Wetherby Edible Forest

The Wetherby Edible Forest inspires our community to gather and grow healthy food in ways that rehabilitates our local ecosystems while increasing equal access to food.

Join us to improve public health by regenerating our public land into an edible forest ecosystem. We work to reduce agricultural climate impact, improve our local food security, provide educational opportunities, and celebrate growing food for the benefit of all species.

All food is free for harvesting and eating. No synthetic pesticides or herbicides have been applied.

Thank you to Iowa City Parks and Recreation for partnering with Backyard Abundance to implement this progressive project.

Creating an Edible Forest

Wetherby Edible Forest AerialThe edible forest demonstrates an orchard ecosystem of interconnected plants that benefit people and our environment. Tasty fruits and nuts, medicinal herbs, and beautiful flowers are planted throughout. Educational signs will help people understand what and when to harvest. The site measures 1/3 of an acre and is designed to accommodate large harvests, fun gatherings and frequent meandering.

View the design and plant list (pdf)

2017 Establishment Goals

  • Establish a monarch butterfly garden.
  • Establish a water infiltration swale.
  • Post educational signs.
  • Design and establish a pergola for gathering and classes.
  • Set concrete stepping stones throughout the area.

Visit Facebook to view implementation pictures

What is an Edible Forest?

Wetherby Park PlantingAn edible forest is a gardening technique that emulates a healthy woodland ecosystem. The system combines edibles with native habitat rehabilitation, yielding food, medicine and materials while supporting desired birds and insects, conserving rainwater, reducing erosion, building soil and cleaning air. Fruit and nut trees form upper canopy levels, while berry shrubs and edible herbs make up lower levels. Most plants are perennials that come back every year with little maintenance.

Food in the Wetherby Food Forest:

  • Trees: apple, pear, plum, cherry, mulberry
  • Shrubs: hazelnut, serviceberry, aronia berry, beach plum, gooseberry, currant, honeyberry
  • Herbs: strawberry, oregano, thyme, lemon balm, chives, sorrel, lovage

Public Benefit

Apple pickingThe goal of the Wetherby Park Edible Forest is to bring the richly diverse community together by fostering an ecological-based approach to urban farming and land stewardship. By building a community around sharing food with the public we hope to be inclusive to all in need of food.

Together we can...

  • Decrease grocery bills: Baskets of delicious fresh food will be available for grazing and storing.
  • Increase health: Research shows that children (and adults) who grow fruits and vegetables are much more likely to eat them.
  • Increase self-reliance: Learning to grow food and increase environmental health reduces dependence upon distant people and organizations.
  • Increase habitat: Desired feathered and buzzing friends keep undesired pests in check.
  • Mitigate climate change: Unlike annual crops, perennial plants sequester large amounts of carbon which helps meet community sustainability goals.
  • Join the movement: Many progressive communities are establishing public food forests.

Blue Zones Project

The Wetherby Edible Forest is helping Iowa City become a Blue Zones Community.

The project has been identified as a key activity in Iowa City's pursuit of community certification and demonstrates the commitment of our community to make healthy, sustainable changes in our nutrition and environment.

Learn more about the Blue Zones Project


Wetherby Food ForestThe Edible Forest Maze, a project of Iowa City Parks and Recreation, was built in 2011 by City staff, an AmeriCorps team, and volunteers from Backyard Abundance and neighborhood residents. The edible landscape was designed by Backyard Abundance as a fun way to help educate families on how to garden and raise their own food, and then enjoy the results. Many children do not eat enough fruits and vegetables. Research shows that children are much more likely to eat food that they have planted or harvested.

A "Grow Your Park" grant funded the project. It was made possible by a gift from the J.R. Albert Foundation through the National Recreation and Parks Association.

See establishment pictures of the Edible Forest Maze


Thank you to our sponsors and supporters.

Iowa City Parks and RecreationIowa Department of Agriculture  Chelsea GreenGrimm Family FarmRed Fern FarmIowa Valley RC&DUniversity of IowaLeopold CenterNational Agroforestry CenterVersalandNew PioneerEchollectiveIowa City LandscapingJohnson County Soil and Water ConservationPrairie Moon Nursery

Upcoming Events

2400 Taylor Drive, Iowa City

Design and Plants
View the design and plant list

Learn about the Plants
Information about most of the plants can be found on the PlantsMap website.
View plant information

The Wetherby Edible Forest is not just a project for the community, it is a project of the community. Please donate your time and spread the word about this local treasure. Sign up for event emails or contact us to get involved.

Harvest Schedule
More plants will be harvestable as the edible landscape matures.

Herbs available throughout the growing season:

  • French sorrel
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Chives
  • Yarrow
  • Anise hyssop
  • Lovage
  • Dandelion
  • Plantain
  • Walking onion

End of March through early April

  • Honeyberry

June through August

  • Rhubarb

Mid-June and end of June

  • Cherry (tree), juneberry/serviceberry

Early July

  • Gooseberry, currant, Roman chamomile, self-heal

End of July and early August

  • Peach, bush cherry, elderberry, aronia berry


  • Apple, pear, beach plum

Learn more about the forest from friends in the media.