Thursday, February 16, 2017

My Mini Makeshift Edible Garden

In our old apartment, the first one we had when we got married, we had a yard, and much of the time we didn't make too much use of it (to get to the yard you had to walk through one of the bedrooms). Eventually we got chickens and rabbits and that was fun, but no gardening- the yard was just filled with weeds that, at that time, and I didn't know those weeds were edible, predominantly. 

We had considered a vegetable garden and fruit trees for a while, but since we never knew how long we'd actually be staying at that place, we didn't want to invest the time and money on something if we would possibly just leave it behind. After a few years of a dirt and weed filled yard, we eventually made a vegetable garden where we grew tomatoes and swiss chard, and attempted a passionfruit vine and luffa vine (but those died) but wouldn't you know- that's when we ended up moving, after a few months of our veggie garden, and into an apartment with no yard, no dirt, etc... where we were for the next five years.

In our years in our teeny tiny apartment, I tried to see what gardening I could do, tried window boxes many times, but it's really not the same, because many things can't grow in window boxes because there isn't enough room, and because we barely had room for window boxes as is. We grew kale for a point, and mint, and purslane and aloe vera, tried tomatoes and zucchini and herbs and potatoes and sweet potatoes, but they all flopped for one reason or another. I wanted to garden, but knew that trying to get a green thumb working with window boxes only wasn't helping my cause.

One thing I looked forward to the most with our brand new home that we bought was the yard; I have such plans on my own veggie garden, square foot gardening in the front, a wild edibles yard in the back, and maybe a fruit tree or two. But since we moved here mid-November, we have had so much to do that a garden wasn't the first priority. Building a square foot garden takes time- from building the wood frames to getting the soil to buying the seeds, etc... We still haven't built a bookshelf for the kids' bedroom, so if we build anything right now, it's that. The square foot garden will have to wait.

However, despite that, I did manage to do something to appeal to my "growing my own food" desire. Bit by bit I've been growing food in our yard, so right now we have a mini makeshift edible garden.

I transplanted one of my aloe vera plants from a window box into the dirt next to my house. To be honest, I don't even remember why I did that- I have a feeling there was some issue I needed to fix, but I did that already a few months ago, and my memory is eluding me now.

Next to the aloe, I had some garlic that had started to sprout. I decided to stick the sprouts into the ground and see what happens. I've got some lovely garlic greens that I am trimming for use periodically in salad. Perhaps over time the garlic clove will grow into something bigger, perhaps into a whole head of garlic. We shall see. But for now I'm enjoying my steady supply of garlic greens,

I had a few small onions that started to sprout as well, so put them in the ground and they also are growing greens. I have no idea what will happen with them- maybe they'll make bigger bulbs? Who knows. But again, for now I'm just enjoying the scallion like greens,

I personally love dock, the wild plant that has large smooth leaves and a nice lemony flavor, and forage it whenever I get the chance. Unfortunately it doesn't grow in my regular foraging spots- not either in my town, or in the place I typically forage in the nearby city, so when I saw a beautiful plant on a recent trip, I dug it up and transplanted it into my garden. It hasn't died yet, but I'm not sure if it will actually grow nicely or at all, since I got this particular plant from a very wet area (a few hundred feet from a lake) so it might not like my garden. Or it just might not survive the transplanting.

Next to it I have another plant that I tried transplanting- wild swiss chard. Already a week and a half has passed, and I'm not sure if it is dead or not. Nothing has shriveled or dried up, but it has been very wet and cold lately, so that might delay it showing me that it's dead, since its almost like a refrigerator outside at the moment. But as long as I'm still seeing green on the leaves, I'm going to be hopeful that this will survive. Wild chard (I'll be posting a blog post on foraging that, shortly) tastes just like regular swiss chard, but since it's a wild plant that doesn't just grow in wet areas, it is built to survive in harsher conditions- if I don't water it daily, for example, it will still survive, since in the wild it only really gets watered when it rains. If this plant survives, that will be awesome.

