Food 'fedges' in NJ provide beauty, privacy, and are eco-friendly – New Jersey 101.5 FM

There’s a fence and there’s a hedge. But have you ever heard of a fedge?
A food fedge is a fence that is typically made out of living plants, usually a shrub, a vining plant, or a small tree. It can stand on its own or it can be weaved into an existing fence, said Bailey Sanders, Stewardship Specialist for the Barnegat Bay Partnership.
Not only does a food fedge add beauty to your hard, it also offers privacy between your yard and a neighbor’s yard. It’s also a great food source for pollinators, birds, wildlife, and humans, Sanders said.
Hungry? By growing berries, you’ll have enough to make a great dessert, a jam, a pie, or even just pop them in your mouth one by one for a healthy snack.
Fedges can provide food to birds that winter in New Jersey, as well as provide food for birds that are migrating. That way they pluck out some berries as they’re moving across the state.
Fedges can provide different types of habitats. Smaller birds can use fedges to hide and escape large predators.
There also pollinating benefits to fedges. They will flower and attract pollinators. They will reap the benefits of having a food source of nectar, and then transferring pollen from plant to plant.
There are soil erosion benefits, as well. “If there is anywhere specific where you’re planting these, the root systems are pretty hearty, so they will hold that soil place and prevent a lot of that erosion,” Sanders said.
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 offer a lot of privacy.
New Jersey also has a species called purple flowering raspberries. But Sanders said it’s not great-tasting for humans. It’s more of a wildlife-focused berry. So, if you’re not concerned about feeding yourself, and you’d rather feed wildlife, this is a great plant for a fedge because it has beautiful purple flowers, she added.
Strawberries make for good fedges too. But Sanders said they don’t climb on their own. However, they can be trained to climb with the use of a trellis or a chain-linked fence.
Blueberries are also great to use as a fedge. “My only precaution with blueberries is that you make sure you get one of the taller varieties. Two species are really popular. There’s low-bush blueberry which only grows to about two feet which really doesn’t do much for you in terms of privacy, but high-bush blueberry can grow anywhere from six to 12 feet tall,” Sanders said.
The paw-paw is also native to New Jersey and makes for a great fedge. Paw-paw is a fruit tree that can be found in the Pine Barrens.
“They are kind of like a custardy texture and a flavor of what I can only compare to a mix of a banana, a mango, and a pineapple,” Sanders said.
Cherries, peaches, and pears can also be grown in your yard and make good fedges.
When building a fedge, the first thing to do is choose the plant species, whether it’s a raspberry, blueberry, strawberry, paw-paw, or something else. But, be sure to choose a species that will go well in the conditions and soil you have in the yard.
For example, blueberries love sandy, well-drained soil, Sanders said. But in North Jersey where there is a lot of clay, blueberries may not thrive as well as you’d like them to, so be mindful when picking a plant so it compliments the climate in different parts of the state.
Look at the spread of the yard. How big will the plants get? The best time to start planting is in early spring Sanders said. That way they have time to settle and get rooted. For example, with blueberries again, they don’t get super wide, maybe six feet max. But you don’t want to plant them immediately at their max range because they won’t work together as a fedge, she said.
You can plant species close together but not so close that they promote pests and diseases. Don’t plant closer than half the recommended distance because they won’t have enough room to grow.
“Once you want to put them, mark the edges of where you want it to stop and start, and then figure out how many feet you have between them, figure out how much space each one needs, and then you can get to planting,” Sanders said.
Go to which has a lot of information about the native plants that grow in New Jersey which would be great for fedges. There is a native plant database to learn about the many species, as well.
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Gallery Credit: Dennis Malloy