landscape maintenance

Why you shouldn’t freak out about secondary drop

By March 31, 2020 No Comments

Regular readers of this blog will know that I preach about great clean-ups in landscape maintenance all the time. When I prune, I want the clean-up to match the pruning. No excuses, just great pruning and clean-up. Period.

Cedar hedges

On the West Coast we prune cedar hedges (Thuja plicata and T. occidentalis) from early fall until late winter. It gives us work to do in the slower part of the year and it’s better for the hedges because it’s cooler.

But the power shearing generates a lot of clippings and makes the clean-ups extremely annoying. This is because the clippings get stuck everywhere, including in the hedges.


Cedar cones are especially difficult because you have to use a ladder for the job. This makes it awkward to dislodge any larger clippings from the tree. Just switching from power shears to a rake is time consuming; and using a rake messes up the look of the cedar.

Smaller rectangular cedar hedges are easier in that we can brush off the debris from the tops before finishing the job. Large cones are tricky.

Secondary drop

The debris at the base of this cedar looks terrible. It would make any normal landscape foreman freak out and haul his workers back in to re-do it. But not so fast; I took this this photo weeks later. So, we’re seeing the dreaded “secondary drop“.

Secondary drop refers to debris that falls down after the initial pruning and clean-up. It comes with the job so there’s no need to freak out. We have to accept that some debris will fall off the cedars later. We can’t help it.

Pro tip: I know that some people will disagree with me but I am convinced that the bottoms of cedar hedges should be kept shaggier. This is to protect the roots from intense summer sunlight. In the wild, Thuja plicata trees are starting to suffer from more intense summer heat waves.

When you prune cedars, clean-up the clippings as best as you can knowing full well that there will be some secondary drop for you to clean-up later.

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