Many urban dwellers wish to utilize every inch of their yards to the fullest extent possible. You may wish to grow food, have space for recreation, room for pets or kids to play, and perhaps some plants for privacy. Hedges and living fences help define spaces, mark your property line, or block unsightly views. Using edible hedges can help combine uses, providing tasty treats and enhancing beauty — particularly when space is tight.
Before selecting edible hedges, decide on their function. There are numerous edible options that can serve a variety of purposes.
Rugosa roses are a good option if you want a rose variety with thick foliage that isn’t prone to diseases yet is still quite fragrant. Mature plants can get quite large — between 4 and 8 feet in height and 4 to 6 feet in width — which can engulf a small garden. Make sure you have sufficient space before planting this rose.
The rugosa rose produces large rose hips, perfect for preserving. Harvest them after the first frost in the fall, once they have turned bright orange or red. Packed with vitamin C, rugosa rose hips can be used in jam, jelly, tea, infused honey, and more.
Sea Buckthorn (Seaberry)
The low-maintenance sea buckthorn shrub provides excellent wildlife habitat and produces yellow to red berries that have plenty of vitamin C. These tart berries can be used to make juice, jam, candy, wine, or sorbet.
Space your plants 3 feet apart to form a fast-growing hedge. Unpruned, some varieties of sea buckthorn reach heights of 12 feet or more. For varieties that are not self-pollinating, plant at least one male for every five to six female plants. Although mature plants are drought-resistant, seedlings require irrigation to establish. This nitrogen-fixing plant can thrive in many different soil types — except overly saturated soil — and requires full sun.
Native to North America, the highbush cranberry grows to 8 to 15 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide. For a solid hedge, plant bushes 2 to 3 feet apart. It is self-fertile, so no other plants are needed for pollination. Plant in full sun to partial shade in rich and loamy soil. This bush is not prone to most pests and is drought-resistant. Prune bushes annually to maintain the desired size.
The highbush cranberry’s antioxidant-rich fruit is often sweetened and used in jams and sauces. It’s also a favorite for birds, so this plant is a great addition to your bird-friendly garden.
Another North American native, the highbush blueberry 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. They grow to heights of 6 to 12 feet, making excellent windbreaks and privacy screens 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 of years. Use peat moss or pine needles to help retain moisture and prune plants in late winter or early spring.
The leaves of this North American native turn beautiful red in the fall, and the bushes produce a tart fruit that is touted for its nutritional and medicinal qualities. It achieves a height of 8 feet when mature. For optimal fruit production, space the plants 10 feet apart or plant 4 to 6 feet apart for a hedge. Aronia can tolerate a range of soil types, including damp soil, but is not drought-tolerant.
Taking advantage of edible hedges brings with it multiple benefits — including privacy and beauty, food for wildlife, and a bountiful harvest for you. Now head out onto the patio, enjoy the warm sunshine, and enjoy that delicious blueberry smoothie!
Feature image of chokeberry courtesy of Goran Horvat, Pixabay. Originally published on May 1, 2015, this article was updated in July 2022.