Episode-1069- Unusual and Everyday Plants for Food Hedges (Fedges)

Hedge laying is an ancient practice and at one time many “productive plants” were part of the plant.  Sometimes this was done with fruit tree grafted together, hazelnuts or even old cottage roses that provided thorns and huge hips as a crop.  Other times the “productivity” took on a different bent like using willow and gaining material for weaving or making charcoal (specifically artist charcoal).

Hedges were seen as a permanent fence that required only a little maintenance and largely took care of themselves.  In the 1600s one didn’t run down to Home Depot and order delivery of say 25 6 foot tall, 8 food wide cedar fence panels and some posts if they needed two hundred feet of fencing.  They established a hedge.  This hedge would serve their great grandchildren and feed both the family and animals during all those generations.

In this modern era a hedge has become a bunch of unproductive “Red Tips”, the grow fast and hide the busy street or block out your neighbors but they tend to just die one day (usually at 6-12 years of age) and then you  have to cut them down and start over.  They provide nothing but a requirement that you trim them and clean up after them.  There has to be a better way!  Today we discuss that.

Join me today as we discuss…

  • What is a hedge vs. a fedge
  • Can you put layers into a hedge system
  • Do hedges have to be continuous to be effective
  • Why is a hedge a good idea even if you have a fence
  • How to select plants for your hedge system
  • 14 Forgotten or Unusual Plants for Fedge Systems
    • Chilean and Pineapple Guava
    • Filberts
    • Nanking Cherry
    • Goumi
    • Medlar
    • Mulberry
    • Pomegranate
    • Roses
    • Sea Berries
    • Aronia
    • Currants
    • Elderberries
    • Goji Berry
    • Gooseberries
  • Old standbys that make great fedges
    • Blueberry
    • Blackberry
    • Raspberry
    • Semi Dwarf Fruit Trees
    • Chinese Chestnut
  • Thoughts on some unique ideas
    • Food forests with a fedge as the herbaceous layer
    • A food forest system of multitiered fedges
    • Hugulkulture based fedge systems
    • Managing animals in hedge/fedge systems
    • The fedge based paddock system (padfeging?)

Resources for Today’s Show:

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35 Responses to Episode-1069- Unusual and Everyday Plants for Food Hedges (Fedges)

  1. Great work! Prickly pear cactus would be good eatting. Ones can make cactus jelly out of them. They may not block the view much, but they surely keep any two-legs or four-legs intruder away.

  2. Great timing and ideas….the dead hedge row in the front yard was just pulled up last Friday.

  3. good show gunna be valid as i’ll be looking to block off a transport truck parking lot from some property the wife and i are picking up!! and for ppl concerned about shaping trees and shrubs into a hedge check out what the folks at pooktre.com have done

  4. Well my 10th 100 watt panels are in. Yes I like those old podcasts on the amazing plants he use to talk about.. I have about 100 blue berry plants , 20 nanking cherry bushes, and 20 thornless blackberry plants in..

  5. Perfect timing – I just received my Raintree Catalog!

    Re: Elderberries. Harvesting is a snap if you cut off the whole cluster, then freeze – the berries fall right off the stems.

    Thanks!

    • That is the method we use as well.

      Another nice thing about Elderberries is that it doesn’t take as many of them to make wine as it does other fruits. We usually try to have about 7.5-10 gallons of them to 20-22.5 gallons of berries in our Elderberry / Blackberry wine.

      It’s good… 🙂

      • I bet it is!! Feel free to invite me over when you have your sampling 😉

        I’ve always had elderberry wine straight, and like it – but I think I’ll have to try mixing some blackberries in – that sounds wonderful! I only have about 4 acres of the things growing wild! LOL

        • Heh…. That barrel is gone. We gather ours from a waste area on my uncles farm. They are all wild berries.

          Have you heard of drying Elder flowers and packing storable apples in them as a form of food preservation? It is supposed to make them taste like pineapple apples…… I’ve never done it, but have read about it in old books.

