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Plant options for zone 2 Canada feel highly limited which is far from the truth; they are simply different! You can grow a whole 7-layer edible and medicinal food forest, and during those cold winters, save plenty of aromatic herbs for tea.
A zone 2 forest garden should have a mix of protective, perhaps non-edible plants, and edible plants. The purpose of protective plants (which may or may not happen to be edible) is to create a growable environment for your desired edible plants!
A planned windbreak or shelterbelt will allow for healthier plants which could mean more fruit for fresh eating, jams, and jellies.
See: How To Grow a Tree in a Windy Area (Everything You Can Do)
In this article, I provide an extensive list of plants you can grow for each layer in your food forest with varieties that grow best in zone 2. I selected a mixture of the most useful, medicinal, palatable, and protective species so you can diversify all in one place.
Canopy layer: zone 2 edible trees and nut trees
After you’ve prepared your ground you’ll start with planting the canopy layer and windshield, also known as a shelter belt.
By planting the canopy layer first, you’ll allow these trees to grow with a first head start.
The canopy layer is important for providing protection for your precious fruiting trees, supplying wildlife with a place to habitat safely, and adding biomass to your forest garden!
Biomass will play an essential role in replenishing needed nutrients and minerals in your soil. Most of your canopy layer will consist of deciduous trees that will drop leaves every year, adding life to your soil.
Over time, you’ll propagate the trees from your canopy layer to start new ones to replace older ones that you may decide to cut down for all sorts of uses like firewood or adding more biomass to the ground!
Trees such as birches will also one day be consumed by medicinal fungi. Chaga is a medicine that grows on birches and later causes death to the birch trees. You’ll want to keep this in mind so you’re sure to replenish your canopy layer in a couple decades’ time before their lifecycle expires.
|Name||Common name||Primary Purpose – Wildlife habitat & leaf mulch|
|Alnus incana||Grey Alder||Nitrogen fixation, edible uses, more info|
|Betula pendula laciniata||Cutleaf Weeping Birch||Birds, beauty, chaga (medicinal fungi), polypores, useful bark, edible sap, edible inner bark, tinder|
|Betula papyrifera||Paper Birch||Birds, beauty, chaga (medicinal fungi), polypores, useful bark, edible sap, edible inner bark, tinder|
|Celtis occidentalis var. “delta”||Delta Hackberry||Edible, wood source, habitat, more info|
|Fraxinus nigra||Fallgold Black Ash||Habitat, shelter belt: 3rd row in, great hardwood, more info|
|Fraxinus pennsylvanica||Green Ash||Hardy to climatic extremes, great hardwood, shelter belt: 3rd row in|
|Fraxinus americana||White Ash||Habitat, great hardwood, shelter belt: 3rd row in, medicinal uses: more info|
|Sorbus americana||American Mountain Ash||Shelterbelt: 3rd row in, Edible fruit: more info|
|Populus balsamifera||Balsam Poplar||shelter belt: 3rd row in, Medicinal uses: more info|
|Populus tremuloides||Aspen||More info|
|Salix||Willow, certain varieties||Beauty, shelterbelt: 2nd row in|
|Tilia americana||American Linden||Fragrant flowers, edible leaves, and flowers, pollinator|
|Ulmus americana||Elm||Medicinal: more info|
|Larix siberica||Siberian Larch||Edible components: fresh needles for tea and bark, confirm with your own research.|
|Pinus koraiensis||Korean Pine||Edible pistachio-sized pine nuts, shelter belt: 4th or 5th row in, where to buy|
|Pinus cembra sibrica||Siberian Pine||Edible nuts|
|Picea x||Spruce||year-round edible needles, shelter belt: 4th or 5th row in|
|Thuja occidentalis||Eastern white cedar||Edible inner bark, shelter belt|
Understory layer: zone 2 edible fruit trees
You can grow several varieties of apple trees in zone 2!
Once your pioneers are in place, you’ll have a suitable environment for your understory layer in a year’s time. If your climate is particularly harsh, you might want to allow your canopy and shelterbelt to establish for a couple of years before planting your precious fruits.
If you can protect your understory layer from wind and deer, by all means, plant them at the same time as your canopy.
For a sustainable forest garden, you’ll want to include a mix of nitrogen fixers, edible fruits, edible nuts, and more shelterbelt plants.
