How to Have an Edible Garden Under Black Walnut Trees

I’ve been asked the same question twice recently, “What edible plants can I grow under my black walnut trees?”. Well, I’m glad there are other people with this question, because since we moved to Wisconsin, I’ve found myself pondering that exact same question. The back portion of our 1/2 acre yard has about 12 mature black walnut trees (I’m not joking!).

If you haven’t heard of the gardening dilemmas around black walnut trees, here’s a super quick explanation of why gardening can be tricky near them. Black walnut trees produce a chemical called juglone that is released into the soil via the roots and also onto the soil through the leaves, stems, and nut hulls. Juglone is typically found in the soil beneath the tree canopy but can extend out about 60’ from the base of the tree. Many plants can’t tolerate juglone, and therefore won’t grow under or near black walnut trees.

I won’t go into the nitty gritty details of juglone toxicity, as you can easily find a more scientific explanation by doing an online search, but I do want to talk about what edible and medicinal plants will grow under black walnut trees. While I was creating an edible / medicinal landscape design for our yard, I started collecting a list of edible and medicinal plants would grow beneath our black walnut trees. Here’s what I’ve discovered:

(Please note that some of these plants are more commonly used for food and medicine than others. Do your own research before consuming any parts of these plants or making your own herbal medicine.)

Trees

American Beech / Fagus grandifolia (edible, medicinal)

Blackhaw Viburnum / Viburnum prunifolium (edible, medicinal)

Cherry / Prunus spp (edible, medicinal)

Cherry, Black / Prunus serotina (edible, medicinal)

Flowering Dogwood / Cornus florida (edible, medicinal - through some report that it is poisonous for humans)

Hawthorne / Crataegus spp (edible, medicinal)

Mulberry / Morus nigra (edible, medicinal)

Oak species / Quercus spp (edible, medicinal)

Pawpaw / Asimina triloba (edible)

Peach / Prunus spp (edible)

Persimmon / Diosypros virginiana (edible)

Plum / Prunus spp (edible)

Quince / Cydonia oblongata (edible)

River Birch / Betula nigra (medicinal)

Sassafras / Sassafras albidum (edible, medicinal)

Serviceberry / Amelanchier (edible)

Slippery Elm / Ulmus rubra (medicinal)

Staghorn Sumac / Rhus typhina (edible, medicinal)

Willow / Salix spp (medicinal)

Yellow Poplar / Liriodendron tulipifera (medicinal)

 
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Shrubs

American Bladdernut / Staphylea trifolia (edible)

Autumn Olive / Elaeagnus umbellata (edible, medicinal)

Barberry / Berberis spp (medicinal)

Blackhaw Viburnum / Vibunrum pronifoliaum (edible, medicinal)

Currant / Ribes spp (edible)

Elderberry / Sambucus spp (edible, medicinal)

Hazelnut / Corylus americana (edible)

Juniper / Juniperus spp (edible, medicinal)

New Jersey Tea / Ceanothus americanus (edible, medicinal)

Raspberry, Black / Rubus occidentalis (edible, medicinal)

Rose of Sharon / Hibiscus syriacus (edible)

Spicebush / Lindera benzoin (edible, medicinal)

St. Johns wort / Hypericum prolificum (medicinal)

Sumac / Rhus copallina (edible, medicinal)

Sumac, Smooth / Rhus glabra (edible, medicinal)

Wild Rose / Rosa spp (edible, medicinal)

Wineberries / Rubus phoenicolasius (edible)

Witchhazel / Hamamellis spp (medicinal)

Yucca / Yucca spp (edible)

Vines

Honeysuckle / Lonicera spp (medicinal)

Wild Grape / Vitis sp (edible)


Perennials

Bee Balm, Wild Bergamot / Monarda spp (edible, medicinal)

Calendula / Calendula officinalis (edible, medicinal)

Chrysanthemum / Chrysanthemum spp (medicinal)

Common Daylily / Hereocallis fulva (edible)

Hollyhock / Alcea rosea (edible, medicinal)

Joe Pye Weed, Gravel Root / Eupatorium purpureum (medicinal)

Lungwort / Pulmonaria spp (medicinal)

Mayapple / Podophyllum peltatum (medicinal)

Pansy and Violet / Viola spp (edible)

Peppermint / Mentha piperita (edible, medicinal)

Purple Coneflower / Echinacea purpurea (medicinal)

Solomon’s Seal / Polygonatum multiflorum (edible, medicinal)

St. John’s Wort / Hypericum perforatum (medicinal)

Sweet Cicely / Myrrhis odorata (edible, medicinal)

Sweet Woodruff / Galium odoratum (edible, medicinal)

Toothwort / Dentaria spp (edible)

Wild Ginger / Asarum europaeum (medicinal)

Yarrow / Achillea millifolium (medicinal)

 
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Annuals and Vegetables

Beans

Beets

Carrots

Cauliflower

Corn

Garlic

Jerusalem Artichoke

Leeks

Melon

Onions

Parsley

Parsnips

Soybeans

Squash

Sunflowers

Like any great edible landscape design, make sure that you’re also taking your hardiness zone and the growing conditions into consideration when planning what to plant where beneath your black walnut trees.

Oh, and don’t forget to harvest your black walnuts in fall. They’re part of your edible and medicinal landscape, too!

I’d love to hear from you! What edible and/or medicinal plants have you successfully grown under your black walnut trees? What plants weren’t successful?



Resources for this blog post:

https://extension.psu.edu/landscaping-and-gardening-around-walnuts-and-other-juglone-producing-plants

https://pfaf.org

http://www.mortonarb.org/trees-plants/tree-and-plant-advice/horticulture-care/plants-tolerant-black-walnut-toxicity

https://www.groworganic.com/organic-gardening/articles/companion-plants-that-tolerate-black-walnut-tree-toxicity

https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/growing_vegetable_gardens_near_black_walnut_trees

https://www.oregonlive.com/hg/index.ssf/2010/08/vern_nelson_declare_walnut_war.html