Adding edible plants and trees to your yard is fun and easy. The question most people have is how do I do it? Where do I start? Our goal is to help you answer this question. Since every yard space is different we are breaking this down into a series of blog posts that will cover a variety of yard situations. We believe that the best place to start is to start with what you have and build from there. This week we will look at ways to incorporate existing trees and fence lines. To see all the posts in this series, be sure to start here.
Edible Landscaping with existing Trees and Fence Lines
Options for existing hedge bushes- these could be positioned anywhere in your yard, but are typically found around the foundation of your house. While you may find it tempting to dig these up and completely replace them, there are other options that may help you slowly transition.
- Severly prune the bush back or even to the ground and plant an alternative edible in between. You can then use the pruned pieces of bush as chop and drop mulch around the new plant. As the old bush grows back, you can prune it back and again use the pruned pieces as nutrient rich mulch. This will give you the option of replacing a few at a time. Some good options for replacement would be blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, fig tree, or elderberry. Remember that you can control how tall or big any of these become. If you want your hedgerow to stop right underneath your windows for example, than you can simply keep it pruned to that height.
- Another option for hedge rows is to use a layering effect where you bring that flower bed out and add layers of smaller bushes, vines, herbs, or edible flowers to the mix. It is okay to plant these close together and therefore allow you to fit quite a lot of different plants in a small space. As these plants grow, you have the option to either allow them to grow into each other and form a beautiful thick English Garden look or you can continue to prune them to keep spacing as desired. This will also give you some great curb appeal as the different plants will flower and bloom at different times of the season.
Options for existing Trees- Trees are a good thing and many times you can put to use the mature ones that you already have in your yard. The first step would be to identify the trees you do have.
- Hardwoods are great trees to have and I would urge you to consider keeping these beauties. While they are homes to many wild animals and insects, they can give you much needed shade. These make great upper level canopies to food forests.
- Grafting fruit Scion to non-fruiting rootstock- there are many trees that do not fruit, but make fantastic rootstock. For anyone that is new to the grafting world, rootstock is referring to the base of the tree (roots and beginning of trunk) and Scion wood is referring to a branch that can be used to graft onto the rootstock. Once the graft takes to the rootstock, it will change that tree into producing branches of what ever variety the scion wood is. The best example I could give would be Bradford Pear. This tree seems to be everywhere with it’s big blooms this time of year but it does not produce any edible fruit. If you have one of these in your yard, you can choose a pear variety scion wood and graft it to the bradford pear tree. This will turn your bradford pear into the new pear variety which will grow and produce edible fruit. Now obviously the scion wood and rootstock have to be compatible… you can’t take any tree and just put any scion wood to it. But there are many common trees that you transform into edible fruit. Here are some examples:
- Dogwood can turn into Cornelian Cherry
- Hawthorne Tree can turn into Apple Tree
- Crabtree can turn into Apple Tree
- Wild Plums can turn into grocery store style Plums
- Also… if you have a pear, apple, or plum tree that you are not happy with their fruit, you can also graft a new variety onto that and turn it into something that you really enjoy.
Options for existing Fence Lines- Having a fence around your yard is a necessity in many situations. We have always needed one to keep our dogs contained and have a sense of privacy. Whether your fence is beautiful or an eyesore, you can actually use it to your advantage. A fence is nothing more than a giant trellis that wraps around your yard. It gives you you an opportunity to grow things vertically. Here are some ideas.
- Espelia Fruit Trees- I just love espelia style fruit trees. They are beautiful and elegant. If you are not familiar, Espelia is just a style of planting fruit trees where you train the branches of the tree along a horizontal line or design. You simply prune the trees to be the height you desire and prune the branches to continue to grow along the horizontal path you created. The trees will still produce an abundance of fruit and you are free to choose whatever type of fruit tree you want to use- Apples, Pears, Plums, Cherries, Orange, ect.
- Grape Trellis- Grapes are a great choice to grow along fence lines as you can very easily give them the support they need to hold up all their heavy fruit. There are so many different types of grapes that you can choose from like Muscadine, Scupadine, or table grapes. If you are into making wine, we have used these many times to make our own homemade wine and wow is it good. These do not require much upkeep once you set up the wire you want them to grow along, you simply prune once a year. Grapes are one of my all time favorite things to grow and you can harvest them starting the first year!
- Edible Vines- Vertical gardening is not just for fruit.. there are entire books written about growing your veggies vertical. This can very easily be done along the fence line. Cucumbers, pumpkins, gourds, beans, and squash to name a few would be great candidates for vertical veggie growing. Simply plant the seeds and when they start to sprout just train them along a line going up to the top of the fence. They will happily climb up and produce a harvest within easy reach.
- Raised Kitchen Garden- A veggie garden does not have to be a square of land with nice neat rows. You can very easily make raised beds right along your fence line to plant all your veggies in. This would be no different than building any other raised bed, you would just push the box right up agains the fence and use the back part to grow vertical veggies and the front part to grow the lower plants. Or you could plant any of the vines, trees, or grapes listed above along the fence and then plant your other veggies right in front of them. The possibilities are endless! For ideas on incorporating hugelkulture into your raised garden beds, you can check out our hugelkulture post!
There are so many ideas and creative possibilities for you to play with. Check out our Pinterest board on Kitchen Gardens and Fruit Trees for even more ideas! Next week we are going to focus on how to create a food forest in your backyard.