Answer: For major renovation of unshapely privet, wait until late March or early April, before new growth begins. The shrub can repair its wounds faster as the growing season begins than at any other time of year. Even the oldest hedges respond well to this kind of renovation. Of course, it will require after-care. The privet will need fertilizer, mulch and adequate water during dry spells as it regrows during the season.
To avoid having to do this periodically, maintenance pruning should be done every year before new growth begins in early spring, shearing off half of the previous season's growth on the sides as well as the top. Doing so will promote a dense wall all the way down without bare areas. Remember to maintain the correct shape -- wider at the bottom and narrower at the top -- so light can reach the lower foliage. Shape again in mid-July, and give the hedge a once-over-lightly trim at season's end. After two or three years it should be better than ever.
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