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Vermont Garden Journal: Define Your Garden Space With An Edible Hedgerow

Serviceberries are a type of edible hedgrerow that grows well in partial sun areas. However, be willing to share your berry harvest with the birds.
Serviceberries are a type of edible hedgrerow that grows well in partial sun areas. However, be willing to share your berry harvest with the birds.

Snaking along my front yard is a five-foot wide edible hedgerow bed. I wanted a garden bed that would be a transition between my lawn and hayfield. Instead of just a row of shrubs, I decided to grow mixed edible plants.

Edible hedgerows are a great way to maximize your garden space, provide a wall or barrier to block a view, define a garden and a great place to attract beneficial insects. Plus, you get to eat from the hedgerow, too!

The first decision when planning an edible hedgerow is how high do you want it to grow. Some edible plants, such as bush cherries and elderberries, can grow eight-to-ten feet tall providing a large screen. Other edibles, such as honey berries and gooseberries, only grow three-to-four feet tall. The wider you make the hedgerow, the better the barrier for sight and sound. But remember it will need more plants. Watch the ultimate size of the plants so they have enough room to spread and not crowd each other.

Also, match plants with similar growing needs. In part-sun areas grow edibles tolerant of some shade such as elderberries, currants and serviceberries. Be willing to share your berry harvest with the birds, or place highly desirable shrubs, such as blueberries and honey berries, in places where you can easily net them when fruiting. Think about fall color and interest as well. Blueberries have beautiful fall foliage and some viburnums have attractive, colorful berries.

Also, remember the ground. Strawberries and mint offer edible berries and leaves and cover the ground to reduce weeding. Finally, it's okay to mix in flowers, too. My hedgerow has roses, peonies and daylilies that add bright color to the bed. Yes, you can eat these flower petals, but I like looking at them.

Now for this week's tip: to get the best flavor from your sweet peppers, allow them to turn red. This may take a few extra weeks of ripening, but it's worth it.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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