Published on May 20, 2022

Make Your Yard Edible: Grow a Food Forest

With more people seeking out alternatives to traditional lawns, food forests, or forest gardens, are becoming increasingly popular. Food forests include edible native plants which, like a healthy forest, occupy different ecological niches: the overstory (larger fruit trees), smaller trees, shrubs, perennials, ground cover, and root crops, each growing without competing directly with each other.

How It Works

Ian in the food forest_even better

Long Pasture sanctuary director Ian Ives has been stewarding a young food forest that is starting to take shape. Although it can require some upfront work, a food forest (also known as a forest garden) ultimately requires far less effort than a conventional vegetable garden. Mutually beneficial plants can reduce weed competition, help control insects (by attracting beneficial ones), and provide nutrients naturally. Because of its vertical nature, a food forest also allows for more plants in less space.

Some Familiar Challenges

This is not to say bunnies and deer aren’t issues. “I still have to surround very young trees and shrubs with fencing until they’re big enough,” Ian  notes. And watering is necessary, he says, in droughts and while plants are establishing themselves.

The Long Pasture food forest includes persimmon, hazelnut and pawpaw trees, which are close to producing fruit even though they’ve only been growing for a few years. There are also elderberries, which can start producing after just a year or two. A complete list of plants in Long Pasture’s food forest is available onsite or by request at the Discovery Center.