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Edible privacy needed ASAP! Bananas?!?

December 2, 2018


I very much need some privacy between me and my unpleasant neighbor. After an extensive remodel, our new deck looks right into her backyard.

I am really into edible landscaping. I have a very small lot and more fruit trees and vegetables on my wish list than I can possibly fit, so I don’t want to waste any space planting ornamental hedges.

The main area where we need privacy asap is right next to the house by our glass back door. We also have had issues with roof/citrus rats in the past, so I am also worried about attracting rats so close to our house/door.

The good news is that we live in a great micro climate in the Bay Area where you can grow cherries next to avocados and get fruit on both… Our lowest low is around 30 but it never really gets hot either.

We are building a 2’ high 22’x 5’ wide raised bed near the fence to give the trees/plants a head start (our deck is about 2’ up as well). The area will have full southern exposure.

Here is what I am considering:

  • Bananas - I know some varieties will grow here and they grow fast…. Are they good for year round privacy? Will they attract rats? Will they be to big for the 5’ wide bed? How closely can I plant them? What varieties should I plant?
  • Lime or Lemon Trees - Will the rats eat sour citrus? How long will it take to get these at 6’ or more?
  • Figs - Is the branching thick enough to give some privacy in the winter? I know they will grow fast… how close together can I plant them?
  • Bay Laurel - I know this tree is a slow grower… does anyone know where I can get a 5’ tree or larger in the Bay Area?
  • Avocados - Are the trees too large for the 5’ area? We have a Lamb Hass in our front yard that has 2 fruit even though I don’t have a pollinator (the zutano I planted next to it died) .

Any other possibilities?


Comments (29)

  • Nil13 usda:9a sunset:21 LA,CA (Mount Wash.)

    Squirrels and rats eat my all my citrus varieties from old rootstock fruits to grapefruit and lemons.

    Figs will not screen well in the winter and besides the amount of necessary pruning work would be a nightmare.

    Bay Laurel is a host for Sudden Oak Death.

    Avocados are too big for that area. There might be some dwarfs you could use.

    Idk how long you have been at this but I would caution you about going too crazy with edible landscapes. The work load typically overwhelms people and then fruit falls on the ground and feeds rats. This was my haul from a single guava tree this year. Just processing all that fruit was a ton of work. That's about 6 gallons of puree

    I've seen too many edible hedges turn into feuds between neighbors. I would use an ornamental that is easy to care for or a fence.

    robinlmorris thanked Nil13 usda:9a sunset:21 LA,CA (Mount Wash.)
  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    You might want to try something like pineapple guava, Acca sellowiana. It is an attractive evergreen shrub (sometimes small tree) often used for ornamental purposes but produces both an edible and very attractive flower and a tasty fruit. And like most broadleaved evergreen shrubs, can be easily pruned to keep size in check. I've seen hedges made out of it.

    You could also do rosemary and the bay laurel in the same manner - both are common hedging plants and immensely prunable. And if the laurel comes for a SOD-free certified nursery - which it will - then there is NO concern about that disease infecting your garden!

    robinlmorris thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • melikeeatplants

    FeijoA is a good choice and passion fruit is evergreen as well in 9b and grows like a weed . Needs support of some kind any edulis cultivar will taste good

    robinlmorris thanked melikeeatplants
  • Nil13 usda:9a sunset:21 LA,CA (Mount Wash.)

    The stock might be SOD free but if you have SOD in your landscape already, it just makes things worse because you can unknowingly spread it.

    robinlmorris thanked Nil13 usda:9a sunset:21 LA,CA (Mount Wash.)
  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Not might - will be. Every suceptible plant sold in CA by a licensed nursery must be certified SOD-free. The instance of Phytophthora ramorum existing in an established ornamental (or edible garden) landscape is pretty slim. And chances are the homeowner would know it.

    robinlmorris thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • Nil13 usda:9a sunset:21 LA,CA (Mount Wash.)

