My Jungle of a Garden

I started writing this post a while ago, while everything was lush and green. Now its the drier season and my garden is mostly brown and dead, but I still wanted to share this with you, so I hope you don't mind that it is a bit out of season. Those who live in cooler climates or where it rains year round will probably find these things growing now, so it's not so bad.

I grew up with a nice sized yard. In addition to having lots of space to play ball games on our spacious lawn and having trees to climb, we also grew so many different fruits and vegetables, from asparagus, snow peas, tomatoes, and chives to apricots and wineberries and raspberries and blueberries, strawberries, gooseberries, cherries, you name it! Most of my fond childhood memories took place in our garden.

When we first were married we lived in an apartment with a yard. We rented it on a year to year basis, and since we never knew when we'd be leaving the apartment, we didn't want to invest in the backyard. And so it was just a jumble of weeds. We had chickens and built a coop in the yard, and finally in our fourth year there, we decided to try to grow some plants, and then right after that, things tanked quickly with our landlord and we ended up moving, leaving our brand new garden, and for the next five years, we lived in a teeny tiny apartment with no yard, and no porch even.

In those years, I dreamed of gardening. I wrote plans here on my blog about my dreams of a future garden. I attempted to do whatever types of container gardening I could.

And I failed pretty abysmally.

When we were lucky enough to buy this house, with not just one yard, but two, both a front and a back yard, I was ecstatic for so many reasons. But one of the biggest is having a yard. I'd missed it so much in those years cooped up in that tiny apartment. I was convinced that once I had a yard, I'd be able to fulfill all dreams of recreating my childhood's garden.

What I hadn't counted on was my black thumb.

I really have killed so many plants.

I tried square foot gardening.  I tried growing tomatoes and lettuce and radishes and carrots and chives and zucchini. And each of them died.

My garden must hate me.

But you know what?

It's not all a failure.

As a forager, I also tried seeding my garden with a variety of  different edible wild plants.

Additionally, we bought a few seedlings and transplanted them into my yard.

So now I have a yard filled with edible plans. It looks like a jungle out there, because the recent rains have made everything grow in hyper speed. I just need to take one step out of my door and be confronted by this large mass of green. And it's all edible!

Right now in my garden, I have growing:

  • mint

  • oregano
  • thyme
  • basil
  • parsley

  • aloe vera
  • garlic
  • lemongrass
  • sage
  • lemon verbena

And then there's everything else. All the delicious wild edibles.

Sea beet, aka beta vulgaris maritima, aka wild swiss chard.

This is the plant that I use the most, because it is so versatile, tastes yummy, is good both raw and cooked, has large leaves so makes picking it easy, and did I mention that since its a wild plant, I can't kill it, nor do I want to?

Then I have my entire garden carpeted with mats of chickweed, another delicious and medicinal wild edible.

Between the chickweed I have mounds of mallow plants, something that used to be one of my favorite wild edibles, until I discovered wild swiss chard.

I have a few nettle plants there, that I'm largely ignoring. I had planned on removing anything like nettles or milk thistle from my garden to make it easier to walk in without getting pricked or stung, but they're enough on the edge that I'm not worried about that, so I'm leaving them there for when I want to pick them to make tea. (Which I probably should do already, as they help fight infections, and I've been fighting off some kind of throat bug for far too long, that came back after a round of antibiotics.)

I have wood sorrel, two different varieties, the smaller flatter kind that we had growing up in Cleveland, that I picked and called sour grass, and this larger variety with beautiful large yellow flowers.

I have large sow thistle plants that taste great in salad when younger, and when older become more bitter, but can still be used as a spinach replacement as long as you blanche them and squeeze out the bitterness first.

Most of these plants won't last past the rainy season, but there are some plants that will.

Lambsquarters, while growing nicely now, will continue to grow and still be green in the summer.

I've got some amaranth as well, another green that lasts well into the summer.

 And we've got some of our delicious black nightshade. Whose fruit my kids love to nibble.


So no, as an adult, with my own home, my garden is nothing like that of which I dreamed. I can't see myself with wheelbarrows full of extra zucchini to offer to the neighbors, and I won't be bringing in lots of fruit harvests... But what I can do is use the skills I have to make my garden one that will feed my family.

And so it has.


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I wanted to give an update about the current state of my garden, because, quite frankly, it doesn't look like that luscious green jungle anymore. The few things that are green right now are the lemon grass, lemon verbena, some sow thistle, and lots of lambsquarters and amaranth. The sea beet and mallow have gone to seed and that makes me happy, because that means that next year they will be growing all over.

Right now, my garden looks like a big mess, to be honest. The wood that was all over the yard, left over from Michael's projects, has been taken by some intrepid kids who wanted to build things. But the dried up plants that went to seed now are quite tall and I plan on borrowing a garden rake and sweeping it up one day... as soon as I have time.

I'm looking forward to when it rains again, until my garden is a lush green jungle again.

Do you have a garden? What do you grow there? Any tips for someone like myself who only manages to grow wild plants, but kills nearly every plant that she tries to grow?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. We took out a large tree in our yard a couple of years ago and now have a large garden space for growing vegetables. It has been fun reliving my childhood memories of helping in my granparents' 1/3 acre vegetable garden. This year I have 3 kinds of tomatoes (8 plants total), 6 cauliflower plants, 2 little rows of radishes (so far!), 2 kinds of peppers, I think 4 kinds of squash including zucchini and bitter melon (a first!), a little row of chard that comes back every year, a few leeks, oh, and some peas (that I think I planted too late and they won't tolerate the heat we are having).... I also have asparagus, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, chives, tons of oregano, some basil that is getting eaten by bugs, thyme, lavender, grapes, rosemary.... I'm most excited about the vegetable space this year because it is the largest veggie garden I have ever had, but I love the asparagus too since it comes back every year. Enjoy your wild edibles! I envy your knowledge of them. As for tips from me, I would say edge your garden space so that it has more of a defined space. That is one thing I want to work on more here now that the veggies are all planted. :) Happy gardening!!

  2. Might be your soil ph. Here's a link to help you check it that is DIY with basic household items. I tried to get a garden growing when I moved into my new house but between the mosquito and lack of sun, it didn't happen.

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