HomeDIY CraftMaximize Your Space and Effort With a Layered Garden

Maximize Your Space and Effort With a Layered Garden

At some point, annual vegetables took over the popularity contest. We’ve become so accustomed to seeing neat rows of carrots, cucumbers, beans, and tomatoes that we forget that there are much more profitable ways to grow food for the home gardener. Let me introduce you to the tiered garden!

tiered garden

I’m planning the next garden in my new house and thinking about the big picture. The yard was neglected and minimal, so I’m starting with a pretty nice blank canvas.

I’ll be designing a food forest, which will require some careful planning and a few years of patience. I have an urban garden and a small patio, but those who have a patio garden can also adopt these more sustainable, regenerative practices.

Christina Chung’s book, Tiered Food Garden, is based on a concept similar to food forests. Rooted in permaculture, it’s all about maximizing your space with a layered garden based on edible perennials.

These practices are rooted in similar values ​​and energy, so I’m thrilled to share Christina’s edible garden vision with you.

Layered Edible Garden Cover

Excerpt reprinted with permission from The Layered Edible Garden by Christina Chung © 2024. Published by Cool Springs Press.

What is a layered garden?

There are many types of tiered gardens. They are often well planned and optimize the space by mixing plants of different heights.

Christina’s layered gardening practice follows a more natural system that is less intensive on time, energy and resources. It tries to fill in all the empty spaces in the garden where weeds might otherwise grow.

“Traditional gardening often means fighting against nature taking over space and transforming it into the densely planted, layered space it would be without human intervention,” says Christina.

But a layered garden has also been curated. This means that Still produces abundant food similar to traditional vegetable gardens, However, it encourages you to think beyond traditional vegetables and focus more on edible perennial plants.

It follows permaculture practices and sounds similar to my favorite food forest practice. But Christina’s approach is “more flexible” and perhaps more focused on gardens in smaller spaces.

Layered gardening to grow food
You can include medicinal or herbal plants as well as edible plants.

Why are layered gardens the best option?

The biggest attraction of a tiered garden is that Optimizes your location. Many gardeners (myself included) are always looking for more gardening space. But many of us do not consider the vertical spaces and gaps. Just imagine how much you can plant under one tree or bush!

“Filling in those missing layers creates a lot of interest and beauty, and each gives a chance to add something edible to the mix,” says Christina. “Each additional layer can help you get more out of your existing garden space.”

There is also layered gardening Great for your local wildlife. Planting a wider range of plants and less common species can attract more pollinators and beneficial insects. They also act as bonus natural pest control.

One of the most immediate benefits you’ll see How much is low maintenance tiered gardening, A bountiful garden means less weeding, which is also great for soil health because it reduces soil disturbance.

These gardens also rely more heavily on perennial plants, which require less seeding, and tender young annuals. You’ll also water less because you’re relying more on perennials.

Who should plant a tiered garden?

I highly recommend tiered gardens for people in urban environments, as they are great for those with limited space. This is one of the best ways to grow more food in a smaller space.

But absolutely anyone and any location can practice layered gardening.

This food is great for gardeners and cooks, but it will also work for anyone who wants a beautiful space. You can also have a maximum Ornamental tiered garden with dining options. Or use this method to create more green space and reduce empty space.

“If you want to be creative and create a space to garden that doesn’t look like everyone else’s in your neighborhood, that’s also a gardening style,” says Christina. “Landscapes often take on a depressing sameness, with each garden containing the same ten plants that are available cheaply at every nursery and big-box store.”

Instead of having different rules and practices, Layered gardening is a holistic approach, This means that anyone can benefit from and grow from a tiered garden.

How to Start a Layered Garden

The first step to a tiered garden is a mindset shift. Focusing more on perennial plants. These will naturally fill the space with larger trees and shrubs and, as mentioned, require significantly less maintenance and resources.

Since annual plants only grow for a single season, they require a lot more work. “Supporting all that accelerated growth means annuals need more resources,” says Christina. “That means more fertilizer, more water and richer soil to grow in.”

Perennial plants also provide year-round interest, have a long harvest season, and support the local ecosystem. Yes, perennial plants will take several years to establish themselves and produce food. But ultimately, it’s very little work.

