Edible forest garden

edible forest garden

When designing a new system, be it a garden or a whole community, permaculture looks to natural ecosystems for inspiration. Since in our cool climate, a piece of ground left alone will eventually evolve into a forest, it is wise to try and grow our food in the same way. An edible forest consists of several layers: fruit trees are usually underplanted with soft fruit bushes, herbs and perennial vegetables.

edible forest garden japanese wineberry


You don’t need a huge piece of land to plant a forest garden, just keep the principles in mind. Our backyard is about 25m long but less than 5 m wide, and yet there is enough space for hundreds of edibles. We have an apple tree and a mirabelle plum, goosberries and jostaberry and many perennial vegetables and herbs.

salad from our edible forest garden

sea kale (Crambe maritima)

Against all walls and fences we planted fruiting climbers and cane fruit: raspberries red &black, kiwis, hybrid berries. In the spring we pick lots of leaves and edible flowers for salads, in summer and autumn there’s plenty of fruit to pick. And every day we use herbs for tea and cooking from the garden.

berries from our edible forest garden


If you’d like to read more about our gardens here are a few posts:
March in rearview mirror
Garden jobs in March
Seeds old and new
Coastal edibles
Edible garden in October
Edible garden in September
Edible garden in August
Edible flowers, how to grow them and how to eat them
Edible garden in July
Edible garden in June
Edible garden in May
Edible garden in April
Kale salad and community gardening
Deciding what to grow
Edible garden in January

17 comments for “Edible forest garden

  1. Sameena
    16/05/2019 at 21:02

    Hi Heidi, thank you for your lovely video on YouTube, I want to change my backyard here in Vlaardingen to a mini food forest……
    Im now in the orientation fase….there is so much to think about.
    Glad I found yours on WWW.
    Tot ziens

    • Sameena
      16/05/2019 at 23:42

      Vera… Sorry..

      • vera@gtc
        20/05/2019 at 10:49

        No problem 🙂
        I’m glad you liked the video! Yes, there is a lot to consider when designing a food forest – even a small one. Are you familiar with my book Tuin Smakelijk? It gives a lot of info on the design process and selcting plants.
        Good luck with your project!

    • Sonya Shah
      11/11/2020 at 10:15

      Dear Vera,

      I’m fascinated with your food forest particularly your
      berriesDo you have a map to show me your layout. I particularly love the berries on the pergola. Unfortunately I am I’m Australia so I don’t know exactly if I can grow everything that you mention but I would like a similar set up. I’ve blackberry, Silver Berry raspberry I’m pots for years but I want to grow some up a pergola or arch just like yours. I’m currently getting my first passionfruit on my arch which I’m thrilled about and we can grow marvelous eggplant and tomatoes here..

  2. Thomas
    26/03/2019 at 00:57

    Hi, I have noticed before the tall clay potteries in your forest garden! They look very elegant, and I wonder if they serve a purpose other than just aesthetics?

    Thank you very much for all your content. You inspire me to try gardening in any ways that I would never have though of before, and it’s a real joy to follow up on your goals and experiments throughout the years.


    • vera@gtc
      28/03/2019 at 13:49

      Than kyou so much, Thomas, for your kind words! Yes, the clay pots do have a purpose – they are used to force and blanch seaskale for an earlier harvest. Other perennial crops can be blanched/forced as well: asparagus, rhubarb, good king henry, lovage… But you do not need purpose-made clay pots for this – I often use black buckets 🙂

      • Thomas
        29/03/2019 at 22:30

        Thank you for taking the time to answer me! I did not know such pots existed, and I was totally unaware of the fact that these crops could be forced. It does not come as a shock to me as I have seen other plants being forced before (arum flowers under big black buckets, for example) but somehow it had never occurred to me that edible plants could also benefit from that method. Thank you for teaching me something new today!

  3. Mandy
    19/05/2018 at 20:12

    Hi Heidi I’m not so good at navigating utube so came to your site .. your videos are great . My question is how do you keep slugs at Bay on your first years of planting your edible Forrest . I am trying to set up but every year my hopes are dashed by slugs ! They ate all my walking onions squash nasturtium beans oregano ! Somehow sweet corn survived & potatoes . Rhubarb is also ok just ! I am trying not to use pellets this year & encourage toads etc .Help !!
    Any ideas greatfully received Mandy

    • vera@gtc
      24/05/2018 at 10:02

      Thank you, Mandy! I’m so happy you like my videos!

  4. Heidi
    24/03/2016 at 03:37

    I’ve been looking into Edible Perennials and planting the ones I can find in my area (Northern California). You mentioned planting edible perennials and I wondered if you could share which ones you grow? The one I’m having fun with is a Tree Collard. It grows up to 8-10 feet tall, and lives between 8-12 years. It’s great for getting starts, you just break off a branch and stick it in the ground or pot. I’d love to hear what you have in The Netherlands. Thank you for your tine. 🙂

    • vera@gtc
      24/03/2016 at 09:19

      Hi Heidi, I grow lots of perennial herbs and vegetables in the herb layer of my forest garden and I think most of them should work for you as well (they are usually pretty tough plants :-)). I featured some in this post on Seasonal Salads: http://www.growntocook.com/?p=5110 and in this one: http://www.growntocook.com/?p=1025
      Here are a few I grow and think are good value: different kinds of sorrel, Good King Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus), perennial kale, damsons, hostas (these are often grown as ornamentals in shady gardens here, but few people know they are edible – especially good blanched), herb fennel, Welsh onion (Allium fistulosum)… Last year I also planted fiddlehead fern which is native to North America so you might be more familiar with it than I am!
      I do not have Tree Collards (have read about them and would love to grow them too but do not know where to get a cutting).
      Hope this helps!

  5. silvi
    07/02/2016 at 02:11

    Hi, wondering what that raspberry looking plant is? Thank you!

    • vera@gtc
      08/02/2016 at 14:13

      It’s Japanese wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) – very easy to grow, delicious fruit and ornamental too!

  6. 25/04/2015 at 09:04

    Hallo Vera, Mag ik je vragen wij jij je bleekpotten gekocht hebt?
    Groet, Berta.

    • vera@gtc
      25/04/2015 at 19:05

      Hallo Berta, ik heb mijn map met bestellingen doorgenomen, maar kan het helaas niet terugvinden – ik heb de bleekpotten al vrij lang. Ook op internet kan ik ze niet vinden. Ik weet nog wel dat de webwinkel waar ik ze bestelde, ze eigenlijk niet wilde versturen omdat de potten zo kwetsbaar zijn, maar gelukkig ging het goed.
      Sorry dat ik je niet verder kan helpen!

  7. herb
    01/11/2011 at 19:51

    thanks for sharing,
    have you been to the” jardin de fraternitée ouvriere” in Belgium?
    greetings from France

    • vera@gtc
      03/11/2011 at 09:32

      Not yet, but I looked the garden up and it certainly seems worth a visit!

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