The first year is the hardest and so many of us food foresters are starting our food forests in soil that is far less than ideal for growing… well…anything at all.

This list of plants has been compiled due to my trial and error while working very hard to keep plants alive during these first rough years of starting my first food forest.

1. Sweet Potatoes

-Helps break up the ground.

-Creates a LOT of vines that make a good ground cover to to keep the soil more moist and to reduce evaporation.

-Can get a good crop in year one without adding too many soil amendments, which are often expensive or labor-intensive to install.

Growing Sweet Potato Slips for Sweet Potato Planting

2. Tomatoes

-Easy to grow.

-Despite reputation as heavy feeder, it is possible to get a good crop in relatively poor soil by companion planting with beans or other nitrogen fixing plants.

-Easy to get a heavy crop.

-Great beginner plant for a new food grower.

The Best Tomato Companion Plants to Increase Your Food Harvest This Year

Blackberries ripening on blackberry bush in edible landscape

3. Blackberries

The unkillable fruit bush!
-The roots are aggressive and super thick to break up the soil
-Spreads easily resulting in more blackberry bushes, which means more blackberries at no additional cost.
-Great beginner plant for new food growers.
-Can have thorns or be a thornless blackberry variety

4. Raspberry Bushes

I would hazard to say that raspberry bushes are equally as unkillable as blackberry bushes.

-Spreads by runners to make more plants which means, more raspberries for you

-Can get a crop within the first year

-Can have raspberry harvest spring, summer, or fall depending on the type of raspberry plant

-Can have thorns or be a thornless raspberry variety

The Quick and Easy Way To Train Raspberries In Your Food Forest

Growing Raspberries in the Edible Landscape

5. Fig Trees

-Does well in poor soil.

-Relatively cold tolerant.

-Drought tolerant.

-Grows quickly once established.

-Can grow 3 feet in one year in even the worst soils.

-Needs little care.

6. Oregano

Yes, the herb.

-Refuses to die.

-Beautiful year-round depending on your grow zone and the type of oregano plant you’re growing

-Smells scrumptious as hell.

-Ground cover.

7. Camellia Sinensis Tea Bush

-Easy to grow

-Easy to propagate

-Can also be used as a trellis for vining plants

-Easy to prune

-Very cold hardy

-Tolerates shade well

5 Fabulous Functions for The Camellia Sinensis Tea Plant in Your Permaculture Food Forest or Edible Landscape

8. Asparagus

-Easy to grow

-Need to wait until at least the second year to harvest if grown from asparagus crown

-Excellent companion plant for many fruit trees

How to Easily Grow Enormous Asparagus In A Permaculture Food Forest

How to Plant Asparagus the No-Dig Way

9. Garlic

-Easy to grow

-Helps distract pests from other plants by covering their smell

-Easy to propagate

10. Sissoo Spinach

-Easy to grow

-Easy to propagate from cuttings

-Thrives in shade

11. Horseradish

-Grows in sun or shade

-Helps crack open heavy clay or heavy soils

-Great companion plant for fruit trees with more fragile root systems

How to Grow Horseradish in a No Dig Food Forest

12. Peach Trees

-Can grow well in poor soils

-Beautiful flowers

-One of the earliest trees to re-leaf in spring

How to Grow a Bonfire Patio Peach Tree in a Permaculture Food Forest

13. Onions

14. Pigeon Pea Shrub

-Nitrogen Fixer

-Can be used for chop and drop

-produces peas that are edible or can be saved to grow more shrubs

-perennial in warmer climates

15. Goji Berries


-Spreads underground for more goji berry bushes

16. Velvet Beans


-Beautiful vine

-Edible beans

17. Fava Beans

18. Taro



-Leaves can be cooked down like greens or spinach (remove purple center first!)

-Edible tuber (harvest in late fall)

Taro, Edible Elephant Ear growing in the permaculture food forest
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