If you plant 1 nitrogen fixer each, in a couple of years you’ll be able to propagate them into many more. I recommend propagating them to reap the reward of nitrogen fixers they will have to be killed. The longer you allow their root systems to establish, the more underground biomass they will provide upon death. So you’ll likely be waiting 10-20 years before chopping them down. This gives you plenty of time to create and establish new ones from your existing plants.
Nut trees typically take at least 10, sometimes 20 years before you’ll get food! Planting nuts as soon as possible gives you more time to enjoy their harvest.
Having a mix of heights in your shelterbelt from trees, to shrubs, to herbaceous plants; you’ll protect your forest garden from wind and chills at all heights.
|Name||Common name||Primary Purpose – Edible fruit and flowers|
|Caragana arborescens||Siberian pea shrub/tree||Edible, medicinal, outside edge shelter belt, dyes, fibers, nitrogen fixation, more info|
|Malus x||Crabapple||Edible fruit, flowers|
|Prunus maackii||Cherry||Edible fruit, flowers|
|Prunus virginiana||Chokecherry||Habitat, somewhat edible, medicinal uses: more info|
|Prunus x||Plum||Edible fruit, flowers, acme plum, gold plum, many more plum options|
|Sorbus aucuparia||Mountain Ash||Edible but bitter, bird food, medicinal: more info|
|Corylus cornuta||Beaked hazelnut||Edible nuts, available to buy|
|Pinus koraiensis||Korean Pine||Where to buy|
|Syringa||Lilac||Outside edge shelter belt, edible flowers, fragrance|
|Syringa vulgaris||Villosa Lilac||Outside edge shelter belt, edible flowers, fragrance|
|Malus sp. 9-22 End||End Apple Tree||Edible fruit, where to buy|
|Malus sp. Fall Red||Fall red apple tree||Edible fruit, where to buy, many more apple options|
|Pyrus ussuriensis||Siberian pear tree||Edible fruit, available to buy|
|Viburnum lentago||Nannyberry, Sheepberry||Edible fruit, habitat|
|Oleaster||Russian olive||Nitrogen fixer, edible fruit|
|Rhus glabra||Smooth sumac||Edible zesty flavor, medicinal, fast-growing wood source|
|Crataegus calpodendron||Pear Hawthorn||Edible fruit|
|Asimina triloba||PawPaw (Taylor)||Large edible fruit|
Shrub layer: zone 2 edible fruiting shrubs
There are more edible plants for zone 2 growing than expected!
The shrub layer is a wonderful opportunity for incorporating deer-resistant walls. Done well, it can encourage them to stay outside of your forest garden. For this purpose, you’d be looking to select thorny shrubs and rough evergreens such as junipers.
Your wall layout would ideally consist of several rows in the direction they’re most likely to come from.
Just like a shelterbelt. Except a shelterbelt is consisted of rows to block the direction of where the wind comes from.
For spacing, treat your shrubs similar to trees, except shrubs will take up more bushy space on your level when mature. You’ll be able to walk under most of your understory trees and canopy trees. Trees still require adequate spacing so their canopies don’t crow too closely, but they can be allowed to touch. For shrubs; you don’t want their “canopies” touching at all, otherwise, you couldn’t walk between them! So spacing can be more considerable for this layer.
