Why you should trim your hedge in Germany this February

The Local Germany
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Why you should trim your hedge in Germany this February
A gardener trims their hedges at home. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

Working in the garden may not seem that appealing in the rain or sleet, but German law insists that people cut their hedges at specific times of year. Here's what you need to know.


What's all this about hedges?

We're glad you asked! If you're lucky enough to have a house with a garden here in Germany, it may be a good idea to schedule in some maintenance before March rolls around, because there are some very specific rules around trimming your hedges.

That's right. Under German law, you're generally only allowed to cut your hedges, bushes and shrubs from the start of October to the end of February each year. So if you're planning on doing it, do it now. 

But... why? 

Contrary to popular belief, it's not so that the sound of your shears is drowned out by the hailstorm whirling around you (although that may well happen). The rules around cutting your hedge are actually all about animal protection.

From spring onwards, birds generally look for spaces to build nests in bushes, hedges and shrubs. For that reason, Section 39 of the Nature Conservation Act outlaws aggressive hedge-trimming during this time in order to protect these nesting birds. 

I don't really fancy hedge-trimming in the snow. Aren't there any exceptions?

Yes, there are. While a full redesign of your bushes and shrubs isn't generally allowed, a tiny bit of gentle pruning to preserve the condition of the plant is expressly allowed all year round.

However, you may need to seek out a professional gardener who will need to check carefully for any nesting birds or other wildlife and possibly postpone pruning until they're sure nothing is there. They will also need to avoid clipping the hedges or bushes just above the ground.

For reference, the three main exceptions to the hedge rule are: 

  • professional maintenance in order to preserve the trees or plants
  • professional removal of twigs and branches (max. circumference of 15 centimetres) in special circumstances, for example to prevent shading
  • maintenance of the hedge that overhangs the neighbouring property


What happens if I get caught? 

In short, a pretty hefty fine. Depending on the federal state they live in, people who break this particular conservation law can be fined up to €100,000.

Better get that coat on and do some winter gardening, eh? 

READ ALSO: It’s legal to trim your neighbour’s tree (even if he doesn’t want you to), Germany’s highest court rules


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