Here's another view of our dock,

All this is in our front yard, where I want our official vegetable garden to be. I had said that I'd pull put any weed that pops up, especially thorny plants, but for now, the weeds that have popped up in the front have been milk thistle. I had definitely planned on removing these because of their thorns, but my son, Lee, especially likes the taste of milk thistle, so he asked me to let it continue growing. If I find the thorns get too annoying I'll remove it, but since the alternative is just having plain dirt there, for now it remains (until we make the official veggie garden).

In my front yard we still have the window boxes, where these two aloe plants seem to be growing beautifully, even more beautifully than the one I transplanted into the dirt.

In another window box I have this lonesome chickweed plant growing. I love chickweed and I have this dream of having mats of chickweed spread all over my backyard- it is a great ground cover and is tasty and no thorns, etc... but I tried transplanting two of the chickweed plants from this window box into my yard and they died, so I'm not sure what to do about this one- if perhaps there is a different way to transplant it so it is more likely to survive.

In the same window box I have this little plant, which I confirmed is red russian kale. I had been growing that in this window box last year but then they all died. I guess this one grew from that, When it gets bigger, I may transplant it carefully, and then hopefully let it go to seed so I can regrow from this same stock, especially since it seems to be a hardier one, since it grew only from the rain- I never watered this.

In my backyard, I've been watching carefully to see what pops up. I tried seeding it with some wild edible plants' seeds, and I'm going to do so some more, but I have no idea which of those seeds will actually grow. In the meantime, I have two lambsquarters plants that grew on their own.

I will be encouraging this lambsquarters to grow, since it is a yummy and versatile plant without thorns.

There is a volunteer wild mustard plant growing in my yard, but this is a variety I am less fond of, as is a little fuzzy (so less palatable raw) and becomes more bitter once cooked. I'm not sure if I will leave this one here or not- if I grow mustard, I think I'd rather it be a different variety than this one. But for now it is here.

Here's another sad looking wild chard transplant. This one was more of an afterthought than the one in the front- after I took off the leaves I saw I had a nice taproot remaining, so tried planting it here. I think this one is dying or dead already, who knows... But hey, it may surprise me.

Last but not least, I have these two tiny little mallow plants.

While tiny now- each leaf less than 1/4 inch wide, I know these can grow into giant mallow plants, so I'm just going to watch them grow.

We have a giant compost pile in our yard as well. that is taking a long time to decompose, probably because of the current weather, but once it does, we'll be using that for our square foot garden.

Are you growing any edible plants, either in window boxes, or a vegetable garden? If you generally do, but not right now because of the winter, when is your typical planting/growing season where you live? 


  1. We compost in huge thick bags that I bought on eBay. It takes 18 months - 2 years to get really good, worthwhile compost.
    Then we dig it in & I call it my magic garden. Things sprout from it - mainly tomatoes, peppers, various kinds of squash - & even water melons.

  2. We put all our fruit and veggie scraps in a shallow hole in our garden, cover with dirt and then plant directly into it. By far it is the best growing area in our garden!
    Every time I transplant chard it seems to look droopy for weeks before it finally perks up, so there is still hope.

  3. I wish I could send you some of our chickweed "mat". It grows all over here, and we have five acres so there is plenty of it.

    Normally I do a garden (square foot/raised bed/layer compost style) in the spring and summer. It varies from year to year what I plant. Most of the time I try to focus on growing the more expensive vegetables and fruits- things like raspberries or bell peppers. Last year I did a lot of tomatoes, but this year I am dropping the tomatoes to focus on carrots, onions and potatoes.

  4. Check out straw bale gardening, it looks like a great means of growing things and getting good compost at the same time.

  5. I've given up growing veggies, not enough sun. I do have a hot tub compost I've worked on for 3 years. It keeps sinking down. I'm going to use the compost in my front yard for more flowers and shrubs.


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