      • No I haven’t heard of that – but it sure sounds interesting.

        I just subbed to your YouTube, looks like you have some great bee-keeping videos 🙂

  6. Where is a good source to get willow plants to start with? All I seem to find is in the uk nothing in the USA I can locate

    What types of willow work best?

    • That’s probably because its so easy to start them. Willow is self-rooting, so if you want to start a new plant, you just cut a withe off an existing plant, stick it in the ground where you want it and keep that area watered for a couple weeks. Wild cuttings are easy, but follow the 10% rule when wild harvesting and be aware if the source willow stand is on someone’s property.

  7. I have what my old neighbor days is a mulberry that is intertwined with one of our lilac bushes. I cut it back every year because my wife likes the lilayear’m tempted to just let it grow. No fruit ever. Since Im cutting it back every year.

  8. Great episode! I put lots of hawthorn in my fedge because its thorny and will have pear grafted on to it above the browse line.

  9. Jack,
    I once ordered apple trees from Miller Nurseries. What I recieved was a dormant stick like tree. That was fine then, but I need something a little more ready to roll since I’m not sure how long I will be in this house. Are there nurseries that will ship started trees that will take off faster? And what should I look for when internet shopping for this? Thanks, this show’s got my mind flying! See you in Nashua!

    • Jon,
      You are going to have to go local then. But, I bought three apple trees last year. two were local, one was a trimmed stick 28 inches tall.
      The locally bought trees were seven feet tall with a 5 gallon root ball.
      One year later, the stick is 6 feet tall, looks great. The local boys are still about 7 feet tall. Almost no growth as they deal with the transplant shock.
      So you can get bigger, but it doesn’t mean sooner fruit. If I were to do it over, I’d be getting more sticks trees.

  10. What was the name of the website for plants that Mr. Spirko said? Thanks for your help in advance.

  11. I agree about shows like this, there’s something inspiring/motivating about them. I just bought some bare root raspberry plants for the wife’s V-Day present. She likes things that keep on giving as opposed to roses that just wither up in a week or so. Also going to look into the Raintree catalog for a few of the things that the nurseries up here in NorID don’t carry for Zone 5.

  12. Any video/photo examples of these fedges with details? Maybe on the forums or on other websites?

  13. I can add one more amazing thing to do with Elder flowers. I just finished my PDC at Midwest Permaculture a few weeks ago and one of the instructors had made Elder flower mead. I’m not a huge mead fan, but the taste I got of this was absolutely incredible. I’m glad it’s not mass produced because my paycheck would go toward cases of this stuff…

  14. I’m only partially through this episode so far, but damn if these ones don’t get my blood flowing even as the ground here in NY is still covered in snow….

    I can appreciate the replacement of privacy and decorative hedges with fedges in the suburban and even urban lots out there. This is also one of the things that Geoff Lawton showed in one of the designs featured in his Urban Permaculture DVD. For those of us with a little more land than that AND deer problems, hedges/fedges can be put to another use — namely helping to deter the deer away from the areas we put into high production.

    I read about this technique in Toby Hemenway’s “Gaia’s Garden” (a GREAT book on home-scale permaculture). Basically, what you do is look at the pathways that deer take on your property and use hedges to “deflect” them away from the areas you don’t want them to get into. Plant lots of stuff for them to browse on on the outside of the hedge (along with some thorny stuff to prevent them from pushing through), and on the inside of the hedge plant the stuff that YOU like to browse on. The deer will just take the path of least resistance, following the outside of the hedge and munching as they go.

    I’m going to try this for one of the forest gardens that I’ve been getting up and going in my yard. Stuff like wild roses and Siberian pea shrub on the outside, with blackberries, raspberries, etc. on the inside. I’m even going to incorporate a few fruit trees into the fedge — who cares if the deer prune back the outside edge of them. I’ll have to see how mine works out as we have LOTS of deer that come through the yard, but Toby Hemenway swears by this method and wrote that he had virtually zero issues with deer destroying his productive gardens and food forests after he installed it.

