If you’re looking for a living alternative to edging your garden beds instead of using commercially available edging, why not consider using edible plants as hedges?
This way you can reap the harvest of your living edging as well as create an attractive border for your garden beds.
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There are a number of fruiting plants that typically grow as shrubs and therefore lend themselves well to hedging.
For low-growing hedges, you could try Chilean guava (max 1 meter), blueberry (height depends on variety – choose a small growing one), currants (1.5 meters), gooseberries (2 meters) or mountain pepper (this is an Australian native and grows from 2-5 meters) to name a few. With all of these, you can keep their height in check by regular pruning.
Tall hedges can utilize plants like pineapple guava. This can grow to 15 feet tall if you don’t prune it. However, it adapts well to regular pruning. Similarly, strawberry guava can also grow to 14 feet. But, since it’s slow-growing it’s ideal for pruning to keep the height in check. This will produce lovely bushy growth. You could even consider olives (height depends on the variety) or pomegranates which can grow to 12 feet tall but you can easily train them to hedge height with regular pruning.
Basically, any plants with fine leaves that respond well to tip pruning are perfectly suited to hedging.
When purchasing your plants, look for small bushy ones and avoid any which have long, lanky growth as you want to train and shape your hedges from young plants to encourage attractive shapely growth. Give them a general tip prune before planting and then just continue to tip prune as they start growing to ensure continued bushy growth.
Until your plants are well established, fertilize often with a fertilizer high in nitrogen as this encourages leaf growth.
Herbs are also very useful as edging plants especially if mass planted as borders and regularly pruned to keep them manageable and to encourage an attractive growth habit. Consider herbs like rosemary, oregano or thyme. The benefits of using herbs as borders are that you can keep them quite compact. Plus, you can use the prunings in your cooking as well.
If you have a rose garden why not consider edging it with mass plantings of chives. Not only can they look quite attractive when they are in flower but they have the added benefit of keeping the aphids away from your precious roses as well.
If you don’t mind having a changeable border you could even try using loose-leaf lettuce. You can get a variety of colors. Therefore, you can either use the same variety to create a more formal look or mix them up for a bit of added interest. Just pick the outer leaves for your salads or sandwiches continuously. This will encourage more growth and keep your border looking good for longer.
Perennial vegetables could also be used as edible borders. This would work very well if you live in a frost-free area. You could try capsicum (sweet pepper), chillies, artichokes or even asparagus. Radicchio is another very attractive perennial vegetable and would make a wonderful, colourful border.
Frequently Asked Questions
Feijoas are excellent for hedging. They can make an excellent tall screen, especially if grown close together. I visited an edible garden a while ago where feijoas were used extensively for hedging around the garden and the effect was outstanding.
Consider a lower-growing hedge using rosemary or lavender for planting around your vegetable garden.
Yes. There are many fruit trees that can easily be espaliered to create a hedge. These include apples, pears, peaches, lemons, limes and figs. In this type of hedge, the trees are trained along a trellis so that their branches grow horizontally along the trellis.
When you want to grow your own food, it does help to think out of the box and stray a little from more conventional gardening practices. One of the ways you can do this is to use edible plants for your hedging rather than more ornamental plants.
There are plenty of varieties that you can use for this and all it requires is a little extra care. You want to plant a little closer than normal and shape the plants as they continue to grow.
You’ll also find that harvesting is much easier if your edible plants are nicely shaped.