|Name||Common name||Primary Purpose|
|Rubus (wild species)||Wild Blackberry||Edible fruit, deer resistant|
|Rubus idaeus||Boyne raspberries||Edible fruit, deer resistant|
|Rubus arcticus||Arctic Raspberries||Edible fruit, deer resistant|
|Amelanchier spp.||Wild serviceberry||Edible fruit|
|Viburnum trilobum||Highbush cranberry||Edible fruit, birds|
|Viburnum cassinoides||Withe Rod||Edible fruit|
|Arctostaphylos uva-ursi||Bearberry||Edible fruit, medicinal leaves|
|Vaccinium vitis-idaea||Lingonberry||Edible fruit|
|Ribes uva-crispa||Gooseberry||Edible fruit|
|Lycium barbarum||Goji berry||Edible fruit|
|Vaccinium angustifolium||Low bush blueberry||Edible fruit, more info|
|Myrica pensylvanica||Northern Bayberry||Edible fruit, more info|
|Prunus fruticosa||Mongolian cherry||Edible fruit, shelterbelt, more info|
|Shepherdia argentea||Silver buffaloberry||Edible fruit, deer resistant, nitrogen fixer|
|Juniperus communis||Juniper||Evergreen, edible fruit (but not always), shelterbelt, deer resistant, more info|
|Andromeda polifolia||Bog Rosemaries||Medicinal|
|Elaeagnus commutata||Silverberry||Edible, nitrogen fixer|
|Prunus pumila||Sand cherry||Edible|
|Amelanchier alnifolia||Saskatoon berry (northline)||Edible|
|Rhododendron canadense||Rhodora||Poisonous, pollinators|
|Cornus sericea||Redosier Dogwood||Medicinal uses, crafts|
|Empetrum nigrum||Crow berry||Edible fruit, evergreen|
|Lonicera caerulea (var. emphyllocalyx or kamtschatica)||Haskapps||Edible fruit|
|Dasiphora fruticosa||Shrubby Cinqfoil||Leaves for tea, flowers|
|Ledum palustre L||Labrador tea||Great for tea, medicinal|
|Amorpha canescens||Leadplant||Tea, flowers, shelter belt, nitrogen fixer, more info|
|Forsythia ovata||Norther gold forsythia||Flowers, edible uses|
|Salix discolor||Pussy willow||Crafts, wildlife food, medicinal|
|Spiraea trilobata||Three-Lobed Spirea||Pollinator|
|Prunus tenella||Russian almond||Shelter belt, wildlife, dyes, medicinal|
|Hippophae rhamnoides||Sea-buckthorn||Nitrogen fixer, deer resistant, edible nutritious berries, usually zone 3; but if used in your 4th or 5th row of shelter belt or deer wall it may fair well.|
|Chaenomeles speciosa||Northern Bayberry||Edible fruit, bay leaf substitute|
|Celtis occidentalis var. “delta”||Delta Hackberry||Edible nutrient-dense fruit|
Herbaceous layer: zone 2 edible herbs and flowers
Herbs and flowers can be companion-planted around the bases of trees and planted in between distant shrubs.
The herbaceous layer will play a large role in balancing pest control. There are a variety of plants that can be used for different purposes. Fragrant herbs are good scent confusers and flowering plants provide food for predators.
Large leafy plants (like rhubarb) make great mulch.
A lot of this layer is easy to harvest for edible and medicinal purposes too!
The plants you put in today will be less permanent than the previous layers. Herbs and flowers will change the most over time as their life spans are shorter than trees and shrubs. Because of this, it will be important that you ensure your plants reseed or you divide and propagate them. Most plants will reproduce themselves successfully.
|Name||Common name||Primary Purpose|
|Rubus chamaemorus||Cloudberries||Edible raspberry-like fruit|
|Cardinal flower||Red lobelia||Flowers, pollinators|
|Allium schoenoprasum||Chives||Edible, pollinators|
|Rheum rhabarbarum||Rhubarb||Edible, deer resistant, great for fruit trees, nutrient accumulator, great mulch sub for comfrey|
|Aquilegia canadensis||Eastern Red Columbine||Flowers|
|Chenopodium capitatum||Strawberry spinach||Reseeds|
|Viola sororia||Wild violets||Flowers, edible|
|Eryngium alpinum||Alpine Sea Holly||Medicinal, beauty|
|Primula denticulata||Drumstick Primula||Edible, flowers|
|Sarracenia Purpurea||Pitcher plant (carnivorous)||more info|
|saxifraga oppositofolia||Mountain saxifrage||Edible, pollinators|
|saxifraga paniculata||lifelong saxifrage||Edible|
|Viola blanda||Sweet white violet||Edible, flowers|
|Abelmoschus esculentus||Okra||Annual, edible|
|Caltha palustris||Marsh marigold||Edible|
|Hylotelephium telephium||Orpine||Medicinal, flowers|
|Monarda fistulosa||Wild bergamot||Pollinators, edible flowers for tea, reseeds|
|Hemerocallis||Day lily||Edible, and delicious! Tolerates zone 3, but in a microclimate, you could likely get away with some hardy cultivars.|
|Hosta||Hosta||Edible shoots, tolerates zone 3, but in a microclimate, you could likely get away with some hardy cultivars.|
|Matricaria chamomilla||Chamomile||Reseeds, tea|
|Hablitzia tamnoides||Caucasian Mountain Spinach||Edible leaf, mulch for winter protection|
|Borago officinalis||Borage||Annual, flowers, tea, reseeds|
|Gymnocarpium dryopteris||Northern oak fern||Beauty, wildlife attractor|
|Tagetes patula||French Marigold||Flowers, tea|
Root layer: zone 2 edible roots
Tubers have a beneficial life cycle of their own. Just because you grow them; doesn’t mean you have to worry about eating them!
