From Lawn to Edible Forest Garden

Now those of you who attended our presentation at the Green Earth Fair last Sunday can't say we don't practice what we preach.  One side of my Naperville front lawn has been transformed into an edible forest garden!

Michelle's Edible Forest Garden
Michelle's Edible Forest Garden

It all started in the fall when Jodi needed to complete a landscape design for a class she was taking and I volunteered my front lawn (How nice of me, right?).  She created a beautiful edible design that I was eager to implement.

Late fall, when the City offers free leaf collection, I went around the neighborhood and collected about 40 lawn and leaf bags full of leaves and as much cardboard as I could.  This hung out in the garage (sorry to my husband who had to park in the driveway for a while) until Mama's Magic Manure delivered 3 cubic yards of composted horse, sheep, goat, duck, geese, chicken manure on December 13th.  On December 14th I spent several hours sheet mulching and let that do its thing until this spring.


On Arbor Day, Jodi and I went fruit tree shopping and picked out 13 trees between us.  The following Tuesday and Wednesday we picked them up, along with wood for my hugelkultur bed, and planted them.   We still needed some wood chips to mulch the trees and were not having much luck until my neighbors cut down 2 large trees (ash and crabapple) and I asked the tree guys, every so sweetly, if they would please dump the chips in my driveway.  Now we had our mulch.  The only thing left were the plants.  It was starting to look like something!

This weekend with plants purchased at DuPage Co. Forest Preserves Native Plant sale and a local nursery, plus a lot of manual labor, the transformation was completed.

The recipe for Michelle's Edible Forest Garden:

  • 1 existing Redbud tree
  • 1 dwarf Bartlett pear tree
  • 1 dwarf Reliance peach tree with a grafted apricot
  • 1 semi-dwarf Bing cherry
  • 3 gooseberry bushes
  • 3 jostaberry bushes
  • 3 clumping raspberry bushes
  • 3 rhubarb
  • 8 asparagus (and more to be planted once the mulch pile is removed)
  • 7 yarrow
  • 3 lead plant
  • 3 false baptisia
  • 3 purple prairie clover
  • 2 side-oats grama
  • 3 nodding wild onion
  • 2 artichokes
  • 1 grapefruit peppermint
  • 1 nasturium
  • several calendula
  • many daffodils, strawberries, and thyme
  • 1 bird bath
  • 1 decorative plant basket

The pathway is a water catchment system and a mushroom garden. While my husband removed about a foot of soil from the pathway, I dug a ditch from the downspout on the garage into the pathway and filled it in with river rocks. The pathway was then filled in with wood chips which will be inoculated with wine cap mushroom spores (just waiting for them to be delivered).  I learned this from John Sheffy when Jodi and I helped to build a food forest at the MA Center in Elburn.

I'll probably add some rocks as edging between the sidewalk and the garden and maybe some nicer mulch in the garden areas so there is a visable delineation of pathway and garden.  A bench on the west (left) side will finish it off.  I'm excited to see how this all works and to enjoy the harvests!