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I live on a corner lot, with neighbors' fencing on two sides of my back yard, the house on a third, and an open street on the fourth.

Rather than installing a fence myself, to provide privacy in the back yard, I had the idea of planting some shrubs or bushes along about a 30-40 foot (9-12 meters) length along the road. I'm wondering if there might be any food-bearing plants that might do the job nicely.

So my criteria, in order of highest to lowest priority, would be something that:

  • Will grow thick, and at least 4-5 feet tall, but taller would be nice (Clearly a 4-foot shrub wouldn't provide a lot of privacy, but it would keep wandering neighborhood children from drowning in the hot tub, which is the main concern)*
  • Grows well in my area (mid-Kansas, Zone 6A) and in moderate sunlight
  • Will make for at least a semi-attractive shrub row
  • Will produce a small food crop

*Note I may opt to have a (probably wire) fence in addition to the shrub row, depending on how thick the shrubbery turns out to be, for the purpose of keeping pets in, and children out. But if possible, such a fence will be mostly hidden by the greenery. I'll also provably put a locked gate near the house (between the red line and side of the house in the photo)

I would be happy to consider a combination of plants. Particularly because I suspect a 40-foot harvest of any single crop will be more than I can eat or give away, whenever the crop ripens.

Secondarily, I had the thought that a combination of shrubs, planted right by the road, and (dwarf?) fruit trees planted a few feet into the yard, might help with privacy more than just one or the other.

Here's an image of my yard, taken from Google's satellite view:

Satellite view of my yard

The red line indicates where I want the privacy wall to go. The southern end is in direct sunlight practically all day, and the northern end is in direct sunlight all afternoon. (The image must have been taken mid-morning, judging by the shadow positions.)

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I think you would like the hedge to do more than one thing so it would help if you could prioritize your goals. Is this how you would rate priorities with the most important first? - a barrier to prevent access to the hot tub - a point of interest for your house - something to eat Where I live if you have anything that has enough water for someone to drown in you are required to have a 5' fence with lock to prevent access. Enforcement is not uniform but your city regulations may have specific requirements. Your house insurance may have requirements that a hedge cannot meet. –  kevinsky Mar 2 '12 at 13:22
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Do you get much snow? Does the snow get plowed over the curb? Do they use salt? Asking because this will affect (a) how close you can get to the curb and (b) whether you need to think about plants with some salt tolerance. –  bstpierre Mar 2 '12 at 13:25
    
(And +1 to @kevinsky's comment -- I was about to post similar thoughts.) –  bstpierre Mar 2 '12 at 13:26
    
@kevinsky: Thanks, I have updated my question with a few more details. You're right on point with my order of priorities. –  Flimzy Mar 2 '12 at 21:07
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@btspierre: We don't get much snow here, and as it's not a main street, it rarely, if ever, gets treated (whether plowed or salted). And the closest I can get to the street with a fence is 14.5' anyhow. I may be able to plant trees closer to the street (I notice many neighbors have trees in the street easement area). –  Flimzy Mar 2 '12 at 21:20
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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

These are some ideas but ultimately your decision will have to be made on what is available at your local plant nurseries: In no particular order of preference:

  • Corylus avellana: Hazelnut: six feet tall and wide, yellow fall colour, edible nut, likes moist to wet soil, for sun to half shade
  • Raspberry species: Red Raspberry, black Raspberry: three to four feet tall with prickly stems, sun to half shade (named cultivars might be better for production)
  • Elderberry: to nine feet, full sun, large white flowers, dark berries
  • Highbush Cranberry:twelve to sixteen feet (smaller with pruning), white flowers, bright berries, red fall colour
  • Jostaberry: to four feet, narrow, tangy sweet fruit

Each of these has their ups and downs. The raspberries will need more cutting back. I have seen elderberries with ugly powdery mildew but that may be local. The Highbush cranberry is a personal favourite but the berries are only edible by those who are extremely hungry (tart!).

Your chances of getting a crop of any of these shrubs seems kind of slim if you have any wildlife in your area. Planting Hazelnuts will make you a friend to all the squirrels within five miles of your house. Berry plants are favoured by birds. Netting and standing guard around harvest time might be in order if you want a crop instead of a handful.

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Although certainly a pest if you don't keep a vigilant fist on it, you might consider a hedge of bamboo latticed with bean sprouts. The bamboo is quick growing (2-3' per year easily; hence, a pest) and hard to kill. The vines may be difficult to maintain once the height of the bamboo gets too high. Berries would also provide nice vining (and especially coloration), but may be more difficult to interlace.

To my knowledge in Ohio, if you have a drowning hazard a landscape fence will not suffice. I am unaware of your local municipality's statutes, however you might contact your local Department of Public Health (the Ohio agency's name). I have a bamboo privacy row (not my choice) that is thick, and not comfortable to climb through; I would not trust it to save children, nor would I trust any other plant for that matter (a hard fence sends a message no plant will).

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