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Short on Space? Plant an Edible Hedge!

I’ve been planting fruit trees for years. I’ve helped install orchards and planted rows of blueberries, grapes, and blackberries. I’ve also launched multiple food forests with great success.

Recently, however, I’ve become quite interested in how much food a gardener could pack into a simple hedge along the edge of his property.

Instead of just a barrier, a hedge becomes a linear food forest.

I’m not just thinking about planting one thing, you see. This idea isn’t about replacing a boxwood hedge with a hedge of blueberries or Nanking cherries.

No—think deeper! Think multiple species!

How exciting would it be to have a hedge containing hazelnuts, apples, grapes, peaches, gooseberries, blackberries, and currants? Or, for those of you in more tropical climes, mangoes, pineapples, passion fruit, cacao, coffee, vanilla, black pepper, guavas, and nutmeg?

Check out this guy’s edible hedge system:

Look at how much he packed into his space!

Here’s the beginning of my own edible hedge in the tropics:

Noni, Surinam cherry, edible hibiscus, chaya, mulberries, and more. What fun! It’s already been growing fast since I filmed that video.

You can do it, too, in almost any climate.

How To Plant an Edible Hedge

Start with the larger specimens first, and space them out. These would generally be trees that you’ll keep smaller via judicious pruning.

If you’re afraid of your trees shooting to the moon and don’t know how to prune, I highly recommend Ann Ralph’s book Grow a Little Fruit Tree.

It isn’t hard to keep fruit trees under control, and they can often be turned into quite decent hedges. Of course, if you’re afraid of the bigger fruiting species, you can always plant your hedge starting with edible shrubs.

After you plant in the larger species and determine your spacing (I wouldn’t go less than 8′ on bigger trees, but you can go down to 4′ on shrubs), then you can interplant in the gaps with berries and vines.

Eventually, you’ll end up with a wild-looking edible strip of food-forest hedge. I highly recommend putting down mulch at the beginning to control the weeds when your hedge is young so it can get off to a good start. The first couple of years after planting will require the most care. Water when it’s very dry out and feed with compost if you have it. Adding the mulch will help feed the system, as well as keeping in water.

An edible hedge can allow you to pack in a lot of food into a long linear space. Almost every yard has a place for a hedge—why not use it to grow food?

What Do You Think?

Do you have experience growing edible hedges? If so, what are your favorite varieties to grow and your best tips for success? Let us know in the comments below!

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This post was written by David The Good

COMMENTS(3)

  • MikeF says:

    I planted an edible hedge last year. We live on a busy road and wanted a privacy fence, but zoning says we can not have a privacy fence in the front yard, only open decorative style fences.

    So we had a decorative metal fence installed. Then I planted a hedgerow behind it. This will provide us both privacy and food. 🙂

    On one side, I planted alternating blueberry and cherry bushes (several cultivars). In another section, I have grapes and kiwis on trellis wires. On the shadier side, I have gooseberries, jostaberries, and currants. We have a 25′ raspberry patch backing another section of the fence. There are honeyberries, cranberries, figs and a few others mixed in too. FYI, we are zone 8.

    We have about 250-300′ of fence line planted with an edible hedgerow. I think its about 75 plants total, spaced on average 4′.

  • marjstratton says:

    Really cool idea! When we first moved here, I planted several fruit trees along the front of our property. Now it is a respectable orchard, of closely spaced trees. Only the apples are still producing much. Though the plums and pear trees are still alive, they don’t produce much, They are definitely in need of some judicious pruning. Thinking that it might be a great idea to add to that old orchard and maybe graft some edible cherries on the volunteer wild cherry tree that came up some years ago in the orchard.

  • WandaWhitney says:

    I really wish you could put out something for those of us who live in areas where the soil is only a couple of inches deep and with solid limestone boulders under that! On top, we have very hot and long spring/summer/fall periods and not much rain then. Winters are fairly mild but we do have really cold snaps as well. We don’t have the perfect growing conditions. It would be nice to have edible hedges but do well to have buffalo grass, “sand spurs”, rye grass, etc. It’s good for ranches but not farms.

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