    It's a lot more prevalent down here perhaps. The Huntington lost almost all of their 60 year old Aloe barberae to it this year. I have replaced a lot of mature exotic trees down here that had it (confirmed by lab tests). All my neighbors and I have it (confirmed by lab tests). I think it's a lot more prevalent than commonly thought.

    robinlmorris thanked Nil13 usda:9a sunset:21 LA,CA (Mount Wash.)
  • kingqueen007

    I too am in the coastal bay area zone 17 with a similarly unpleasant neighbor. We have a deck that also needed privacy and like you, we've tried to use edible plants as much as possible. However, for us the space was narrow (between the deck and the shared fence) so we planted a row of American cranberries that will prob hit 8-10 feet next year. Birds love the fruit so I dont have to worry about much of a mess and the foliage/fruit is gorgeous.

    It is not evergreen however. We have some citrus that are evergreen but otherwise everything changes with the season, which we prefer because we back up to rolling hills that do the same. We also aren't on the deck (its detached and looks over the hills at the far edge of our property) much between mid November to February because its cold and rainy so we decided it would be alright if the bushes lost their leaves during that time.

    I'd do bay laurel if evergreen is a must for you. It will be easy to trim and keep in shape. We have them growing as a foundation shrub. You can go to the Berkeley nursery on Rose or the Orchard Nursery (not related to OSH) in Lafayette and special order larger plants. I'd do that asap because both nurseries take those orders in early December. You can similarly order larger citrus and Id find some dwarf (8 feet) varieties.

    Figs will not have large enough brands for privacy in the winter and avocados will also lose their leaves. Avocados have dwarf (8 ft) and semi dwarf varieties (8-12) but you may be able to keep it smaller if you summer prune.

    robinlmorris thanked kingqueen007
  • nancyjane_gardener

    If you're near Sonoma Co. I'd reccomend Rtrees on Arlington Ave in Santa Rosa. Bob and Helen are very knoweledgable and can help with any environment!

    I mentioned that a new tree had lost a couple of branches to frost and Bob, the owner came over and personally spent time up in ladder trimming the dead branches away! The tree ended up being just beautiful after a year or so (Mimosa).

    Another place is Urban Tree Farm on Fulton Rd in Santa Rosa.

    If you have decided what you want Sonoma County Jail Industries has fabulous prices on plants/trees. Their sales are infrequent, but you can make an appointment for a private sale.

    robinlmorris thanked nancyjane_gardener
  • Embothrium

    The one that is mentioned as a host for sudden oak death is the west coast native Umbellularia and not the Mediterranean Laurus.

    robinlmorris thanked Embothrium
  • robinlmorris

    Thanks Everyone!

    Pineapple Guavas (Feijoas) are a great suggestion! Any ideas where to get the tastiest varieties? Named varieties seem hard to find and it seems that I need 2. I looked at http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/feijoa.html but I don't see many of these varieties for sale anywhere.

    Also, what about pomegranates? Would they work? So many varieties to choose from! They all look yummy.

    After reading that that the Bay Laurel can take some shade, I think I need to save that one for my front yard. There is a partially shady spot near my bedroom window where I also need some privacy. The Bay Laurel and Rosemary should work.

    That is a lot of guava Nil13 usda:9a sunset:21 LA,CA (Mount Wash.)! I am pretty committed to trying the edible landscaping. I can always tear out a tree or 5 if it becomes too much work. I hope to have that problem some day.

    I am on the Peninsula... so Santa Rosa and Lafayette are a bit far. I will check out the Berkeley Nursery if I can't find trees at my usual places (Golden, Half Moon Bay, and Wegmens).... I'm always looking for an excuse to go to Berkeley and hit up Berkeley bowl.

    Btw, my avocado keeps it's leaves in winter.... it is very full now despite my neglect during our renovation

    And passion fruit is way too vigorous!! I planted one in the corner of my yard (in a shady spot no less) and it has taken over everything 30' out from the plant in every direction. It evaded 3 neighbors yards (not the unpleasant one fortunately). It is on my roof and there is passion fruit dripping from our persimmon tree. It has gone too far. Don't know why these things are so $$ at the grocery store. It makes mint look like a slow grower.

