Food ‘fedges’ in NJ offer beauty, privacy and are environmentally friendly

🔵 A fedge can provide so many benefits to your backyard

⚫ Fedges are usually made from berries

🔴 A fedge can also be a great food source for both people and wildlife


There’s a fence and there’s a hedge. But have you ever heard of a fedge?

A food fence is a fence that is typically made of living plants, usually a shrub, vine or small tree. It can stand alone or be woven into an existing fence, says Bailey Sanders, Stewardship Specialist for the Barnegat Bay Partnership.

Benefits of a food bank

A food fence not only adds beauty to your yard, it also provides privacy between your yard and your neighbor’s yard. It’s also a great food source for pollinators, birds, wildlife and people, Sanders said.

Hungry? By growing berries, you will have enough to make a delicious dessert, jam, pie or just pop one by one in your mouth for a healthy snack.

Fedges can provide food for birds that winter in New Jersey, and also provide food for birds that migrate, so they can pick some berries as they pass through the state.

Fedges can provide different types of habitats. Smaller birds can use fedges to hide and escape from large predators.

There are also pollination benefits for fedges. They will flower and attract pollinators. They will benefit from a food source of nectar and then transfer pollen from plant to plant.

There are also benefits to soil erosion. “If you plant them somewhere specific, the root systems are pretty strong, so they hold that soil in place and prevent a lot of that erosion,” Sanders said.

What are food federations made of?

Many native plants in New Jersey grow very well as a backyard fedge, such as black and red raspberries, as well as Pennsylvania blackberries and Alleghany blackberries, Sanders said. They grow very well as a fedge and provide a lot of privacy.

New Jersey also has a variety called purple flowering raspberry. But Sanders said it doesn’t taste as good to humans. It’s more of a wildlife-oriented berry. So if you’re not worried about feeding yourself, and would rather feed wildlife, this is a great plant for a fedge because it has beautiful purple flowers, she added.

Strawberries at Specca Farms, Bordentown (Specca Farms)

Strawberries at Specca Farms, Bordentown (Specca Farms)

Strawberries also make good feds. However, Sanders said they don’t climb on their own. They can be trained to climb using a trellis or chain-link fence.

Blueberries are also great to use as a fedge. “My only precaution with blueberries is to make sure you get one of the taller varieties. Two varieties are very popular. There’s a low blueberry that only grows about two feet, which doesn’t really do much for your privacy, but a tall blueberry can grow anywhere from six to 12 feet tall,” Sanders said.

Paw Paw (Amazon)

Paw Paw (Amazon)

The pawpaw is also native to New Jersey and makes a great fedge. Pawpaw is a fruit tree found in the Pine Barrens.

“They have a kind of custard-like texture and a flavor that I can only compare to a mix of banana, mango and pineapple,” Sanders said.

You can also grow cherries, peaches and pears in your garden. These plants are very suitable for lawns.

NR24BlueberryResearch5759N.jpg

Blueberry field at the Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research (Nick Romanenko/Rutgers University)

How do you make a fedge?

When building a fedge, the first thing you need to do is choose a plant species, whether it’s a raspberry, blueberry, strawberry, papaya, or something else. But make sure you choose a species that will work well with the conditions and soil in your garden.

For example, blueberries like sandy, well-drained soil, Sanders said. But in North Jersey, where there’s a lot of clay, blueberries may not do as well as you’d like, so be careful when choosing a plant to match the climate in different parts of the state.

Purple flowering raspberry (Amazon)

Purple flowering raspberry (Amazon)

Look at the spread of the garden. How tall will the plants grow? The best time to start planting is early spring, Sanders said. That way, they have time to get established and rooted. For example, with blueberries, they don’t get super wide, maybe up to six feet. But you don’t want to plant them at their maximum reach right away, because they don’t work together as a fedge, she said.

You can plant species close together, but not so close that they encourage pests and diseases. Don’t plant closer than half the recommended distance, or they won’t have enough room to grow.

Blackberries (Getty Images)

Blackberries (Getty Images)

“When you want to place them, you mark the edges where you want them to stop and start, and calculate how many feet you need between the plants, calculate how much space each plant needs, and then you can start planting,” Sanders said.

Check out jerseyyards.org which has a lot of information on the native plants that grow in New Jersey which would be great for fedges. There is also a native plant database to learn more about the many species.

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