Harvest Garden Design Ideas


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There are few greater pleasures than feeding friends, family and even your community from your own harvest. Laying the right groundwork can make light work of what might otherwise be a long, hard grind through seasons spent fighting the elements. Using time-honored traditions that harness nature’s habits can make your garden thrive. Here are a few harvest garden design ideas that will make your landscape both beautiful and fruitful.

greens garden
Photo by Stella de Smit on Unsplash

Plant a Food Forest

Since a forest thrives without tilling, irrigation, weeding, or fertilization, you can use this ancient gardening technique to help your garden succeed. Plant a seven-layered system: Canopy trees (Pecans, Walnuts, Chestnuts) at the northern end of your garden, flanked by fruit trees to the south. Next, come your shade-tolerant fruiting shrubs (gooseberries, guava, elderberry), followed by vines ( kiwi, grapes, passionfruit) which can climb fences, arbors, or trees that are tall enough not to get smothered. Put herbaceous plants (aromatic herbs, artichokes, asparagus) alongside groundcovers (strawberries, nasturtiums.) Many of the edible herbs will also repel destructive insects. Finally, the rhizosphere or root-crops (sweet-potato, yacon) add the finishing touches to your forest. Each successive layer is planted south of the taller layer before it.

Picking plants that are appropriate to your climate is key to your food forest’s success. Do your planting in the winter when trees and vines are available as bare-root, dormant plants. While this type of garden is built on perennial plants, annual vegetable crops can be planted around the edge of your food forest as well. This is a garden that will take years to fully mature but will give you much joy and bounty along the way.

Maximize Space with a Keyhole Garden

A keyhole garden is a round, raised bed approximately two feet high and seven feet in diameter. One side features an entry point that gives access to a round, caged-off center: the exact shape of an old-fashioned keyhole. Traditionally used to combat poor soils and searing temperatures in Africa, this garden is an excellent fit for states in the southwest, where similar conditions exist.  Additionally, keyhole gardens protect plants from being whacked by weed eaters or lawn mowers.  This is a type of wicking bed, but with one huge modification: you can compost as you grow in this garden.



The caged area is constructed first on a mound built up with sticks, rocks, or other material, so it forms a high point in the garden. The walls of the raised bed can be constructed with stacked stones, cinder blocks, vertical cedar trunks–your imagination is the limit. Once the bed is built, fill with soil and start planting.



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