    Thanks for the great podcast, Jack!

    • @ Christopher – You bring up some good points regarding the long legged whitetailed ‘rats”. I want to keep them away from my garden and other edibles, but don’t want to keep them totally away in regards to the November harvest/payback for the things they do get.
      Some wild rose cuttings might be a good start in that direction plus getting more hips. Thanks!

  15. Web sites for ordering plants:

    I think the one Jack mentioned was raintree: https://www.raintreenursery.com/

    They have a nice selection but tend to be pricey.

    This one looks good and the prices are less: http://www.burntridgenursery.com

  16. and http://www.thetreefarm.us has good deals but they only ship about twice a year

  17. THANK YOU ! Been racking my brain for my hedge row. As usually timing is perfect!

  18. There’s a whole lot of Maqui Berries in my garden, which are one of my favorite tree berries. They’re small but the taste and nutrition makes up for size. Some say it’s a superfood, (whatever that may refer to). They’re not planted as a hedge but I bet they’ll work as one.

  19. Zone 2 is not necessarily tundra. I spent many years in the 3a/2b Peace Region of BC/Alberta. The Peace Region is one of the most productive grain growing regions in the world. Varies of apple, cherry, chokecherry, and plum will grow in the area. The 3a parts also support a population of white tail deer. Much of zone 2 also supports a boreal forest, with moose, black bear, etc.

    • Mark, that must get cold up there. I am zone 9 and to be honest, we have a 300 day growing season. (You just got to know which 300 days it is 🙂 ) Our low temp thus far this year might have hit 22 F. I suspect we would both be very confused about trying to design and work in each other’s climates. To my way of thinking, you are darn near tundra with a 95 days growing season. On the other hand, I do really miss the snow.

      • Rick, it does get down to -40. I’ve since moved to Toronto. Back in the peace region, I’ve seen snow on the ground for 5.5 months, but usually it melts from time to time through winter. But the summer days are long. In June it never gets completely dark. So during summer plants are easily growing 16+ hours a day, which makes up for the shorter growing season. The days are rarely over 80F so plants don’t have to deal with much heat stress outside the drier months of July and August. Farmers generally have their crops off by the end of September.

        That being said, my grand parents used to have a farm (well, more of a hobby farm) in the interior mountains of BC. While the area is zone 5b, their growing season at 3000 ft above town was only 85 days.

        People are also surprised to learn much of the south coast of Alaska and BC is zone 8. Areas along the Skeena river used to be full of orchards before better transportation links made it easier to import food. North doesn’t always mean cold. 🙂

  20. Any thoughts on a short, 1-2′, fedge thick enough to serve as a barrier/deterrent for chickens?

  21. Agreed, however I’m not looking to contain them, just deter them from the sidewalk. We’ve got 5 acres so they have plenty of room to roam, just hoping to cut down on the chicken poop on the sidewalk and if I’m going to plant something it might as well be edible for us and them.

  22. One of your better shows yet! We’re just getting started on converting our surrounding yard into a productive landscape and the idea of combining hugul/fedge rows is ideal for bordering our lot. I’m going through your permaculture vids now.

    Mark Rose is very right about how productive a northern climate can be with a bit of extra knowledge and the right planting. I hope to have cherries, blueberries and gooseberries put in this year. Currants were already growing wild in the abandoned decorative hedge when we bought the place. Our immediate neighbors grow plum, apricot, raspberry, couple different apples, chokecherry and more. We do have to do some indoor starting/high-tunnels to get good hot peppers and melons, but this is where heirloom seeds selected for short seasons really shines. Oh, and we’re zone 3 and it the windchill bought it down to -55F the other night….

    • If you’re looking for a tomato, I would look into stupice. It’s a variety that fruits early and keeps fruiting until frost.

  23. I’m in NH and want to grow currants this year. As absurd as this sounds, they are illegal in the northeast. Does anyone have suggestions on how to buy them? Local stores don’t sell them, and online stores restrict sales to these states.