When my parents retired and moved to New Hampshire back in 1970, my Mom became an avid, if education-averse, gardener, all of the short summer, trying, mostly in vain, to grow vegetables in terrible, rocky NH soil.
My Dad, on the other hand, spent most of the summer at the extended family’s fishing cottage, about 30 miles away. On trips to the tiny town dump, he discovered that the area he was instructed to dump his buckets of catfish guts was the same place that the town’s 2 diners had to drop off their raw kitchen waste. The large mound of “unintentional compost” was literally overgrown with tomato, potato, pepper, zucchini and onion plants, free for the picking.
Most of the time, he made himself some very good, free veggie side dishes during the week, and never mentioned it, just to keep the peace :)
Fill Empty and Unused Space with Food
If you are at all into gardening, you have probably heard something about the “Guerilla Gardening” movement. It is primarily an urban/suburban phenomenon, where folks transform ugly, abandoned patches of ground into vegetable or wildflower mini-gardens, using only some terra cotta clay from a hobby store, an old cheese grater, some dried compost or earthworm castings, or other organic fertilizer.
Generally, they use a little water and some native wildflower seeds to make “seedballs/seedbombs/seed grenades”, and pitching them over fences and such into unused pieces of land, based on the pioneering agricultural work of the Japanese farmer/philosopher, Masanobu Fukuoka.
The grenades start to fall apart after the first rainstorm, and “plant themselves”.
There are better descriptions of building your own seedballs than I could write at Seedball.
Why stop with wildflowers? Consider some open-pollinated vegetable and herb seeds in the same usage. Why stop with your own land? Take a walk or a drive around “the neighborhood” and find some non-obvious open spots, to plant yourself some self-seeding backup crops? Toss some “grenades” and make yourself a map, in case you want or need to go harvest your backup crop. It’s a heck of a lot of fun to go back and look at your handiwork, as well :)
This could be especially-valuable if you are stuck in a suburban area. A well-tended ‘monoculture row’ backyard garden might become a target for raiding by hungry neighbors, but some ‘random’ plants in an undeveloped area are not likely to attract much attention. Not that I have a low opinion of most people’s knowledge, but your average urban/suburban individual wouldn’t know a radish or bell pepper plant from poison oak, and probably wouldn’t even think to look, because it wasn’t on something close to a grocery store shelf.
How To Make Organic Seed Bombs of Herbs and Vegetables
I’m by no means an expert, but I suggest a mix of some of the following seeds:
- Perennial White Clover (tossed with the appropriate bacterial inoculant) Will make your plot look more “untended” and will fix nitrogen from the air into the soil for years – plant your own fertilizer.
- Radishes – the first vegetable that comes up in the Spring, and if you let it go to seed, it generates an unbelievable bulk of green compostable material.
- A few different leaf lettuces – tasty, nutritious, and since it’s not a head of iceberg, easily ignored by other hungry humans– could be some random weed.
- Onions – you can eat the sprouts, let them go to seed and bulb, and they will overwinter well. Chives are not a bad idea, either.
- Your favorite herbs – basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, etc. – the thyme and oregano will spread and maybe become “invasive” – if you’re eating it, not really a problem.
- (Some) squash seed – not many, be careful. They’ll shade out other plants, and a 50 lb. Zucchini in September may not be the tastiest thing you ever ate, but it sure beats eating nothing.
- (Very few) tomatoes and bell peppers. Pick “ugly” heirloom varieties. Perfect-looking bright red fruit could attract unwanted attention.
Get open-pollinated, non-hybrid, non-GMO seed. You want “plant once, harvest forever” plants. I recommend Nichols Garden Nursery – http://www.nicholsgardennursery.com – I have no stake in this company, just have been a happy customer for over 30 years. A VERY strict no-GMO policy, and all hybrids are clearly marked.
For more information about Fukuoka-san, and his farming methods, start here.
I know that his book “The One Straw Revolution” had a great effect on my views on the natural/spiritual aspects of growing my own food, even if no longer that applicable to growing my own in a suburban townhouse.