Edible Plants for Living Fences6 Oct, 2020
Living plant fences can act as a wonderful way to gain privacy from neighbors, section off portions of the yard, and protect a property from unwanted guests and animals. While there are many common plants used for barriers like Privet, Boxwood, and Arborvitae, there are also many edible plants that make great barriers and privacy hedges while also providing a food source.
Here at the Jewel of Encanto Farm, we are surrounded by an urban neighborhood setting. On the property, we use edible barrier plants to protect our more delicate plants, keep out unwanted animals, and provide privacy to the property. Living fences can be effective in different ways: some have thorns and others are planted in close proximity to reduce visibility or entrance.
Our edible barrier plants with thorns include kei apple trees, rose bushes, pomegranate trees, agaves, and lime trees. Kei apple trees are a medium-sized tree that produces a yellow acidic apricot-like fruit and branches that are adorned by one to three inch thorns. These thorns are the most ominous deterrent on the farm, the kei apples line a side of the fence and are out of the way of regular traffic. Kei apple trees are hardy in USDA zones 9 through 11. Rose bushes are a beautiful and edible (rosehips and rose petals) barrier landscape plant that also have thorns that can dissuade entrance. Pomegranates can be grown as hedges or individual trees. Pomegranate trees have small thorns and produce large round antioxidant-packed fruits. There are some varieties of pomegranates that can survive in USDA hardiness zones 6 and 7 with cold protection, however, they will thrive best in zones 8 through 10. Agave plants are a great deterrent, they grow low to the ground and their leaves are lined with sharp spines. Many citrus trees also have thorns and a lower leaf canopy than other trees. Plants with thorns are often used to keep unwanted animals out of certain areas. For example, at our farm location in Northern Arizona, we plan to grow thorny trees and shrubs around our beehives as an extra protection against large animals disturbing the hives.
Other barrier plants that we grow include moringa trees, lavender hedges, artichokes, and various vines. Moringa trees have a very linear growth habit, which gives them the ability to be planted very close together. Moringa trees grow tall and upright, so if you have enough trees, you can have a tall privacy hedge. The moringa leaves and beans are edible, the leaves make great additions to salads and the beans can be eaten raw or cooked like a green bean. Moringa trees are hardy in zones 9 and 10. Lavender and rosemary hedges are a great way to create beautiful and fragrant shorter barriers. Artichokes can grow quite large and create stocky hedges when planted close together. At the farm, we also grow sweet potatoes and grapes on trellises. Trellises can give your living fence/ wall structure, and help fill in privacy gaps while your plants are still maturing.
Also remember that although you are creating a fence or barrier, plants will still need room to grow. Avoid packing in your plants to create an instant barrier, instead, consider adding annual plants or temporary trellis walls/ structures to fill in space while allowing your plants to fill in the space and mature. Think about the plant’s growth habit as well. At the farm we have agave plants positioned around windows to deter from intrusion. Not many agaves are needed, they are spaced so that their leaves almost touch- no animal or person wants to go through a turnstile of agave spines, so this is an effective way to plant fewer plants, while still providing a barrier. Also, consider the life cycle of the plants you are using. Depending on the plant type and the climate you live in, plants may lose their leaves and die back in the winter, this can create gaps in your living fence. If there are areas you want a permanent living fence, consider using evergreen perennials or trellises that will remain even if your plant dies back.
Living fences are a great way to create privacy, stop unwanted intrusions, and divide sections of the yard. By using edible plants you create a structure and are able to benefit from the food produced by the plant.
Looking forward, we are wanting to add prickly pears around the property to act as deterrents and to harvest the nopales pads and cactus fruit! Keep an eye out for new living fences and barriers we create for our new farm property up north as well!
Kei Apple Thorns are 1-3 inches long
Moringa Trees create and tall and sturdy living fence