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 rose

Rugosa rose
Rugosa rose. Image courtesy of r.a. paterson.

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.  Did someone just turn on Poison?

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.

Seaberry (sea buckthorn)

This low-maintenance 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. Plant 3 feet apart to form a fast-growing hedge. Unpruned, some varieties 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 soils, and requires full sun.

Highbush cranberry

Highbush cranberry
Highbush cranberry. Image courtesy of Anna Hesser.

Native to North American, it grows to 8–15 feet tall and 8–10 feet wide. For a solid hedge, plant bushes 2 to 3 feet apart. It is self-fruitful, 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 desired size. The antioxidant-rich fruit is a favorite for birds, and is often sweetened and used in jams and sauces. Yum!

Highbush blueberry

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. They 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.

Aronia (chokeberry)

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 productions, space 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 – providing privacy, beauty and a bountiful harvest. Now head out onto the patio, enjoy the warm sunshine and enjoy that delicious blueberry smoothie!

Feature image courtesy of wayne marshall

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.