Prepping Positively

Choosing plants For your Food Forest

September 05, 2022 Ann Marie Season 1 Episode 16
Prepping Positively
Choosing plants For your Food Forest
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode I am going to give you a list for every layer of your food forest.

Episode 16 PP

Choosing Plants For your Food Forest

You picked your location, you learned about the different layers, you know how to water, now it is time to start choosing the plants for your food forest. In today’s episode I am going to help you to learn what plants are right for your specific location and climate. Are you ready? 

Here we go…

Hi and welcome back to the Positively Prepping Podcast. I’m Annie and today we are talking about which plants you should choose for your food forest. Now if you are new to the podcast you may want to go way back to episode 11 and start from the beginning so you didn’t miss anything.

The most important and active part of your food forest will be the plants that grow in it. Whether they are native plants you are fortunate enough to have already growing on your property, or plants you grow yourself from seeds or starters, or perennials that you transfer to your food forest from other parts of your property, these plants are the main attraction.

It is important that you choose the right plants for your climate and growing zone. To ensure you have the right plants, I will provide a list of common plants per each layer and you can do the research to see which ones work for your zone. 

Let’s start with the canopy layer.

Before we start talking about specific trees for this layer let me mention something important here that you should keep in mind.

Depending on how big of a food forest you have and the laws or zoning requirements for you locally, there are 2 options for the canopy layer. 

The first is the taller trees. These are the types that can grow to 50 feet or more. These are meant for someone like myself who has not restrictions whatsoever of what I grow.

However, if you are in a residential neighborhood, for example, you may not want to plant trees quite as big. You, then, would plant the shorter trees, of course. 

If you are making a rather tiny food forest, for example on a deck or patio, you may not want to start with any of these canopy layer trees and start instead, with the next layers trees instead.

For those of you that have the ability to choose any tree you want. Let’s talk about some options.

Taller canopy trees may include:

  • Standard Apple
  • Standard Pear
  • European Plum
  • Standard Cherries
  • Chestnuts (inc Chinese Chestnuts)
  • Korean Pine Nuts
  • Black Locust
  • Mesquite
  • Alder
  • Acacia
  • Algoroba
  • Tagasaste
  • Carob
  • Pecan

Some of these trees are considered nitrogen-fixing in low frost climates. These include Black locust, Mesquite, Alder, Acacia, Algoroba, Tagasaste, and the Carob.

The Black Locust, the Mesquite and the Alder can be pruned pretty heavy for mulch which is an added benefit.

Lower Level canopy trees may include:

  • Apricot
  • Peach
  • Nectarine
  • Almond
  • Medlar
  • Mulberry
  • Persimmon
  • PawPaw
  • Dogwood
  • Mountain Ash
  • Golden Chain Tree
  • Silk Tree
  • Mountain Mahogany
  • Banana
  • Any Citrus
  • Dates

The persimmon and PawPaw trees are very shade tolerant. They are perfect for areas where it may not get a lot of sun but you wish to have a tree growing.

The Dogwood and the Mountain Ash are great for lower trees that provide beautiful flowers. 

And if you are looking for a nitrogen fixing tree, you may really want to research planting the Golden Chain Tree, the Silk Tree, or the Mountain Mahogany. These three can also be pruned heavily for mulch too.

For the Shrub Layer ,the following can be chosen. I suggest these because they all either flower, provide fruit, and/or attract wildlife too.

Suggestions for the shrub layer are as follows:

  • Blueberry
  • Rose
  • Hazelnut
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Bamboo
  • Service Berry
  • Siberian Pea Shrub
  • Ever-bearing Strawberry
  • Mulberry
  • Blackberry
  • Gooseberry
  • Currants
  • Raspberries
  • Beautyberry

One thing to keep in mind for this layer is that if your climate does not allow for some of these plants year-round, feel free to add them to pots so you can take them indoors over winter.

Ok it is on to the herb layer. Please remember, that for the sake of a food forest, the word “herb” refers to vegetables, flowers, culinary herbs, and cover crops, as well as mulch producers and other soil-building plants. So do not only consider traditional herbs for this layer.

Traditional herbs though may include:

  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • Bay Laurel
  • Chives
  • Lovage
  • Marjoram
  • Lavender
  • Dill
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Mint

Mint and creeping thyme can also be used as ground cover if you so choose.

Vegetables for this layer may include:

  • Ramps
  • Asparagus
  • Rhubarb
  • Artichokes
  • Kale
  • Garlic
  • Radicchio
  • Horseradish
  • Egyptian Walking Onions

Most of these vegetables are perennial, but any veggies can be planted in this area.

Greens that can be included in the herb layer can include:

  • Sea Kale
  • Malabar spinach
  • Chives
  • Lemony Sorrel
  • Patience Dock

Again, any greens can be included here. We plant mustard pretty often as well as collards.

There are also perennials that will reseed themselves. These include:

  • Dill
  • Parsley
  • Marigold
  • Tomatillos
  • Amaranth
  • Lambs Quarters
  • Cilantro
  • Chamomile
  • Mustard

I am sure you are noticing that many plants are repeated in the different layers. That’s ok. Just choose the best layer for them in your food forest.

Let’s move on to the Ground Cover Layer. Perennials may include:

  • Strawberries
  • Nasturtium
  • Clover
  • Creeping thyme
  • Ajuga
  • Phlox
  • Verbena
  • Sorrel
  • Watercress
  • Nettles
  • Clover

Clover can be grown in the Herb Layer as a cover crop also.

The Vine Layer Perennials may include:

  • Kiwi
  • Grapes
  • Hops
  • Passionflower
  • Any vining berries
  • Goji Berries
  • Scarlet Runner beans
  • Chayote
  • Squash when grown on a trellis
  • Melons when grown on a trellis
  • Pole beans

In this layer you can also plant wildlife attracting vines such as: 

  • Honeysuckle
  • Trumpet Flower
  • Jasmine

Pretty much any vine that flowers that attracts the bees or butterflies would be awesome here!

Lastly, the Root Layer perennials may include: 

  • Potatoes
  • Peanuts
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Radish

But don’t stop at perennials. You can always plant any root veggie in this layer.

I know this probably is a lot of information to take in. However I do have a product for you. It is called Plants of a Food Forest. It is available in my store. In it you can get suggestions for your growing zone for each layer of the food forest and worksheets as well. If you are interested, go to and look for the book. I am sure it will be a huge help for you to choose the right plants for your area.

Well that’s it for this week. Get out there and get those plants! Until next week….