Monty Don urges us to cut hedges in July – this is why, and how to protect birds nesting in them

These baby bird-friendly tips will ensure your hedge remains healthy over the colder months – but the process begins now

Cut hedges outside a country house
(Image credit: Future / Helen Cathcart)

While the thought of cool autumnal mornings may seem distant for many,they remain on Monty Don’s mind this July. Why? Because the preservation of our hedges from future frosts begins at the peak of summer. 

Monty’s garden ideas not only help us preserve our hedges but also reassure us of the best time to trim without harming the birds who nest amongst the greenery. In his recent blog post, Monty reveals that with this advice timing is everything.

He explains that July is the safest time to approach our hedges, as young birds will have flown their nests, meaning they are safe to cut. 

Long hedges leading to a greenhouse

(Image credit: Future / Allan Pollok-Morris)

'A trim now will allow any subsequent regrowth to harden off before possible autumnal frosts,’ he says. 

The Monty Don fans amongst us may already follow his advice from an episode of BBC's Gardener's World, which also addresses bird safety. Monty pointed to advice from the RSPB, suggesting we should refrain from cutting between March and August. 

'That's because birds are still nesting; there are young in the nest. If you start getting a hedge cutter out, you're almost certain to disturb them, and the results will not be good,' Monty shares. 

But what makes this tip different? In this case, Monty is referring to small birds, who usually leave their nest in June. Therefore, it is unlikely that baby birds will remain in your hedge at this point in July.  And, don't forget to feed birds during the colder months ahead. Feeding birds in winter is essential for keeping our feathered friends healthy during the coldest season

Hedge and flowers in a large garden

(Image credit: Future / Richard Powers)

When chasing that hedge cutting technique, Monty suggests starting by cutting the hedge's sides while making sure the bottom of it remains wider than the top, whatever the size. 

‘This "batter" allows light to reach the bottom half and ensures full, healthy foliage down to the ground. Then cut the top, using string as a guide to keeping it straight and level. If it is an informal hedge, curve the top over, so it is rounded,’ Monty explains.

However, Monty’s tips are not for every hedge. He warns us to step away from the shears if we have a hedge that needs revitalizing.

Countryside home with large garden and big hedges

(Image credit: Future / Helen Cathcart)

‘If you have an overgrown hedge, now is the best time to reduce it in size, whereas if you have a hedge that needs reinvigorating, wait until winter and trim it hard when it is dormant. This will promote more vigorous growth next spring,’ he says.

After giving your hedge a healthy trim Monty offered some eco-friendly garden ideas for reusing cuttings and putting hedge trimmings to good use. ‘If the hedge trimmings are not prickly, they will be soft enough to chop up with a mower and added as a useful contribution to the compost heap,’ he says.

Now is the time to trim your hedges safely, and make sure your garden edging ideas are still flourishing come October.

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.