Growing Greens Under Fruit Trees

In the photo above is Scott Kleinrock showing off a section of the edible garden he designed at the Huntington Gardens. At first glace it looks like a lot of weeds, but it’s a clever idea: growing greens in the understory of fruit trees.

In this picture, which was taken last weekend, you see a field of:

  • mallow
  • daikon radish
  • arugula
  • mustard 
  • vetch
  • calendula
  • cabbage

Except for the vetch, which helps build soil, all are edible and nutritious. It was grown with almost no supplemental water. Labor involved removing unwanted grasses in the first year and spreading seeds. And all of these plants readily reseed themselves.

Depending on your climate, the plants you use for this strategy could vary, but the idea is the same: select hardy, reseeding greens that take little or no care. Weed out the things you don’t want. Use space that would otherwise go to waste. Lastly, sit back and let nature do her thing.

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9 Comments

  1. I know some folks here in the desert who used to grow their asparagus under nut trees. They eventually moved them because it took so long to harvest them going in circles, circles, circles. (Not just home use, but for sale. On a home scale, it’d work fine.)

  2. Fruit growers here in northern Michigan would ask, “How do you get the airblast sprayer in there without running over the cabbages?” Great idea that comes with a pest management re-think.

  3. We grow New Zealand Spinach under our Valencia Orange tree, We grow shade loving Mitsuba, under the Guava tree and in the front garden we grow Strawberries under the 2 young apple trees (eventually those will be yanked as the trees mature) We’re growing Purple Orach, Blue Basil, Johnny Jump Ups, Edible Iceplants, and Cosmos under the young Avocado tree in the front garden. We have edible lupini beans, fever few, and Pansies growing under our young persimmon tree too (also front garden). Last year, our peach tree was only 2 yrs old, so we planted sweet potato vines to make use of the space. We have mint, calendula and daylily growing under the fig tree. We try our best to use whatever space there is. Still have a LOT of lawn but slowly, but surely it will be replaced with edible landscaping! Keep on growing! Thanks for sharing! :-)

  4. It looks like those fruit trees are very juvenile. Our pear trees are mature and there is deep shade underneath them. How much light do the greens need?

    I am glad you posted this because I have been interested in what I can do in shady areas and our grass is both struggling with the drought and not very useful.

  5. Some vetches are actually edible. I tried eating the tiny seeds with a friend, and although it’s a good amount of work unless you have a large number of plants, the end result was rather tasty. The seeds didn’t swell much even after several days of soaking, but had a rich, nutty flavor. According to Wikipedia, some vetches are toxic to non-ruminents, though…

  6. I’m really glad to see this and to see it sent to me from my husband!! We live in Alaska and are planning to convert a small portion of our land to cold hardy fruits–I’d rather have wild edibles than a place I have to mow…but we may have grazing livestock too…so many plans

  7. Pingback: What To Do With Old Vegetable Seeds | Root Simple

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