Help! My edible forest garden is getting the better of me.

HarrietMcLeodJuly 5, 2014

Hi, all! Late winter, a year and a half ago, I converted my yard into an edible forest garden. We laid down cardboard three layers thick, planted trees, shrubs, and ground-level edible plants all according to edible forest garden principles, (in fact, I hired an expert to do all the planning and purchasing), and put down mulch. It is hog fuel, with no cedar. We got it 4 inches deep in most places, perhaps a little shallower in some areas. This is the second summer since we put in the garden, and it has been a real struggle keeping it looking decent. I have spent every spare moment pulling weeds. I know dandelions are supposed to be good for the soil, but I'm not enough of a convert to want to have a yard that is completely carpeted with them. If it weren't for pulling them out, all of the ground level edible plants I put in would be completely hidden by them. I love the ideal behind edible landscaping, but the reality has not lived up to that. Does anyone have any advice on what I can do to make my garden more manageable?

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Have you thought about using edible ground cover instead of mulch to compete with the weeds? Some examples are: clover, mint, sweet potato vine, creeping thyme, cover crops, etc. There are some that even produce pretty flowers (maybe nasturtiums).

One thing to keep in mind is that an edible food forest is still a forest, and the forest is naturally unkempt. It is that way on purpose, not accident. It creates a better ecosystem and naturally healthier plants.

1 Like    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 8:39PM
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Edible ground level plants are always a lot of work. Plants that puts a lot of energy into creating things we can eat are at a bit of a competitive disadvantage as compared to small plants that put that energy into fast growth (aka "weeds"). And ground-level edible plants are easily overshadowed.

Growing edible ground level plants without resorting to monoculture, machinery and pesticides is a lot of work in most's why farming is a full-time job and most farms are monoculture.

Dandelions are could let them take over and declare victory? JK

You could scale back the edible ground level plants into a small patch, and focus on the trees and bushes that produce fruit.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 9:08PM
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most weeds are and medicinal, if you start a foodforest there is not way around it - you will get dandelions and other weeds. the only way around is is heavy mulching with mulch made from bark ( large particles ) like pine bark mulch. OR you can plant groundcovers that supresses weed..MOST groundcovers are invasive.

when you choose a groundcover choose one that is really good looking and reliable, do not get groundcovers that become very high or bushy. Alot of groundcovers have medicinal properties and alot of them are edible.

pachysandra terminalis looks natural and is easy to pull
Ajuga reptans
lysimachia nummelaria ''aurea'' ( less invasive cultivar )
some bergenia cordifolia cultivars do not get too large and are evergreen, will grow in any type of condition.

Fragaria 'Lipstick' for example is edible one ( doesn't taste like normal strawberry tho). you also have creeping chamomille which has edible foliage ( for herbal tea), Creeping thyme, Creeping prostrate rosemary ( just layer all branches, rinse and repeat ). if your zone isn't too cold you may consider growing gotu kola.

Cornus canadensisis a edible creeping groundcover, there are 2 cultivars that stay smaller than one foot.

you also have small shrubs like Gaultheria procumbens, certain edible dwarf mahonia species, Certain grass species like acorus gramineus '' licorice'' has sweet tasting foliage that is edible , its low creeping evergreen species that can be easily propagated.

2 links :

just check the edible rating and medicinal rating and what parts are edible from each plant. Just make sure that you get the right plant for proper locations, in edible / foodforest gardens it's often shade tolerant species.

This post was edited by Lodewijkp on Mon, Aug 25, 14 at 16:13

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 4:09PM
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there is a new kind of micro-clover bred esp. for low-maintenance lawns. Look at the lawns on YouTube. I want it. I have something like it a co-worker gave me the seed of. It is super low. There are varying reports about its ability to withstand a lot of walking on, though. Guess it needs a lot of sun, though. Ajuga and creeping jenny and vinca minor are super low and take shade and creep/spread fairly well.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2015 at 12:05PM
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