Answer: Before you resort to the Herculean task of digging the whole thing out, try to rejuvenate it, returning it to an informal look. Fast-growing deciduous shrubs such as common privet (Ligustrum vulgare) are good subjects for pruning right down to ground level. To begin the process, cut back all growth to about 6 inches above ground just before plants break dormancy in spring. Remove debris and dig out weeds and other plants that have taken root in the area. When new growth emerges, feed with a controlled-release complete fertilizer; then water thoroughly and apply a mulch. Each month for the rest of the growing season, reduce new growth by half to encourage side branching and make the renewed hedge dense. As you cut back, take care to slope the hedge's sides.
Until the hedge reaches its desired height, cut growth back by half each month during the growing season, starting when plants begin growth in spring. Once the hedge is as tall as you want it, clip it at least twice a year, in late spring and midsummer, to maintain size, shape, and density.
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