As with anything, the first step in planting a privacy hedge begins with planning before planting. Your early two decisions will be how tall you need your hedge to be and how full your hedge can be.
Height and Width
To get a sense of how high the hedge will be, and how it will look in your yard, set up a folding ladder where you intend to plant the hedge or have someone stand there. Next, consider the size of your yard and the width of the space where you will plant your hedge. If you have enough area, you can plant a double or triple hedge by placing your plants in two or three rows. Planting a double or triple hedge provides the most privacy if you have space. Spacing the plants that closely together also tend to minimize how extensive they will grow. However, plants with dense foliage can also create a privacy hedge, even when planted in a single row.
Choosing the Plants
The type of plants you choose for your hedge will depend on some variables. If you are placing a hedge around your entire yard, or a large area of it, you may have areas that are shaded and other areas in full sun. Some areas may retain more soil moisture than others. You also need to consider what type of soil you have. You will need to choose plants that can thrive in all of these conditions.
Other things to consider when deciding on what plants to use include whether you want a formal looking hedge or a more casual one and what else you might want the hedge to do beyond creating privacy. For example, while they do not provide year-round privacy, some deciduous hedges flower during warm weather, which may attract butterflies and hummingbirds. They also offer additional color when their leaves change in the fall, and some shrubs have colorful bark to show off when their flowers and leaves are gone. Also, some produce berries and attract birds to your yard during colder months. While you may think that deciduous hedges have a casual look, those with stiffer branches, such as the many varieties of barberry, can be pruned into a quite compact, formal shape.
Evergreen hedges, on the other hand, to provide a privacy screen for your yard all year long. Even though they may not produce colorful flowers or leaves, they do serve as sound barriers, windbreaks, and living snow fences. Instead of flowers, some produce cones. Most deciduous hedges just cannot do any of the latter.
Privet makes perfect hedges, and this shrub is an ideal compromise between evergreen and deciduous hedges. Some species are deciduous, some are evergreen, and some are semi-evergreen. Privet is a dense shrub that can serve as a privacy screen, windbreak, snow fence, and sound barrier just as well as an evergreen hedge. It can be pruned to any height, and it can also be pruned to form an arch above a path or a gate or to create a frame around an attractive view. Privet is frequently used to create topiaries. Some varieties produce white flowers which are followed by black berries. Privet can grow in the sun or shade and adapts to a wide range of soil types. You can't beat all of that, so, to reiterate, privet makes perfect hedges.
Planting Your Hedge
When buying plants for your hedge, you can purchase bare root and save work as well as money. You can purchase large ball and burlap shrubs, which are the largest and most mature. They are also the most expensive and the heaviest. When planting your hedge, you will need to dig a trough that will fit the largest of the root balls, roll the shrub into the gutter, and maneuver the plants to space 2 feet apart. So, planting a hedge of ball and burlap shrubs requires strength and quite a bit of physical labor. Potted shrubs come in five or 15-gallon containers. These are smaller than a ball and root shrubs, and less expensive. However, you will still need to dig a sizeable trench, remove the shrub from its pot, get it into the ditch, and space 2 feet apart. Bare root plants are the smallest, least expensive, and most comfortable to handle. You can dig a much shallower and narrower trench, and you can pick bare root plants up and pop them into the channel with one hand. Bare root plants also make creating a double or triple hedge much more comfortable and less expensive. So, again, buy bare root and save money and labor.
With the soil from the trench, create a mix of two parts soil and one part compost, and then fill the channel to grade level. Build up a soil dam around the base of the shrubs, just wide enough to encircle where the roots are under the soil. Fill the dam with water, wait until it soaks in, and then fill the dam with water a second time. When the water soaks in again, remove the dam and place 2" to 3" of mulch above the roots to help retain soil moisture. However, to prevent them from rotting, do not allow the mulch to contact the trunks of the shrubs.
When there is no rain, water your hedge once a week during its first growing season. For the following years, when there is no rain, water your hedge every four weeks if you have clay soil and every two weeks if you have sandy soil. If your variety of privet produces flowers, trim them off before they go to seed. In general, trim your hedge, so that is wider at the bottom and narrower at the top to maintain the density of the foliage while allowing air and sunlight to reach the lower branches. To keep your hedge from becoming overgrown, shear off about six inches of every foot of new growth two to four times during each growing season. Use hand pruners or shears while the hedge is young. You can switch to a powered hedge trimmer as the plants grow larger. You can begin training your privet hedge when the plants are as short as 6" to 12".If your hedge should become overgrown, cut it back to a height of two feet, and resume consistent shearing and shaping. Maintain your hedge, and you’ll enjoy a lush, dense living privacy screen for years to come.