A garden you can forage from is a wonderful thing. In this guide, we’ll talk about creating a forager’s garden.
One cool thing to consider if you are trying to grow more of your own food at home is that you may be able to eat from your garden without putting in much effort at all. There may already be food in your garden that you did not have to grow. And even if there is not, it is pretty easy to create a low-maintenance forager’s garden.
Forage Year-Round From a Polytunnel Garden
What is the difference between foraging and harvesting? Well, there really need not be much difference at all.
Foraging is usually little and often, and is used for non-cultivated, wild food plants. Harvesting is typically done at specific times of the year, and the term is used for cultivated crops.
Harvesting however, can also be something done little and often throughout the season. When you are taking leaves from cut and come again lettuce or other leafy crops, or from your herbs, for example. Or when you stroll past your tomato plants and pluck off a few fruits for your dinner…
This type of harvesting is really much the same as foraging. When you think about foraging from a food producing polytunnel garden as well as thinking about dedicated harvesting times, you can really begin to see the potential to grow food to feed yourself and your family all year round.
Embrace Wild Foods and Eat the Weeds
Another thing to think about in a typical food producing forager’s garden is that you might also be able to forage plants you did not plant yourself from the space.
In your vegetable beds, and in other parts of your garden from lawns to borders, there many be lots of edible weeds about.
Nettles, plantain, chickweed, fat hen and dandelions are just some of the forage foods you might commonly find in your garden. And if you delve further into edible weeds, you are sure to find other edible plants growing wild already in your garden.
Create a Food Forest Foragers Paradise
The more biodiverse your forager’s garden, the better it is for wildlife and for you. If you are building up a new garden from scratch, or looking to improve your existing space to make it better suited to foraging throughout the year, creating a food forest is a wonderful idea.
Forest gardening is a method for food production which involves mimicking a natural woodland or forest ecosystem. But rather than choosing all native species found in a truly natural ecosystem, you will select the plants carefully for their benefits to each other, to the system as a whole, and to you.
Forest gardens, or food forests, are a paradise for foragers. They typically include trees, shrubs, climbers, herbaceous plants, both taller species and ground cover, and more. And many of the species included will be edible, medicinal or have some other use or uses.
While you will often have a main harvest from fruit or nut trees, for example, most of the plants are foraged little and often rather than harvested all at the same time. Taking a stroll through a food forest you can often graze as you go, and collect a range of yields as you pass by.
Grow a Grazing Garden of Perennial Crops
If space does not allow you to place a fruit tree and guild of companion plants, or a small food forest, you could still consider creating a similar grazing garden with herbaceous perennial plants and perhaps some small fruiting shrubs, for example. There are plenty of different berry bushes and canes, perennial vegetables and perennial herbs to choose from when creating a smaller polyculture garden of this type.
You might also consider creating an edible hedgerow along an edge of your space, or to divide the space into different ‘garden rooms’. Hedgerows are a typical place from which to forage – and you could create one right there in your very own garden.
Embrace ‘Edimental’ Planting for Beds and Borders for a Forager’s Garden
When creating a foraging garden, it is helpful to remember that food producing gardens do not have to be separated from ornamental spaces. There are a huge range of ‘edimental’ plants – or, in other words, ornamental plants which are also edible, or edible plants which also happen to look great.
In all your beds and borders, you can integrate edibles to forage from among other ornamental planting. You might even be able to create flower gardens that are entirely filled with edible flower species.
There are more edible flowers than you might imagine to choose from. Just make sure that you choose species you can identify with surety, and also ones that are suited to the conditions in that specific part of your forager’s garden.
Plant a Pond With Marginal and Aquatic Edibles
Edible plants can be found in a wide range of different environments. One other interesting thing to consider if you want to create a garden great for foraging is to create different habitats.
One good example to consider is creating a pond, and planting up that pond with a range of marginal plants and aquatic plants with edible or other uses. A wildlife pond in a wilder garden could make you feel more like you are harvesting from a truly natural environment – rather than from your garden.
Grow Fungi in Your Garden
Foraging is not always restricted to plants alone. Another interesting thing to consider to create the perfect forager’s garden is growing edible fungi in your space.
Mushrooms can be grown in dedicated mushroom houses, or on a small scale in different trays or containers. But you can also consider inoculating logs, or wood chip mulch with the mycelium of some edible mushroom varieties.
If you choose the right moist and shady spots, mushrooms could proliferate and you could be able to forage for them right there in your own back garden. Just make sure you know how to identify the mushrooms, so you do not accidentally pick a non-edible, naturally-occurring species by mistake.
Many existing gardens will already have some wild foods to forage. But by considering one or more of the options above, you can increase the foraging options in your space, and create the perfect forager’s garden.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.