Cedar hedges

(Question)

I live in Vancouver and have a series of healthy 15 foot cedar hedges at the back of the house. Behind them was a wooden fence which we have just removed and, due to absence of sun, the bottom of the hedges where the fence was looks very dead. Will this recover, if so, how long will it take and is there anything that we can do to expedite recovery?

(Answer)

Thanks for getting in touch with Toronto Master Gardeners; even though many of us in Toronto envy the climate in Vancouver, we can answer your questions about your 15-ft. cedar hedge. The fact that your hedge is healthy suggests that you have successfully maintained it.

Even though the cedars that are grown for hedging in Vancouver may be different than what is grown in Toronto, the requirement for sun and moisture is the same. Removing the fencing  has exposed the lower branches that appear to be “dead”. Given the fact that the trees are healthy, the affected branches may not be entirely dead; however, if the branches break easily when they are bent, they should be removed to where there is some sign of ‘green’ wood or to the trunk. Cedars will not generate growth from the old wood. However, the sun exposure may encourage new growth from other branches that will eventually fill in the empty spaces. It may take a couple years to do so. In the meantime, keep up regular pruning and fertilize to encourage new growth.

Use a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen (eg. 18-4-8 or 30-10-10) to promote the growth of foliage.  Cedars also need consistent water (cedars grow naturally in wet areas); [Vancouver has had unseasonably dry weather this year, so it’s important for them to be watered sufficiently]. Mulch with compost/manure to maintain the moisture while slowly adding nutrients to the soi

If you find that the empty space does not fill in (is it highly visible or just on the ‘other side’ of the hedge?), you could consider planting some low-growing plants (annuals, hostas, small shrubs) where the cedars don’t fill in.

All the best for maintaining your cedar hedge.