. Set out a line to mark the edge of the hedge.

Mark planting intervals

Dig a trench twice as wide and as deep as the plants’ root balls. Using a ruler or guide, lay stakes at 18–24 in (45–60 cm) intervals along the string line to mark the planting distances.

Check planting depths

Check that the plants will be at the same depth as they were in the field when planted—you will see the soil line just above the roots. Place one plant by each stake, and backfill around the roots with soil, removing any air gaps with your fingers.

Firm in well

When in place, check that the plants are upright and then firm in around them with your foot. Create a slight dip around each plant to act as a reservoir, and water well. Add a thick mulch of compost or manure, keeping it clear of the plant stems. Water for the first year and feed plants annually in spring.