Why you should trim your hedge in Germany this February

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.

A gardener trims their hedges at home.
A gardener trims their hedges at home. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

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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Living in Germany: Shorter work weeks, €9 tours and hitzefrei

In our weekly roundup for Germany we look at the debates around shortening the work week, tours around the country and what happens when it gets too hot.

Living in Germany: Shorter work weeks, €9 tours and hitzefrei

Is it possible to have a good work-life balance in Germany?

It’s something that most of us struggle with – how do you balance your job with having a fulfilling private life? We don’t have the answer to that unfortunately, but our story on the German debate on weekly working hours really made us think. Some other countries, such as Belgium and Iceland have taken steps towards offering employees a shorter working week. Meanwhile, the UK is carrying out a massive trial on a four-day week, with 70 companies trying out shorter working hours for six months. In Germany, things haven’t progressed that far, but it is encouraging to see that some companies are thinking about changing how we work. For instance, the Hamburg-based software firm Knowhere will let employees switch to a four-day, 32-hour work week from August for the same salary, and Vereda, a marketing firm in Munster, has already put in place the same system. 

As the world of work changes and we all strive to achieve a better balance, do you think Germany should push for a shorter working week? It certainly would be nice to celebrate Feierabend that little bit earlier. Let us know your thoughts: [email protected]

Tweet of the week

We love the idea of this tour of Germany with the €9 ticket. We’re still trying to think up ideas to add to the list…

Where is this?

To mark the summer solstice on June 21st, visitors gathered at the ring shrine (Ringheiligtum) of Pömmelte in Saxony-Anhalt.

Photo: DPA/Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert

To mark the summer solstice on June 21st, visitors gathered at the ring shrine (Ringheiligtum) of Pömmelte in Saxony-Anhalt. The historical site dates back to the end of the Stone Age and the beginning of the Bronze Age. According to experts, our ancestors celebrated seasonal festivals here.

Did you know?

With summer in full swing, temperatures have been rising. But is it ever too hot to go to work (or school) in Germany? Actually, that can happen. As you’ll no doubt be aware, most homes and many public buildings in Germany don’t actually have air conditioning unlike other hot countries. Of course, Germany doesn’t really need air conditioning for most of the year, but in these summer months it wouldn’t go amiss. 

So if things do get unbearable, German schools and workplaces can declare hitzefrei (literally, heat free), and that means pupils or employees can take the rest of the day off due to excessive heat. However, as you’d expect there’s a few rules around this, which we’ve detailed in this article written in the heatwave of summer 2019. 

READ ALSO: 8 of the coolest places in Germany to visit on hot summer days

If you are having to go to a workplace, your employer should make sure that there are no health hazards. That could mean buying a fan for the office, blinds or giving a special clothing allowance if you’re having to work outside. The decision on getting a day off generally has to be a decision taken by your boss. On very hot days, you’ll sometimes find that cafes or shops close and leave a sign on the door that says: hitzefrei! And the rules on overheated classrooms and when to send kids home depends on the state legislation. Wherever you are during the summer we recommend you stay hydrated, get that sun cream on and wear a hat. 

Thanks for reading,

Rachel and Imogen @ The Local Germany 

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