    I'm guessing no one has a lot of experience with bananas :)

    Thanks again

  • melikeeatplants

    Usually nametz feijoa can be found at the big box stores in spring along with Coolidge which tastes inferior imo. If you are willing to pay a little more one green world online has them. Yamigamis in Sunnyvale will have them too, you might want to call to see if they have stock now. My banana in San Jose was protected against a south brick wall but still the frosts of winter would make it very ugly it is not a good privacy choice. Yes passion fruit is a weed you have to trim it periodically. Be thankful I moved to Georgia and can only dream about my vine in Sa jose i hope the new owners are enjoying the fruit

    robinlmorris thanked melikeeatplants
  • Nil13 usda:9a sunset:21 LA,CA (Mount Wash.)

    Pomegranates are deciduous like figs.


    "The pathogen has been shown to cause disease in over 40 plant species, and has been recovered from more than 50 additional species. Tanoak (Lithocarpus densiflorus), various oaks (Quercus species) and bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) are major hosts in forests of the Pacific Northwest and California. Susceptible nursery crops include rhododendron (Rhododendron sp.), viburnum (Viburnum sp.), lilac (Syringa sp.), andromeda (Pieris sp.) and camellia (Camellia sp.). "

    That's all I'll say about SOD.

    robinlmorris thanked Nil13 usda:9a sunset:21 LA,CA (Mount Wash.)
  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Actually, both California laurel (Umbellularia californica) and bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) are SOD host species. This is the official APHIS listing of susceptible or host species

    Still nothing I would get overly concerned about.

  • dchall_san_antonio

    As for the rats, we had a problem with them in our San Antonio neighborhood. That all stopped when we got three cats. Two of the cats are no longer with us, but the remaining one has picked up the slack. Two years ago we moved to the country where we never saw rats until she started bringing them inside. When I say she brought them inside, all she brought inside was the stomach, which she seemed to reserve as a trophy. She was bringing us two a day there for awhile. Also there is a guy on YouTube who tests rat, mouse, and squirrel traps all week long. He tests traps from all around the world as well as historical traps found in antique stores. He posts every test as a video, and there are hundreds.

    robinlmorris thanked dchall_san_antonio
  • stanofh 10a Hayward,Ca S.F. bay area

    Unless you are in San Francisco or Oakland near Lake Merritt..Banana's will nearly always drop their leaves in winter with the first frost. Not much of a screen from late December to April or so.

    Pick your screening carefully..because a fast screen means lots and lots of pruning to keep the size you want. The balance of screen and not a headache isn't easy.

    Maybe put lattice on top of the fence..and fronting that put hanging potted plants on 2x4's. With drip...and very easy plants like small leafed Ivy. You just want a screen.

    robinlmorris thanked stanofh 10a Hayward,Ca S.F. bay area
  • robinlmorris

    Hmm, some sites say pomegranates are deciduous and some say they are evergreen.


    Says it is evergreen.... maybe it depends on climate.

    Trees loose their leaves here for all of 2 months, so maybe I shouldn't be too concerned.

    Will rats go for the feijoa too? If so, I could just go with citrus. Nothing ate my Meyer lemons last year luckily (I only had 6). I would just have to be diligent with my pruning and keeping nests off the property.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    In coastal southern CA, the poms should be evergreen....or mostly so. They were in my sister's Dana Point garden. In the Bay area where they can be exposed to colder temps, maybe not so much :-)

    robinlmorris thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • robinlmorris

    Thanks stanofh 10a Hayward,Ca S.F. bay area, but full sun gardening space in my small lot is precious, so not wasting it on ivy (have to tear so much of that out). I have a list of 20-30 trees and berries I'm trying to squeeze in plus vegetables (I am a tomato addict).

    I am guessing the bananas will not work even though we only get a frost of about 29F every 2-3 years. I do want to plant some somewhere... just maybe not in the main privacy spot.

  • kingqueen007

    Pomegranates are deciduous for me in Berkeley. They're common in my neighborhood and currently very pretty with heavy red fruit against yellow leaves! But they'll have mostly bare branches for a few weeks soon.

    If your avocados are keeping all their leaves (mine have their leaves right now as well, but they'll drop about half at the end of December and look more see through), perhaps a pomegranate could be evergreen for you. I do not think we have that kind of winter warmth though. When I lived in LA, pomegranates and avocados were evergreen for us. We also had a pineapple guava and I do not think that would do well here because we do not have enough heat for it. Same with bananas - I know of a neighbor who had a tree up the street but they never got ripe bananas and ended up replacing it with a loquat.

