New hedges should be pruned from an early stage to establish a shape and prevent leggy, unhealthy growth. The amount you need to prune back will depend on the type of hedge. The hedge sides should not be vertical but sloping inwards at the top. This shape ensures the bottom leaves of the hedge get enough sunshine for healthy growth and will avoid a bare, dark hedge base. If a formal hedge has got out of shape, cutting it back severely is often the only remedy. However, this method is not suitable for all species, e.g. conifers will react badly if you cut into old wood. You may have to put up with a season of a bare hedge in order to get back to the healthy tapered shape. Always remember, it is important not to cut too early in the year to avoid disturbing nesting birds. Always follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions when using a powered hedge trimmer and always wear the correct personal protection equipment.