Planning the edible landscape for high yield
Nursery catalogs for the 2013 planting season are coming out now, so this is a good time to plan and order.
If you’re thinking of increasing the amount of food your landscape produces, the Fedco Trees catalog has a useful table on pages 50 and 51 (at fedcoseeds.com/forms/ft35cat.pdf) showing which of its offerings produce edible or medicinal parts – and which are native, which tolerate wet, dry or shady places, and other characteristics. (Disclosure: I grow some nursery stock for Fedco, but no fruiting plants.)
Missing is the amount of fruit produced – which can be difficult to quantify, given the different growing conditions where edible plants are cultivated. However, I did find a useful guide to pounds produced per tree or shrub for some species at motherearthnews.com/Fruiting-Landscape-Plants.aspx. The list is not specific to Maine, and may not reflect growing conditions here.
So here is a list of edible landscape plants from the Fedco catalog along with estimated production per plant, where available, from Fedco, Mother Earth and other sources, and notes about edible products that may be new to you. The list can stimulate your edible landscaping imagination and, to a certain extent, can serve as a guide to some plants that are very productive.
Note that weather, insects and diseases can have huge effects on yields. So while an apple tree should produce 60 to 300 pounds of fruit per year, in my landscape that yield has been quite variable – but my highbush blueberries always produce well, so even though they may produce only 7 pounds per plant, they are among my top recommendations for the edible landscape because of their dependability – and ease of care. Other dependables include elderberry, roses (species with large rose hips), beach plum, raspberries, grapes and, of course, rhubarb. Friends with kiwi vines usually get good to excellent production.
Edible landscape plants and estimates of yields of some (in pounds) per mature plant:
Aronia (black chokeberry) — 20 to 30
Apple, crab apple — 60 to 300
Apricot — 150
Sweet birch — Birch beer is brewed from its sap; its oil is a source of wintergreen
Black walnut — 50 to 100 (duntonfarms.com/grow_sheets/growing_walnuts_in_the_pacific_northwest.pdf )
Blueberries Highbush — 7; Lowbush — 5 to 10 per 100 square feet
Cherry, sweet — 300; Cherry, dwarf sour — 20 to 30; Cherry, cornelian — 30 to 50; Cherry, Nanking — 15 to 25
American cranberry— 5 pounds per 25 square feet (eewinerycoop.com/docs/cranberries.pdf); Highbush cranberry — 20 (onegreenworld.com/product_info.php?products_id=549)
Elderberry — 18 (hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu07/pdfs/charlebois284-292.pdf)
Ginkgo — edible seeds inside stinky fruits of female plants' leaves used for tea
Grape — 10 to 30
Groundnut — 7 (bio.umass.edu/biology/conn.river/groundnt.html)
Hazelnut — 0.5 (midwesthazelnuts.org/assets/files/Research%20Bulletin%2017_hybrid%20hazelnut%20yields.pdf)
Heather — used in brewing beer
Hickory, shagbark — 42 (edible nut mass; sites.google.com/site/picnicpointsavanna/plants-and- animals/hickory)
Honeyberry — 10
Kiwi, hardy — 50 to 200
Linden, American — small leaves edible as greens; flowers used in tea
Lingonberry — 1 to 2
Maple, sugar — 100 to 140
Medlar — 20
Mulberry, red — 5 to 25
Oak Leached acorn meat — can be ground into flour; roasted Bur oak acorn meat has been used as a coffee substitute.
Peach — 50 to 150
Pear, European — 60 to 300; Pear, Asian — 60 to 300
Plum, Beach — 1.5 (5-year-old plant; beachplum.cornell.edu/miscfiles/arnoldpresentation.pdf); Plum — 75
Quince — 75
Raspberry — 2 to 4
Rhubarb — 2 to 3 (bonnieplants.com/growing/growing-rhubarb/)
Rosa rugosa — 4
Serviceberry — 10
Spicebush Leaves — twigs and fruits used for tea.
Strawberries, June-bearing — half to one pound per foot row; Day-neutral — half to one-and-a-half pounds per foot row
Viburnum, Nannyberry — dried fruits are eaten like raisins (hence the name “wild raisin” or are used to make a sauce or fruit leather.
Jean English lives in Lincolnville.