After your get your trees planted it’s time to start adding other layers in your food forest. The vine layer is a great way of maximizing your space and adding in more crops in less space.
Vines can sometimes compete with trees for nutrients and can choke the trunk, so make sure to provide separate scaffolding for your vines. They can still be grown near your trees however.
Good places to put vines include near fences and rain barrels, and up pergola and patio supports. If you have none of those it’s pretty easy to create your own simple trellis.
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11 Vines You Should Grow
Clematis is a popular flowering vine because it has beautiful flowers and is a perennial. It’s a member of the buttercup family and is not edible, but it is a food source for some caterpillars and it does attract birds.
Different varieties bloom at different times, so you could plant a variety to make sure you have constant flowers through the growing season. The different varieties also different sizes, and smaller varieties can be grown in containers.
The plant prefers sun, but roots like to stay cool. Keep it well mulched and plant a shorter companion plant to shade the roots. It can be planted in the fall or in early spring. While it does climb, it can also be used as a ground cover.
Cucumbers are annuals, but they do make nice additions to your vertical space. They can be grown on the ground, but are easily trained up a trellis. They are happy in a pot or in a sunny patch of the yard.
Cucumbers would be a good choice for young food forests because there will be plenty of sun, and you can plant it in spaces where more permanent plants will grow into in future years.
Grapes are delicious and make beautiful vines! They also can grow well on hills and in poorer soil, which makes them perfect for those spaces where you can fit anything else.
They will need strong support, and they will last for several years, so make sure you’re happy with where you planted them. They’re also great for privacy along property lines or to shade a patio or arbor.
While honeysuckle can be called edible it isn’t a food crop. It’s wonderful scent and attractive flowers still makes it a valuable member of a food forest.
Honeysuckle is ideal for hiding rain barrels or other homestead features, and it also is lovely planted outside windows. When you open the window you get a cool breeze and it’s delicate scent.
Hops are traditionally used in flavoring beer and also have some medicinal uses. They also have attractive foliage and grow quickly. They are ideal for shade and for those interested in in home brewing.
While many people think of kiwi as a tropical fruit, there are hardy varieties than can grow in more chilly climates. The vines can grow quite large, and you will need at least two, a male and a female.
There are self pollinating varieties out there, but you’ll want to double check before purchasing just one. They’ll also need a sturdy trellis as they can get quite heavy with a full crop of fruit on them.
Like cucumbers, you can squish melons pretty much anywhere in a young food forest. They will need full sun and will be perfectly happy on the ground or on a trellis. Just make sure to provide support for the fruit so they don’t break off.
Passionflowers are a tropical vine, so if you live in a colder area you will need to grow them as an annual. They may even be able to make it through winter with a deep mulch. It’s easy to grow and is a good food source for butterflies.
They like full sun, although in very hot climates, they won’t mind a bit of afternoon shade.
Pole beans are a smaller vining plant and an annual. They are ideal for tucking into smaller corners to maximize your total growing space. They do great in container gardens with other veggies.
You can even grow them as companion plants for the classic bean, corn and squash triad. And if you have more space, you can easily grow your own year’s worth of green beans for the freezer.
Rambling and climbing roses
Roses are one of my all time favorite flowers. They can be time intensive to grow and need a bit more care than some plants, but generally the wild varieties that climb are much more hardy.
Rose hips make a tasty tea, the flowers are beautiful, and climbing roses will add quite the element of charm and whimsy to your food forest. They are perfectly suited for front yard gardens.
As an annual, squash are a great filler plant. I used squash to fill in empty spaces in the landscape the year we sold our Portland house. I’ve often seen people maximize their garden space by growing their squash plants over an arbor and then planting lettuce and other delicate veggies underneath.
Don’t be afraid to think out of the box and get creative. There’s more to squash than the traditional garden plot!
Adding vines to your forest garden can add beauty, attract beneficial insects and birds, and add another food crop. Don’t forget to include this important layer!
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