Make food a permanent part of your Western New York yard with edible landscapes

Blueberry Glaze fruit from Fall Creek Farm and Nursery, Inc.
‘Blueberry Glaze’ fruit. Photo courtesy Fall Creek Farm and Nursery, Inc.

by Connie Oswald Stofko

When we want to grow food, we generally think of smallish plants that we would categorize as “vegetables” or “herbs,” such as tomatoes or zucchini or parsley.

Today we’re going to challenge you to think bigger. When you think of food, think of trees and shrubs.

The concept is called edible landscapes, said Fred Safford, who is in charge of trees and shrubs at Lockwood’s Greenhouses, 4484 Clark Street, Hamburg. It’s a way to work with the environment rather than harming the environment.

It’s also called permaculture because trees are a permanent part of your landscape. Unlike vegetable plants such as tomatoes or zucchini that you have to plant every year, you plant a tree once and it continues to produce food.

Many gardeners have fruit trees such as apple, but you can also grow nuts on trees. Safford says that almonds, pecans and an edible chestnuts can be grown in Western New York.

And if you don’t have a lot of space, you can still enjoy fruit bushes. As we told you last year, there are smaller varieties of shrubs that you can try. Today we’ll introduce you to a blueberry bush that can grow in a pot.

As you make your plans for your landscape this year, explore some options for trees and shrubs that are more than decorative. Make room for food-producers. Here are some that will be available from Lockwood’s:

Illinois Everbearing mulberry from One Green World
Illinois Everbearing mulberry. courtesy One Green World

Mulberry

In the children’s song, the monkey chases a weasel all around a mulberry bush, but Safford said the mulberry is actually a tree. However, you can prune it to keep it in a hedge form.

On older varieties of mulberry, the berries are a half-inch long. On the new Illinois Everbearing mulberry,the berries are two to three inches long. They look like blackberries.

In addition to eating the fruit, you can harvest the leaves and sell them to a silk worm business, Safford said. Mulberry leaves are what those caterpillars eat.

male sea berry bush from One Green World
Male sea berry bush. Photo courtesy One Green World

Sea Berry

This is a somewhat ornamental plant that looks similar to Fine Line rhamnus, a popular ornamental shrub, Safford said. The sea berry gets bright orange-red berries.

“I’ve heard mixed reviews of the taste,” Safford said. “Some people say it’s like having the flavor of a whole orange in one berry. Some say it’s acidic.”

In Europe, they use the berries for juice and, if the taste is too strong, you could water it down, he said.

“Its claim to fame is that it has strong anti-wrinkle properties,” Safford said. The fruit and oil pressed from the seeds are used in lotions.

You need a male and a female plant. Leikora, the female plant that Lockwood’s carries, gets six to eight feet tall. The male plant (which is simply referred to as a male sea berry) gets six to ten feet tall.

The sea berry shrub likes full sun and could probably tolerate a little shade.

Blueberry Glaze in pot from Fall Creek Farm and Nursery, Inc.
‘Blueberry Glaze’ in pot. Photo courtesy Fall Creek Farm and Nursery, Inc.

Blueberry

‘Blueberry Glaze’ is a new variety that should please gardeners because not only does it produce fruit, it’s ornamental as well.

It looks like a boxwood, a popular shrub that is having problems right now with boxwood blight. It doesn’t appear that boxwood blight will be as devastating to boxwoods as downy mildew has been to impatiens, but gardeners may want to consider an alternative, Safford said.

Another appealing feature of Blueberry Glaze is its size. It’s small and compact, about two or three feet tall and wide. You can grow it in the ground, but you can also grow it in a pot on a patio.

Pawpaws

pawpaw from One Green World
Pawpaw. Photo courtesy One Green World

You’re probably familiar with the children’s song that goes: “Picking up paw-paws; put ’em in a basket.” I sang it as a child and I sang it with my kids, but I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I didn’t realize a pawpaw was a real thing.

