Edible shade plants

Issue 27 Words: Beth Askham

Some plants will help you stay cool on hot summer days and produce fruit and veggies for your taste buds.

Plants are one of the cheapest low-energy shading options available. They can cut down the amount of sun coming into the house with the added bonus of improving air quality. They also provide their own type of evaporative cooling as water moves from the soil through their stems and leaves and into the air.

Here we look at some edible shade plants that provide excellent cover in summer, lose their leaves or die back in winter and also yield a delicious harvest.

Different trees and vines have different deciduous periods, so it’s good to think carefully about what would work best in your area. Melbourne-based edible landscaper Rafael Schouten says if you’re thinking of growing a vine, grapes and hops are great, with grapes growing horizontally and hops growing vertically.

Annual climbing plants like scarlet runner beans are also fabulous for vertical shade, growing walls of luscious green studded with red flowers. These work really well as a short-term option and are great for renters or those committed to planting each year.

If you are thinking of a tree, any deciduous tree that is not a dwarf variety could be a good option. The mulberry is a medium-sized localised tree that is fast and easy to grow and you can prune it however you like. Apricots also make good shading trees. According to Rafael: “An apricot is a better shade tree than other stone fruit as they grow bigger and don’t need limbpruning like peaches if you’re growing them big. They spread out more than plums, which are too vertical, and have nice solid shade.”

When fine-tuning your shade, Rafael says pomegranate and kiwi fruit hold onto their leaves too long into winter, while almonds and ornamental pears are fast growing but leaf out early in spring when you may not be quite ready for shade.

If you need to plant a larger tree for full house shading, chestnuts and walnuts are great options. In places where winter shade is fine, the loquat is easy to grow, has tasty fruit and gives dense shade.

Read the full article in Sanctuary 27 for a list of edible shade plants including kiwi fruit, scarlet runner beans, hops, mulberry, apricot and loquat.
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Cover of Issue 27
You can read more about Edible shade plants in Issue 27 of Sanctuary magazine.

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