    What about a grouping of olive trees? The Arbequina olive is fuss free and evergreen for me.

  • Embothrium

    Key word in my statement was HOST. As in being a source of infection without being killed or spoiled itself. This is what I thought was being referred to, because Umbellularia has been mentioned as doing just that. For instance on page 643 of the 2012 edition of The New Sunset Western Garden Book.

    Speaking of which the book also has a Plants for Hedges section on pp. 44-5 which should list at least several candidates for your situation.

    robinlmorris thanked Embothrium
  • PRO
    The Logician LLC

    The feijoa document linked to above is copyrighted 1996, but Apollo, Coolidge, Mammoth, Nazemetz are still around. You are in a prime location for feijoa plants. Pick a variety that has a dense growth habit; some are quite rangy.

    robinlmorris thanked The Logician LLC
  • stanofh 10a Hayward,Ca S.F. bay area

    Maybe a vine. This guy seems to know a few things...


    Check out his other bay area centric vids. Good advice on Avocado's -Mango's and more.

    robinlmorris thanked stanofh 10a Hayward,Ca S.F. bay area
  • hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

    A trellis with an evergreen vine on it would be the best screen for such a narrow area.

    Almost any fruit tree will attract rats. Exception would be lemon and lime. Avocado is one of their favorites.

  • Embothrium

    A way to combine the two approaches would be to espalier evergreen fruit-bearing trees to a fence or framework. But yes Sunset 17 is outer coastal so there will be wharf rats around, which love fruit. So much so that in my area they will even come out during the day and sit in full view on the branches of apple or fig trees, gnaw their fruits.

    Raccoons may also interfere with home fruit production, as in going for grapes for instance. As with wharf rats (a. k. a. plague rats) it would seem there would be a possible human health implication with these getting on and among fruits people intend to eat themselves. In my state for instance the health department web site says to assume all raccoons are carrying raccoon roundworms - which are fatal when infecting humans - and that all places the animals have been are contaminated.

    Some relatives of mine that used to have a grape arbor ended up outfitting it with electric lines to keep the raccoons off it at fruiting time.

    robinlmorris thanked Embothrium
  • daisyincrete Z10? 905feet/275 metres

    The local rats have eaten ALL of my pomegranates this year.


    robinlmorris thanked daisyincrete Z10? 905feet/275 metres
  • stanofh 10a Hayward,Ca S.F. bay area

    As soon as ripe fruit hits the ground,Possums are on them. They got most of my guavas..eating the lower on the shrub. When you plant fruit tree's nowadays your feeding the wildlife.

    robinlmorris thanked stanofh 10a Hayward,Ca S.F. bay area
  • Embothrium

    Except that wharf rats, opossums and eastern gray squirrels (on the west coast) aren't wildlife in the sense of native animals that were part of original ecosystems.

    robinlmorris thanked Embothrium
  • robinlmorris

    Apparently there is no avoiding the rats and squirrels. People who feed squirrels are crazy... squirrels are just cuter rats.

    If the pineapple guavas and pomegranates attract rats too, then I may as well just do a citrus hedge. I really want a bearss lime tree, a New Zealand lemon, a mandarin and a red grapefruit (which I don't know if I can get sweet enough with our cold summers). The rats and squirrels leave my Myers lemons alone and most of my tomatoes, so maybe they have better food to eat than the sour citrus.

    We don't have possums that I know of over here. We have raccoons unfortunately, but I haven't seen any lately.

    My hachiya persimmons are mostly being eaten by birds. They are still not ripe though... we had such a cool summer!

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    You probably have possums as well :-) They are very shy and mostly nocturnal creatures and typically the only time one sees them is as roadkill. I did see one once in daytime walking along the top of a high stone wall that encircled my sister's garden in SoCal. A skunk too!!

    And any wildlife does not have to be native to be problematic in a garden - wildlife is still wildlife regardless of where it originated!! However, I would be reluctant to discourage you from growing fruits just because they exist. I live in a wooded area surrounded by a large greenbelt inhabited by all manner of wildlife and still manage to grow and harvest fruit in my sunny areas. Just invest in some repellent sprays and you should be fine.

    robinlmorris thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

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