Pawpaw can refer to a tree as well as the fruit you get from that tree. The fruit is kind of like a green, oblong ball, Safford said. It’s soft and pulpy and tastes like banana custard or banana crème. It has big black seeds; you don’t eat the seeds.

The trees grow wild in Ohio and are easy to grow in our area, he said. They get an enormous amount of fruit.

The tree gets 30 to 50 feet tall. Plant it 30 feet away from your house.

“You don’t want those pawpaws hitting your house,” he said.

chestnuts from One Gree World
Chestnuts. Photo courtesy One Gree World

Almond

I didn’t know you could grow almonds around here, but Safford assures me you can.

Lockwood’s will carry ‘Prima’ and ‘Nikita’s Pride’, which he says are very hardy. They’re modified peach trees—they’re grown on peach rootstock. You need to have two different kinds of almond trees for good pollination.

These varieties are semi-dwarf and get 10 to 12 feet tall. You should plant them about 15 feet away from your house.

Hardy Pecans

The hardy pecan, specifically Carya illinoinensis, is typically a southern tree, but it will grow here, Safford said. It’s a member of the hickory family.

It will get 30 to 40 feet tall, and to make sure you don’t have falling nuts hitting your house, plant it 30 feet away from your house.

Chestnut

Lockwood’s will be selling the ‘Colossal’ chestnut tree, which is a cross between Japanese and European chestnut trees. It will withstand the blight that killed so many American chestnuts. This tree gets an abundant crop.

The tree gets 30 to 40 feet tall and spreads, so you’ll want to plant it 20 or 30 feet from your house.

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20 Comments on “Make food a permanent part of your Western New York yard with edible landscapes

  1. The deer have devastated my blueberries every year that I don’t cage them. Maybe you have better offerings in your garden!

  2. Maxine,
    The Boxwood Blight is a newly isolated disease,but there are some diseases that can cause similar symptoms without the dire outcome of Boxwood Blight. Buying your Boxwood from a quality nursery is the best protection,at Lockwoods our growers are aware of the disease and send us quality disease free stock.Do make sure do sanitize pruners in 1 part bleach to 9 parts water whenever one prunes boxwoods. Here is a link for more information regarding Boxwood blight.

  3. Thank you for that information, Fred. Now I’m not sure that’s the same situation we have. Our boxwoods have been in place for about 5 years so they’re not recent additions. I’ll have to pay closer attention and check the leaves for spots this spring.

  4. If you are at all unsure about your boxwood bring in a small sample to Lockwood Greenhouses and we will give you a jand. Please bring any samples sealed up in a zip lock bag.

  5. I have several black walnuts and an English walnut. The squirrels get the walnuts, the black walnuts are very messy. I would love to plant almonds, but would I get any harvest with the squirrels? Same thought about pecans.

  6. It is hard to say 100% yes or no. Do the squirrels clean out the walnuts right away? or are there some leftover. I have heard of spraying the trunks with cooking oil, then sprinkling cayenne pepper, to keep squirrels away. One could try feeding them corn, and that might keep them from the nuts. But as with any crop, the critters seem to get some, and some seems to be left for our enjoyment. I think in the end that there will be plenty for the both of you.

  7. Well, I’ll think more about it…the almond trees have a beautiful pink flower, like peaches I believe. Maybe they would be worth it just for the flowers! How long before they produce nuts?

  8. Yes, in fact almonds are a modified peach, so they have same leaves, and flowers. The fruit does not fill out and get sweet like the peaches many of us know and love.

  9. Connie, I started raising silkworms last fall and I live in Colden. They are fascinating creatures.

    Just need to get some mulberry bushes!

  10. Janice, that’s so cool that you raise silk worms right here in Western New York! If you plant mulberry bushes you can feed them yourself.

  11. If anyone is interested in growing their own pawpaws from seed, it can be purchased on ebay. Pawpaws have a very long taproot as a seedling, so it is best to plant the seeds in a deep pot. I started several of the ones planted in my yard.

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