Dustin Bajer, Crowdsourced Cold Hardy Food Forest Plant Link

Cold Hardy Food Forest Plant List

A Growing Inventory of Cold Hardy Perennial Plants

Since 2015, I’ve been propagating and growing tonnes of USDA hardiness zone 1 to 5 perennial plants in my Edmonton backyard and urban farm plot. The list has grown to over 285 species across 152 plant genera. Tagging each species by edible component (fruit, nut, leaf, bark, shoot, or root) and by forest layer (canopy, understory, vine, shrub, herbaceous, ground cover, and rhizosphere) has created a comprehensive cold-hardy food forest plant list.

Access Via Shrubscriber.com

The Hardy Food Forest Plant List is available for free to all members of the Subscriber Community. Visit Shrubscriber.com and choose a plan (including a free SEEDLING plan) that best supports you.

What Is A Food Forest?

A food forest is a food-production model that seeks to mimic the patterns of a natural forest ecosystem. Forests are incredibly diverse and highly productive. The following article contains a crowdsourced cold-hardy food forest plant list for the Northern forest garden. As the list grows, we’ve grown many of the listed plants with the Shrubscriber community.

In addition to food production, trees provide various benefits ranging from urban heat island mitigation to place-making.

Dustin Bajer, Crowdsourced Cold Hardy Food Forest Plant Link
Blueberries (Vaccinium sp.) are part of a food forest’s shrub layer.

A Note on Crowdsourcing

This food forest plant list is a living document made possible by the individuals who have added to it over the years. While most of the plants have been added by me, I have used resources such as The Urban Farmer’s “Edible Plants For The Prairies.”

The list continues to grow as the Shrubscriber community grows new species and as members suggest plants.

Layers of a [Food] Forest

Forests contain layers of plants occupying various vertical spaces; canopy, understory, shrubs, herbs, ground covers, vines, and roots. Forest layers are an oversimplification but help plan the design of a food forest.

1. Overstory/Canopy Layer

The tallest plants in the forest make up the canopy layer and reach for the light, shading much of the forest below.

2 and 3. Understory and Shrub Layers

Small trees and multi-stemmed woody shrubs make up the understory and shrub layers. Shrubs and understory plants have evolved the ability to live beneath the canopy or at the margins of forests. The line between large shrubs and small trees is blurry, so I’ve combined them into a single layer.

4. Herbaceous Plant Layer

Herbaceous plants have non-woody stems and usually die back to the ground each fall. As a result, herbaceous plants tend to be shorter than most woody shrubs.

5. Ground Cover Layer

Ground covers are short, crawling, or clumping plants that may be woody or none-woody. They protect the forest floor from the elements.

6. Root Zone Layer

The root zone usually means plants with harvestable roots.

7. Vine Layer

Vines are long, spindly, climbing plants capable of occupying the vertical spaces within a forest. They can be herbaceous and die back to the ground yearly (hops) or woody (clematis and grapes).

One hundred volunteers planting edible native plants in the Edmonton River Valley Food forest in McKinnon Ravine in 2014
Community members planting edible native plants in the Edmonton River Valley Food Forest

Grow Trees with Shrubscriber.com

If you want to buy some of these plants or to learn how to grow them (seeds included), consider joining the Shrubscriber Community.