Plant Some Dry Hedges Around Your Home Food Forest

From left:: A pomegranate hedge blooms in springtime; a home olive grove is born. (Photos by Joshua Burman Thayer)


Gardener’s Notebook by Joshua Burman Thayer

Do you have a sunny property line that could use some softening? Here are some sturdy hedge options that will thrive and endure in our Bay Area climate. These trees will build soil and provide food in an interacting ecology known as a food forest.

For a dense hedge effect, plant these trees 6 feet apart. For a more spread-out overstory, plant them 10-12 feet apart. Once established, they can get by on minimal watering. For the first two years, plan to water twice a week. By year three, you can cut that back to twice a month.

Note: In the list below, you will notice that some plants are good for “chop and drop.” This is a permaculture technique that advises dropping plant residues directly onto the ground where they can act as compost to improve your local ecosystem.

Trees and Shrubs for Dry Hedges

Carob (Ceratonia siliqua): This nitrogen-fixing tree produces edible fruit.

Fig (Ficus carica): Versatile to many conditions, this tree produces edible fruit.

Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia): A good nitrogen fixer, this tree is good for chop and drop. The fruit is NOT edible.

Olive (Oleo europea): Amazingly utilitarian, this tree produces fruit that can be milled or cured to become edible.

Honey locust (Robinia frisia): A good nitrogen fixer, this tree is good for chop and drop. The fruit is NOT edible.

Jujube (Ziziphus jujuba): This tough desert tree is known as Chinese date. The dates are edible.

Western redbud (Cercis occidentalis): A native, nitrogen-fixing, spring-blooming tree. NOT edible.

Wild cherry (Prunus ilicifolia): aka hollyleaf cherry, evergreen cherry, and islay cherry, this evergreen shrub is not a true cherry tree, but both fruit and seed are edible. This wonderful tree is native to California’s southern coastal regions. Read more here:

Spicebush (Rhus ovata): This native shrub produces edible berries.


Want to learn more about food forests and permaculture landscape design and get more gardening advice from horticulturist Joshua Burman Thayer? Visit his collection of Gardener’s Notebook articles on the Edible East Bay website, or look him up at