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How To Move Your Hedge Or Bush

A well-placed hedge can be a very handy boundary around your garden. Sometimes, however, to get the best from your garden you may need to move your hedge to a different part of the garden – this is called ‘transplanting’. As many hedges are a collection of multiple plants, moving a hedge can be tricky business but as long as you follow the below planning tips you can make light work of transplanting your hedge…
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Location, Location, Location

First things first, where is the hedge going to go? The conditions for the new location ideally will need to be the same as the place it has come from. If the hedges new living conditions are drastically different it may struggle to take to its new environment requiring extra care.

When considering the current and future locations for the hedge, you’ll need to consider several elements. For example, if the hedge is in a shaded area at the moment a similarly shady spot will be most compatible. You’ll also need to consider the surrounding plants in your new location, as some require more water than others. This could leave your hedge with either too much water or not enough.

Timing Is Everything

Choosing the right time of year is crucial when it comes to moving your hedge. Ideally either late autumn or early spring are the best times of year.

However, there is no hard and fast rule on the most optimum month of the year for the big move as it is down to the individual conditions. Try to choose a time when the soil is warm and usable, too cold and the ground will be too hard to work with. Warm soil also allows the roots to establish themselves quickly.

Autumn transplants will allow you to take advantage of the rainfall that can keep your hedge well fed for you. The water and nutritional requirements of the hedge are also lower this time of year so it is less likely to be susceptible to the stress of transplantation.

It is also recommended that the work be undertaken on a still, windless day. The last thing you want after putting in all of the effort is to find out that the ground has completely dried out straight away due to the windy conditions. You will need to be sure the water gets down to the roots immediately after the hedge has been rehomed so any extra risk is to be avoided if possible.

The actual time needed from digging to completion depends on how hard you are keen to push yourself so make sure you have allocated a good few hours to get the job done.

Preparing For The Big Move

The preparation required before the big move is the most important part of the process. This handy step-by-step guide will help you ensure you’re giving the hedge the best chance of survival:

  1. You will need to dig a hole in your new site that is roughly twice the width of the root ball and deep enough to accommodate the hedge roots to the same level. You can get a good feel for the size of the root ball (roots and soil) with some light exploration around the hedge. Make sure, however, not to ruin the roots.

  2. You will need to make sure that the hedge is no deeper in its new hole than the old one so take care when digging. More often than not there will be a soil mark on the stem of the plant, which you can use as a guide. It is definitely recommended to dig the hole before digging up the hedge as the longer the roots go without a home the more unlikely a successful transplant will be as the roots can dry out if left in the open too long.

  3. The sooner the digging of the hole can begin the better as planning in this way can work wonders. Laying the groundwork early can aerate the soil ready for the new hedge. You may be tempted to break up the soil at the bottom of the hole where the roots will go, however you should avoid this as it may cause the hedge to sink, which could encourage rotting.

  4. Once the hole has been dug to the correct dimensions, it is recommended that the hole then gets drenched thoroughly. Fill the hole with water then let it drain away. This means, when the hedge is then moved, it has an ample supply of water to recover with. It is worth also adding a fresh layer of compost so the soil has enough nutrients to encourage healthy growth in the hedges new home from the moment it is transplanted.

  5. In preparation for the move you will need to thin out the hedge by removing the dead or dying leaves. As you are likely to be cutting back the root system when you move the hedge, you will need to trim the leaves and branches to compensate. If you remove something from the bottom you will need to remove something from the top too. Any worn out wood can also be removed however it is not recommended to remove too much of the hedge. Re-shaping can be carried out when the hedge has established itself in its new location so don't go too heavy with the secateurs. As a general rule we’d say not to cut more than 20% in one go.

  6. Finally make sure that the hedge is watered thoroughly before you dig it up. This will need to happen a few days beforehand. Ideally the hedge will need to be as hydrated as possible so it can be in the best condition for the big upheaval.

Moving Day

When digging up the hedge you will first need to keep the current branches safely out of harm’s way. If you loosely tie the branches together with a rope this will give you some additional room to work with and make sure the branches don't get in the way.

If the hedge is made up of a collection of plants you will need to transport them one at a time. Try to dig them up with as big a root ball as possible. The larger the root system then the more chance the roots can take hold in the new location. A good start is to begin digging around 2-3 feet out from the base of the plant depending on how big it is. You will then find the roots soon enough and will get a strong sense for the size of the root ball. This will also give you a good idea of how heavy it is likely to be so you can decide whether you need assistance with the transportation.

The aim is to keep the root ball as intact as possible however with the larger plants this may not be an easy job, as you will be less likely to get near it. It will also be too heavy to carry if the plant is big anyway. As a result if the plant is mature you may need to cut through some roots either with a shovel or secateurs, however make sure you make a clean cut as this will reduce the stress on the hedge. Where you can try to be gentle and save as many roots as possible.

Once you have been able to free the plant from the ground you can transport it easily using a sheet. When you are re-homing the hedge, try to spread out the roots as much as you can then you can fill in the hole with a mixture of soil and fresh compost. Be sure to firm the ground around the plant carefully to eliminate any air pockets. Larger plants may require some help staying upright with stakes until they get established. This is especially true if the hedge is in a windy site.

If you have dug a trench rather than one hole ready to house multiple plants then try to keep the same spacing as they were previously, as you want to make sure that the roots are evenly spread across the hedge as a whole. Once the hedges are in place you can add additional organic material like grass mulch, which can help, provide nutrients to the hedge.

Not Finished Yet!

Moving the hedge is very stressful for the plant so you will need to work hard to keep it happy once you have successfully transplanted it into its new home. You may have done the hardest part but there’s still work to be done!

From the moment it is in place in its new home you will need to ensure it has enough water. If your hedge is made up of multiple plants don’t wait until all of them are in place before watering. The roots from the first plant will dry out very quickly so make sure you don't forget this crucial task. It can take up to a full year for your hedge to be at the point where it is established so therefore, especially in the dry summer months, frequent watering is essential. Evergreen hedges may need watering even in wintertime depending on when it was planted but be careful about applying water in frosty conditions.

As a final step make sure you tread in the ground around the hedge so you can make sure it is securely in place. The last thing you want is to have put in a lot of effort to move the hedge only for strong winds to blow it over.