Come and See What’s Growing in the Food Forest!

The Sun is Coming Out: Ne’ata’q, The Food Forest at Bluenose Academy

(Illustration: Jessie McLaughlin)

It has been a tough year for Nova Scotia – and a tough growing season for farmers and gardeners. 

During a very dry spring, potato farmers irrigated their crops months earlier than usual.

Through a historically rainy summer, strawberry farmers lost entire fields to mold. Grape growers are still recovering from the deep freeze last February, as well as coping with drought followed by flood.

How is Ne’ata’q, The Food Forest at Bluenose Academy, holding up? Fairly well.

In the final weeks before summer break, we held workshops for Bluenose Academy students in grades 1-6. Students learned to plant “guilds” of companion plants around the fruit trees. Teresa Quilty, who led the workshops, described plant guilds as “friend groups”—a metaphor all the students seemed to understand immediately.

The plant guilds in the food forest include strawberries, lavender, blueberry, chives, oregano, nasturium, currant, day lily, comfrey and more!

Every plant in a guild, just like every friend in a group, has different likes and dislikes, strengths and challenges. They support each other through tough times. Or as the students in the workshops said, “Friends are kind to each other.”

And that, in a nutshell, is the thinking behind polyculture. Weather conditions that cause one plant to struggle may allow another to thrive. In the heat of midsummer, ground-cover plants keep the soil cool for surrounding plants. In heavy rains, deep-rooted plants hold the soil in place for shallow-rooted plants. There are many ways plant-friends help each other.

Of course, food forests are a very old way of growing food. But recent research has shown that farms with a diversity of crops are more resilient through extreme weather and also provide better habitat for birds and other beings. In other words, there’s always something to eat even when some plants struggle.

The apple trees in our food forest have not produced fruit this year. But the pear trees have many tiny pears that will ripen in the coming months. The currant bushes are a bit stressed but the blueberry bushes are laden with berries. The day lilies (whose early shoots are edible) have blossomed into beautiful yellow, orange and purple flowers. The oregano has flowered and the walking onions are almost ready to take their first step. 

See for yourself! The food forest is open to everyone. It’s located behind Bluenose Academy on Tannery Road. Come and wander the paths, find out what’s growing, and help yourself if you find something delicious!

Learn more about the Food Forest at Bluenose Academy at


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