Roots and Shoots: Eat Your Yard 2

More ideas for edible landscaping

Last month, I laid out a plan for a mixed garden of perennial and annual flowers, herbs and vegetables that would be food and habitat for humans, insects and wildlife alike. Research shows that personal landscape practices can benefit nature when we choose plants with an ecological perspective.

blueberry foliage

The copper-red foliage of blueberry in fall adds color balance to a hedgerow.

This month, I’m using the Fedco Seeds catalogue as the basis for adding woody plants — shrubs, bushes and trees — for the same purpose. For this planting, I envision a mixed, tightly spaced planting, known as a hedgerow.

Hedgerows differ from hedges in biodiversity. Hedges are typically monocultures of single species like boxwood or evergreen that popped up in American gardening as borders and for privacy. Hedgerows can do the same thing but look more interesting and offer bounty.

Each of the following recommendations can be found at Based in Maine, the worker co-op has grown organic stock for nearly 40 years and its catalog and resources are conscientious, thorough and good reading for cold days.


Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
With evergreen leaves in winter and edible bright-red berries (cooked for humans and raw for wildlife) reaching 6 to 10 inches in height, it’s useful as a border around the hedgerow.

Low bush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)
Known as the “true blueberry” from Maine, it’s easy to grow, ranges in size from 6 to 24 inches and can be mixed into the border for easy access. If you want to harvest the blueberries, it will have to be protected from birds and other animals.

Mid-range height

Nanking cherry (Prunus tomentosa)
This fruiting shrub delivers beautiful flowers early in spring, followed by lush foliage and berries, topping out at 6 to 10 feet. You’ll need at least two to produce fruit.

Studies have found that cherries can support nearly 500 species of moths and butterflies, so they’re high value in a landscape. When you have moths and butterflies, you get birds that need caterpillars to feed their young. This cycle of life may not be readily visible but it’s happening when you provide certain plant species.

Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)
The chokeberry is another high-impact host plant for hundreds of moths and butterflies. Either the red or black berries will do. It grows up to 6 feet.

Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)
Its varieties grow from 6 to 12 feet, reaching full height in a season. They can produce berries as soon as the second year. The berries have a lot of uses for cooking, syrups and as herbal remedies.

Shadbush (Amelanchier alnifolia)
This native bush has multiple stems, and early white flowers in spring, and tops out at 10 feet. It bears purple berries that birds love. There are many cultivars within Amelanchier, and they can be chosen for the traits you appreciate. This is an important forest understory tree in the Hudson Valley. Plant two for the best results in fruiting, although they can self-pollinate.

Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitisidaea)
Its many varieties grow from 4 to 15 feet tall. These tasty berries are well-suited to our growing zones and some produce twice in a season.

Tall trees

Hazelbert or hazelnut (Corylus)
The American hazelnut tree can grow up to 18 feet. The shorter cross of hazelnut with European filbert, hazelbert, is bushy and grows up to 12 feet. Both will bear nuts after three years and be a food source for bluejays and other wildlife. They can be self-pollinating, but plant two for best results.

Dogwood (Cornus kousa)
At 20 to 30 feet, this dogwood has everything: blossoms for a month and a half, edible fruit and lovely fall color.

Mulberry (Morus alba)
Choose a spot carefully for this tree and avoid areas where the fallen fruit can stain or be messy for walkways or buildings. It’s a big attraction for birds and will grow quickly, up to 30 feet.

Shagbark hickory (Carya ovate)
This beautiful, nut-bearing tree takes 40 years to produce so it’s an investment. It can reach 80 feet tall.

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