We have a tiny townhouse patio area that is separated by a very old and non-performing cedar hedge that has over the years not been properly maintained. The hedge will need to be removed. My question is can the cedars be cut off at ground level versus removing the roots? This because I have many perennials, rhododendrons and a Japanese maple growing inches from the cedars and I don’t want to disturb the roots.
Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners regarding the removal of your cedar hedge. You don’t mention what type of cedar you have but that the hedge is old and has not been maintained. Cedars can be trimmed / pruned but this is optimally done every 1-2 years as cutting into the old wood, beyond the current year’s growth, is much less likely to result in regrowth. Your cedars likely have fairly shallow, fibrous roots that don’t spread beyond the drip line (edge) of the foliage. There may be a deeper tap or central root. Nonetheless, you don’t have to remove them. To minimize disturbance to the adjacent plants, you can simply cut the cedars off at or just below ground level. If they are quite large, begin by removing the side branches and then vertical trunks to limit the risk of damaging the other plants. Keep an eye on the stumps and prune off any growth that sprouts from them as close to or just under ground level. Eventually, without any leaves to photosynthesize, growth will stop. You may also want to mulch the area with 1-2 inches of wood chips, which will decrease light penetration and further limit the chance of regrowth.
As you plan the removal of your cedar hedge, you may want to consider whether it is moderating the growing conditions of your other plants – does it shade them or provide a wind break? This could impact how you care for the remaining plants after the hedge is gone. Please don’t hesitate to submit further questions if you need to.
Best of luck with your hedge removal.
January 9, 2022.