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: Facing up to racism, Erdbeersaison and Schleswig-Holstein votes

In our weekend roundup for Germany we explore a study on racism, strawberry season and take a look at the state election in Schleswig-Holstein.

Living in Germany: Facing up to racism, Erdbeersaison and Schleswig-Holstein votes

Can Germany face up to its racism problem?

Many of you have told of us about the discrimination and racism you’ve faced in Germany, particulary when it comes to trying to find a place to rent and in working life. So we were interested to report on a study on how people in Germany perceive the issue of racism.

According to the survey by the newly set up Racism Monitor more than a fifth of the population (22 percent) – said they had been affected by racism, and 45 percent said they had seen racist incidents. And nearly all respondents to the survey – 90 percent – said they believed that racism existed in the country.

Tareq Alaows, a Syrian refugee who hoped to run for German parliament last year but changed his mind due to racism and threats, tweeted that the study was a “wake-up call to our society to finally look and recognise racism as the danger it is”. He said the study also showed the “anti-racist potential in society”.“This must open the debate and move us all to action,” Alaows said. 

Tweet of the week

Sometimes you just have to take a break from the big problems of the world and tweet about Star Wars. We see you, German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann. 

Where is this? 

Photo: DPA/Daniel Bockwoldt

We hear a lot about Spargelzeit (asparagus season) in spring, but what about Erdbeersaison? Yes, strawberry season is underway as this photo from Grömitz in Schleswig-Holstein shows. Starting from now and throughout summer, you can expect to see strawberry ‘pop-up’ shops around the country on the side of roads and on streets.

And it’s not just strawberries they sell. You will also come across boxes of fresh blueberries and, later in the season, Pfifferlinge (chanterelle) mushrooms. We thoroughly recommend that you get out into the countryside and pick up some fresh produce in the coming weeks and months. 

Did you know?

The northern state of Schleswig-Holstein will elect a new parliament on Sunday, May 8th so we thought we’d look at what makes this northern state tick politically. With 2.9 million residents, the state, between the North Sea and Baltic Sea, is the second smallest German state after Saarland.

Christian Democrat Daniel Günther has led the state since the last election in 2017. He governs with the Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP) and is standing for re-election. Recent polls put the CDU in the lead, so this constellation could return. But other coalitions are possible. Important topics for this state include green energy – the state has been racing ahead with its wind energy production and, according to experts, it wants to show how it is key to Germany getting away from relying on Russian energy.

Thanks for reading,

Rachel and Imogen @ The Local Germany 

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