Some you’ll totally want to grow for eating, others perhaps for flowers. The bonus of leaving tubers alone is that they’ll eventually rot in the ground. This provides lots of food for soil life and for worms to thrive!
Not everything must be a nitrogen fixer to be good for the soil; simply biomass is beneficial.
|Name||Common name||Primary Purpose|
|Calla palustris||Water Arum||Can be hardy to zone 2, edible more info|
|Asarum hartwegii||Sierra Wild Winger||Edible root|
|Helianthus tuberosus||Sunchokes||Edible roots, flowers, shelterbelt, tolerates zone 3; but you can either heavily mulch tubers before extreme cold sets in or dig them up and replant. Prolific food source|
|Pastinaca sativa||Parsnip||Edible root|
|Leuzea carthamoides (Syn. Rhaponticum carthamoides)||Marol Root||Medicinal root, flowers|
|Cichorium intybus||Chicory||Edible root|
|Menyanthes trifoliata||Bogbean||Medicinal root|
Vining layer: zone 2 edible vines
Vines can provide a great deal of beauty, attract birds, and pollinators, and provide you with fruit!
We are most excited for our hardy kiwis to set fruit in the years to come. Patiently waiting, we are…
Vines can be planted by physical structures for support such as fences or log posts. Or, you can plant vines on your pioneer trees and nitrogen-fixing trees a couple of years after they’ve been able to grow and establish.
|Name||Common name||Primary Purpose|
|Vitus sp. Valiant||Valiant grapevine||Edible fruit and leaves, available to buy|
|Actinidia arguta||Cultivars: Chung Bai, Aromatnaya, Krupnopladnay, Pavlovskaya, Sentyabraskaya, Arctic Beauty and Annikki||Edible fruit, certain cultivars can grow in zones 2!|
|Celastrus||Bittersweet||Beauty, bird food, poisonous|
|Clematis||Clematis – Hardy Varieties||Beauty|
|Lonicera||Honeysuckle||Beauty, pollinators, find/confirm edible varieties|
|Cucurbita argyrosperma||Cushaw Pumpkin||Annual, save seeds|
|Linnaea borealis||Linnaea borealis||Edible leaves|
|Oxyria digyna||Mountain sorrel||Edible leaves|
Ground cover layer: zone 2 edible ground covers
Now that you have all your layers planted the way you want, lastly, you’ll want to diversify your ground covers!
Add deer-resistant ground covers on your deer wall, even in place of paths. You may want to do this step sooner than later since your forest garden needs protection from deer especially while it’s young.
Keep the ground cover for your pathways something that can tolerate traffic. For the rest, consider adding edible foods, flowers, and fragrant low-growers.
|Name||Common name||Primary Purpose|
|Paxistima canbyi||Cliff Green Pachistima||Dense green|
|Carex eburnea||Bristleleaf sedge||deer resistant|
|Phlox subulata||Creeping or moss phlox||Flowers|
|Fragaria ×||Strawberry (toklat variety)||Edible|
|Saponaria ocymoides||Rock soapwort||Deer resistant|
|Coriandrum sativum||Coriander||Reseeds, edible, fragrant|
|Cornus canadensis||Bunchberry/creeping dogwood||Edible berries|
After a few years of establishing your forest garden, a microclimate will be created. The more mature and protective your forest garden becomes, the better chance you’ll have of getting away with some zone 3 edible perennials!
Make your list, draw it out, and order the plants
All you’ve got left to do now is to take action!
We hope this helps you design your very own super-cold-climate forest garden with ease!
Did we miss any prized arctic plants in any of the lists? There is most likely something to add.
If you’re growing something in zone 2 that isn’t here; leave a comment to let us know.
This article was originally published on foodforestliving.com. If it is now published on any other site, it was done without permission from the copyright owner.
No liability exists against Food Forest Living or any member of Food Forest Living, nor can they be held responsible for any allergy, illness, or injurious effect that any person or animal may suffer as a result of the information in this catalog or through using any of the plants mentioned by Food Forest Living. Do your own research and due diligence when deciding to consume any edible plants.
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