Eat That Hedge!
We love the concept of edible landscapes. For years we’ve only planted for beauty and aesthetics, mainly because we live in the woods where it’s been too shady for a full on vegetable garden. But in the last couple years we finally cut down a few scrub pines to let in more light to make room for a garden. But beyond that, we’re really getting into planting edible plants whenever possible.
When the plant is beautiful and has food benefit, it’s a win. If that plant is lovely, can be eaten, AND has medicinal benefit, it’s a win-win-win! One of our favorite examples is nasturtiums. The the plants are beautiful and the leaves and flowers are edible and add a zesty peppery flavor that spices up salads and compliments omelets beautifully.
When it comes to plants for hedges, there are many shrubs and trees that can be trained and pruned to be effective fences and hedgerows.
Don’t Eat the Privet Hedge, but…
Okay, while the fast-growing privet hedge may not be edible, privet has benefits far beyond that of a privacy fence. More studies are needed for widespread acceptance in the west, but we believe there’s value in traditions that have stood the test of time, even if science hasn’t yet proven it. I mean… who would fund such a study?
Privet contains ligustrum, an active therapeutic compound and has been used in Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years! However, in the US, ingesting privet is advisable only under medical supervision. 1) 1)https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/ligustrum-lucidum
For some creative uses of privet hedges for fencing, and issues around taking care of them, you may enjoy this article from ThisOldHouse.com. 2)
Purpose and Repurpose!
We’re all about leveraging time by planting perennials, when available, and multi-purposing whatever we can. So when we first saw examples of creative fencing using edible plants, trees and shrubs, we were intrigued to learn more and to try some.
Instead of building a fence… plant it!
When planting a hedge why not make it dual purpose and create an edible hedge? It will mark your boundaries, or block unsightly views plus give tasty treats and beautify. A win win situation!
If you’re tight on space and want to use as much of that space for growing food, all the more reason to plant edible hedges. While you’re at it why not consider putting in an edible ground cover too?!2)https://gardensall.com/foodscape-your-yard-with-edible-ground-covers/
This lovely English garden offers one example of the edible hedge concept. It’s not entirely an edible hedge or edible fence, but it’s so beautifully arranged where the edibles hug the perimeter walls surrounding the small lawn area blending flowers and staging plants by height from smallest in front to tallest in back. Smart, efficient and lovely!
Vertical gardening is another option for getting the most produce in the least space. We’ve written about gardening up, in several other articles, so for now, we’ll get on with edible hedges!3)https://www.gardensall.com/vertical-garden-ideas/
Growing an Edible Hedge
From Charlie Nardozzi on Garden.org
First, decide the function of the hedge before planting. If you really want to keep wildlife or neighborhood dogs out of your yard select hedge plants with sharp thorns such as blackberry, gooseberry, and rugosa rose. Plant these thickly so they fill in quickly, forming an impenetrable wall.
Many edible hedges are deciduous, meaning they will lose their leaves in winter. If you want an edible evergreen hedge consider citrus, natal plum, sweet bay, and rosemary. Of course, you’ll have to live in a climate where these shrubs are hardy and will survive.
While most of the attention for edible hedges goes to berry bushes, don’t forget vegetables and nuts. Once the ferns have grown up, asparagus makes a beautiful edible hedge if properly fenced. Corn and sorghum make a thick row that can block a summer view and provide vegetables. Nut bushes, such as hazelnuts (filberts), make an attractive hedgerow while providing edible nuts for wildlife and people.
Espalier Apple Tree
You can also train fruit trees into fences and hedges that make crossing difficult. Espalier and Belgium fences take apples, cherries, peach, figs, pear, and citrus trees and turn them into an edible fence that provides fruit and blocks a view or entrance. I still fondly remember the edible fences at Thomas Jefferson’s home in Monticello, Virginia that define the garden beds.4)http://www.garden.org/ediblelandscaping/?page=201110-edible-hedge
Next: Hedges for privacy and food.
Edible Hedges for Privacy and Food
Excerpted from Earth911.com
This is a good option if you want a rose variety that isn’t prone to diseases yet is still quite fragrant, with thick foliage. Mature plants get quite large, between 4 and 8 feet in height and 4 to 6 feet in width, which can engulf a small garden. Ensure ample space is available for this rose and remember that every rose has its thorn.
Rugosa rose contains rose hips, so harvest hips after the first frost in the fall, once they have turned bright orange or red. Packed with vitamin C, Rugosa rose bushes can be used in jams and teas or infused in honey.
