Plants For A Forest Garden – Ground Cover

Ground cover may not be the showiest part of a forest garden and yet it is not a layer that should be neglected. Ground covers can help to build the soil, they can help to retain moisture and can suppress unwanted invaders. They can provide nutrients to other plants, foods, and many other useful things and can also provide shelter for creatures who will help your forest garden to thrive and grow. Here are some suggestions regarding plants that could be useful for this layer in a forest garden:

Wild strawberries

Edible Ground Cover Plants:

Strawberries are one of the headline ground cover plants placed as ground cover in a forest garden in a temperate climate. Traditional garden strawberries will often find a place on sunny edges of the garden, while wild strawberries and alpine strawberries will do better in more shady spots. Other ground berries

Lemon balm

may be used in some forest gardens – cranberries in a boggy location, bilberries in an acid soil, for example. Spreading herbs such as mint are also often used to help add to the ground cover layer, along with wild gingers, cornels, some gaultheria spp and some carpeting brambles. Herbaceous perennials help to fill gaps and create a sort of living carpet that will keep in moisture and help create a healthy forest soil ecosystem.


Nitrogen Fixing Ground Cover:

Clover is one of the nitrogen fixers that can help improve soil health while also providing a sort of living mulch. Some legumes are also used in the same way. Vetch is another plant with similar characteristics.


These ground covers can be periodically chopped and dropped to return nitrogen to the forest floor.

Other Useful Ground Cover Plants:

There are a range of ground cover plants fulfilling a wide range of purposes in a forest garden. Some are there to suppress less beneficial plants such as grasses which will compete with tree roots and create a bacterial rather than fungal environment. Others can simply be used to cover the soil and retain moisture. Others still are used to aid in the building of soil fertility. Others may be used not only for food, but also for herbal medicine, dyes, fibres, cosmetics and crafting. Every plant in a forest garden has its individual purposes and also serves its role as part of the whole.