When starting your tiered garden, start small and work your way up. Don’t try to rejuvenate the entire garden in one season. select an area And start from that.

Before you break out our existing garden, plan your layers and consider how you want to use your space. Make sure it’s still enjoyable and that you’re developing what you’re most interested in.

start from the highest layer, because it will affect others. For example, a larger tree may create more shade, and you need to make sure all the plants match the conditions of your garden.

tiered garden cherry tree
Fruit trees take a few years to bear fruit but once they do, they yield abundant fruit.

The “layers” of a layered garden.

Now it’s time to start planning our layers! I’ll give you a little description of all the different layers, but check out Christina’s book for an in-depth look at the layers and some tips about what to grow.

canopy tree layer

Your highest layer starts with the tallest trees. There’s a good chance that you already have large trees on your property or on a major thoroughfare in your town. In most cases, you stick with what you have.

“These are large trees, reaching over 40 feet (12 m) in height, making them the largest shade-providing layer and have the greatest impact on the rest of your garden space,” says Christina.

If you don’t have a large tree or are starting a garden from scratch, layering a canopy tree is one of the biggest decisions in starting your tiered garden.

Here are some examples of Christina’s canopy trees:

  • Cedar
  • sugar maple
  • A type of tree
  • Walnut

subcanopy layer

Your penumbra layer consists of small trees. Most of the common fruit trees fall in this category. They take time to establish and bear fruit, but once they are established, they provide plentiful food and year-round beauty.

Christina suggests planting these trees at the edge of your property. “Use subshade trees where you need beneficial shade and to get extra height and screening from foliage, where you want a more compact package than a large canopy tree,” she says.

Here are some examples of Christina’s penumbra trees

Quince blossoms
Flowering quince.

bush layer

The bush layer is one of the most prolific and versatile layers. Many shrubs can be edible, beautiful, and can also serve as privacy screens.

Many of us already have bushes in our backyard. And we like them because they’re very low maintenance and easy to work with.

Here is a sample of Christina’s bushes:

Some shrubs, like blueberries, you can also grow in containers.

herbaceous perennial layer

Your herbaceous perennial layer contains a lot of Perennial Vegetables and Herbs.

“These plants are smaller than shrubs, so you can pack several of them into even the smallest garden,” says Christina. “There are also many species and varieties to choose from, with lots of food options.”

Here are some options for this layer:

  • Hosta
  • garlic sauce
  • fennel hyssop
  • peppermint
  • asparagus
  • daylily
  • Giant Butterbur

climber layer

One of the best ways to utilize vertical space is to incorporate some climbers into your garden.

“Every building on your property has blank walls that can be covered with beautiful and tasteful climbers,” says Christina. You can also create spaces just for your climbers, such as trellises, pergolas and gates. There are many ways to beautify and use a climber.

Here is a sample of some climbers:

Hopes are growing in the garden
Hops are a beautiful plant that is also great for sleep and relaxation.

annual layer

Yes, there is still room for your traditional vegetable garden. After all, how else can you enjoy the taste of freshly grown tomatoes?

“Annual crops can also be a great option to fill vacant spots in a timely manner,Christina says. “Most of your herb layer will go dormant over winter, and become an empty and inedible garden.”

ground cover layer

The lower levels of the garden should also not be ignored. Most people think of lawn, but there are other options.

Christina says, “Small, low-growing, carpet-forming plants Play an important role in protecting the soil from erosion and heat. “Also, the places for germination of weed seeds have also been eliminated.”

Here are some ground cover options:

  • wild strawberry
  • wild ginger
  • Gandhpura
  • carom flowers
  • Nasturtium

rhizosphere layer

Another layer? Yes! There’s a lot going on beneath the surface, too. There are many edible and medicinal roots. The top of the plant may also contribute a separate layer.

It should be noted that to plant these vegetables you need to disturb the soil. “Choose locations where you can reach them easily, such as around the perimeter of beds or behind a border,” says Christina.

Here are some examples of edible roots:

  • sunchoke
  • OCA
  • Taro
  • Onion
  • radish
Chopped sunchokes in a wicker basket

And that covers all the layers! To learn more about this great practice of creating an edible tiered garden, be sure to check out Check out Christina’s book,

More Tips for Growing Food in Urban Spaces


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