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.
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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.
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).
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.