By Richard Flowers, ACCNP-Green Thumb Nursery-Ventura
When most people think of a hedge they are usually referring to the conventional Wax Leaf Privet, Boxwood, or Brush Cherry. These plants are green and don’t really provide much in the way of usefulness except for providing privacy. Today I want to broaden your horizons towards using a plant that many people don’t recognize as being used in such a way. Many gardeners don’t think of the hedge as a place to grow food, but especially in urban and small space yards, hedges offer a new opportunity to plant even more food for yourself, your family, and neighbors.
Citrus are most commonly used as a back-yard or front-yard tree or shrub that produces colorful orange, red or yellow deliciously flavored fruits most of the year depending on varieties chosen and location of being planted. Edibles are becoming increasingly popular and people are wanting to grow their own food. I truly think that Citrus being used in other ways other than a standalone tree has the potential for people to expand their possibilities and think outside the box. I believe using Citrus as privacy, blockage, and informal or formal hedges will catch on to the mainstream very quickly. Let’s say you have a neighbors house you want to block or an unsightly view you want to obstruct or keep unwanted people out, then Citrus is highly desirable for those applications. The thorns of a Lemon will be undesirable for intruders to enter your yard, the sweet fragrance from the flowers of any citrus will be delightful, the fruits are loaded with vitamin C, and the attractive evergreen foliage they produce year-round is a bonus. What more can you ask for in a hedge? If you want to plant a hedge that will eventually reach 6-8 feet high or higher consider using a semi-dwarf Citrus. If you want a hedge to grow taller you have the option of using standard Citrus especially if you want the branches to be higher off the ground. Trim them to any desired height that fits for you.
Citrus trees may be sheared just like a traditional hedge but I personally think they look better as an informal hedge or multiple plantings that are selectively pruned because it gives a more natural appearance. On the other hand, Citrus are now grown commercially in many places where they are actually hedged with giant mechanical rigs. For the homeowner, you can plant your Citrus in a straight line or in a staggered row, off- center from one another.
Ideally, you may want to space the trees about 8-10 feet apart, or to any desired spacing you prefer. For example, if you have a 60 foot piece of land you can can conceivably plant 10 different varieties of citrus planted 8-10 feet apart. Citrus even works well for container gardening if you don’t have ground to plant in and space is limited. You can still provide a blocking or privacy effect by placing multiple potted plants together. Having multiple varieties of citrus provides the opportunity for successive tree ripen fruit most of the year. Some citrus selections to consider for your edible hedge are explained below (ripening times are approximate) Navel Oranges (Jan- April), Valencias (April- Dec), Satsuma Tangerine (Mid-Nov- Dec), Clementine Tangerine (Dec- Jan), Murcott Tangerine (Mid Feb- April) , Pixie Tangerine (Mid March- June), Meyer Lemon/ Eureka Lemon (year round), and Grapefruit (Summer). If a hedge look is not your thing but you still want blockage and privacy, you can elect to have multiple plantings with each plant spaced a given distance apart to achieve a similar effect. When utilizing Citrus as an informal hedge or multiple planting, consider pruning the branches so they do not grow into one another. Use a method known as “heading back” the tree to remove the terminal portion of a branch to encourage a more bushy “filled in” growth. For a formal hedge, shearing may be they way to go. To maintain healthy branches and limbs, do not remove more than 1/3 of the length.
With all this excitement in using Citrus trees for privacy, blockage, and hedges, I think my next project in my own garden will be to replace my existing Wax Leaf Privet hedge with several varieties of Citrus that will give me fruit from January-December. Stop by your favorite Green Thumb Nursery, we have an excellent assortment of Citrus trees both semi-dwarf and standard that can be used toward providing privacy in your garden.
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