EDITOR’S WARNING: The rugosa rose can be a very invasive shrub. A highly determined grower, our rugosa rose bushes would love to take over our blueberry patch. Thorny and hardy, rugosas can be exceedingly difficult to get rid of, so take care on where you plant them, and consider some sort of barrier to keep rhizomes from spreading. 5)
Highbush Cranberry – Viburnum trilobum, crampbark
This native North American plant is self fruiting, disease and pest resistant and grows to 8–15 feet tall and 8–10 feet wide. Annual pruning is needed to maintain the desire size and shape. For a solid hedge, plant bushes in full sun to partial shade in rich and loamy soil, 2 to 3 feet apart.
A favorite for birds, the antioxidant-rich fruit, high in vitamin C is very tart. Reminiscent of cranberries in look and taste, this lovely red berry, is ready for an easy harvest in August, and is often sweetened and used in jams and sauces to be palatable. The viburnum bark contains a bitter compound called viburnine, and is an antispasmodic, used for centuries for relief of menstrual and stomach cramps and also asthma. 5)
Another North American native, it thrives in acidic soil. Blueberries can tolerate soggy soils, but prefer well-drained sandy soils and full sun. For best results, plant at least 2 types of blueberries in the vicinity.
Blueberries grow to heights of 6 to 12 feet, making excellent windbreaks and privacy screen, when planted 2.5 to 3 feet apart.
Use finely ground sulfur if your soils are above the desired pH of 4.5 to 5.2. The plants need at least 1 inch of water weekly during the growing season, especially for the first couple years. Use peat moss or pine needles to help retain moisture and prune plants in late winter or early spring.5)https://gardensall.com/how-to-grow-blueberries/6)https://gardensall.com/3-easy-steps-to-healthier-blueberries-and-increased-production/
See more from Earth911.com.7)http://www.earth911.com/home-garden/make-your-urban-yard-the-envy-of-all-creatures-with-these-5-edible-hedges/
From the WaldenEffect.org
How do I plant my Nanking Cherry? Since Nanking Cherries are shrubs or small trees reaching between nine and fifteen feet tall and wide, they should be planted about fifteen feet apart. Alternatively, they can be planted four feet apart and trimmed into a hedge. Be sure to plant more than one Nanking Cherry for cross-pollination. Place them in an area with full sun and well-drained soil.8)http://www.waldeneffect.org/blog/Nanking_Cherry:_Prunus_tomentosa/
Next: More creative edible hedges and willow whips.
More Edible Hedges
from Charlie Nardozzi, of Garden.org
Asparagus makes a beautiful edible hedge when the ferns are allowed to grow after harvest and supported with fencing.
Asparagus is a perennial and should be planted with care since it will take 3 years in the landscape to start producing edible spears, but last for many more years as a permanent planting. After harvest season in spring the ferns will grow and provide a visual block when propped up with fencing.
Hardy to USDA zone 7, in warm areas rosemary makes a great low growing, 3- to 5-foot tall hedge. The bush grows densely, produces beautiful blue flowers, wispy foliage and a memorable scent.
Nut bushes, such as filberts and hazelnuts, make an attractive hedgerow while providing edible nuts for wildlife and people.9)http://www.garden.org/ediblelandscaping/?page=201110-edible-hedge
Oh! And one more thing: You can try espaliering any fruit or nut tree onto a fence or wall for your edible hedge. For more on espalier, you may enjoy perusing EspalierTrees.com.10)http://www.espaliertrees.com/
In closing, back to the Willow Whip Fence—while the inner bark is edible after boiling, that isn’t the best feature of this plant.
Willow whip is a very popular fencing topic when we share it on the Gardens All Facebook Page, and has the added benefit of being used for energy in the UK.11)http://www.energysavingcommunity.co.uk/coppiced-willow-for-energy.html Here’s a site with loads of info and images of all kinds of willow whip fences. 12)http://www.inspirationgreen.com/living-willow-hedges.html
Willow for Biomass and Medicine
But there’s more potential benefits to growing willow: it’s a fast growing tree crop that can be harvested multiple times before replanting, and can be used medicinally for the aspirin component, salicin, as well as for biomass. So if you’re looking for a crop to grow that has multiple benefits and purposes, you might look into willow trees! 13)
And… if you want more on how to create these fences, you may enjoy this video on The Art of Espalier.
Cover photo source via Flickr hapsnaps13)https://www.flickr.com/photos/hapsnaps/
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