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  • Writer's pictureJessica Nacovsky

96: Chaos Gardening

Updated: Mar 25

Howdy! I'm trying my hand at gardening. Most green-thumbed folk prioritize their planting based off how well that particular plant does in that amount of sunlight in that PH soil at that climate at that time of year. All valid concerns. Kudos to the folks keeping track. Higher on my list of concerns are, "Is where I'm planting going to annoy my landlord?" and "Will my dogs try and eat this?" Our landlord is a company, not a person, so a simple "yes" or "no" isn't likely. My husband and I discussed where's least obtrusive, and we settled on grassless and dead grass stretches of yard. Those include strips along the front, one side, and the back wall, for gardening. That front strip gets a ton of sun, hence the lawn being fried, while the side gets little and the back get none.

Initially, I planted produce from the kitchen that either had sprouted or was beginning to rot. The way I look at it, if the spoiled produce grows a whole new plant? Great! And if not, then it adds nutrients to the soil as it breaks down, benefiting whatever I plant there next. When the majority of those sprouted, I ordered seeds online, and ran to home depot for more seeds and plants.

From the pantry, I've planted honeydew melon seeds, cucumber seeds, as well as whole potatoes, green onion, garlic, white onion, cherry tomatoes, beans, blue berries, raspberries, and strawberries. I also smashed the pumpkin and turban squash left over from Halloween, and planted those seeds. Of those, the potatoes are thriving out back, in the shade, the green onions are doing alright on the side in mixed lighting, and the honeydew melon is thriving up front in the bright sunlight. The pumpkin (and maybe the turban squash) is flourishing on the side, in mixed lighting. It has big yellow flowers that spread their petals in the morning and close up at night. The garlic grew immediately, in the shade and in mixed lighting, but upon digging a few up, I found some were infected by a green fungus. I dug them all up and quarantined those infected to another mixed-lighting part of the yard. As for the white onion, cherry tomatoes, beans, blue berries, raspberries, and strawberries, literally none of them grew. The onion sprouted roots but then died. The cucumber seeds went in the back and side more recently and haven't had a chance to grow yet.

I ordered ube seeds from Etsy, and planted them all in a clump out front, in full-sun, assuming some might sprout, but most wouldn't. This is Texas and they're meant to grow in the rainy tropics. Oddly, all sprouted, but then we got heavy rains and now there are both less of them visible above the soil, and those sprouts appear smaller than they were. From Home Depot, I picked up white onion, carrot, and spaghetti squash seeds, as well as jalapeno, rosemary, oregano, thyme, and basil plants. The jalapeno, oregano, and thyme are out front in full sun, while the rest were planted on the side, in mixed lighting. Everything but the white onion is visibly alive, though the basil was looking yellow and frail after the last big bout of rain. The carrots haven't had a chance to grow yet, but they've been sprinkled everywhere.

there is a single jalapeno pepper on my pepper plant
Look at the little jalapeno!

I dug the basil up and found that the roots hadn't expanded beyond their initial clump, perhaps due to the density of clay surrounding them. gathering less-clumpy dirt from around the yard, and I replanted it less tightly. While there are less leaves than I'd like, they're now green as opposed to yellow.

The landlord has landscapers stop by on occasion, to mow the lawn. Thus far, they've respected the gardens, but also, curiously, buzzed around a quarter of the yard that I had not marked off as protected. The first time, I assumed the behavior was in response to me not having picked up after the dogs that morning. I literally never know when the landscapers are coming, since they follow no obvious schedule and don't so much as knock to announce their presence, before letting themselves out back, or I would have. The second time they ignored that overgrown corner though, I went out back and examined the weeds flourishing there. It turns out the yard has a section of Common Canadian Meadow Garlic. I did smell the bulbs to be sure they weren't Death Camas. Google said to pop off the little garlic pods up top so the plant wastes no energy flowering, instead investing in the onion bulbs at the base. I followed those instructions.

The flowers are small, white, with green centers, and they sprout from a bunch of tiny garlic pods
Common Canadian Meadow Garlic flowers

long light green stemmed plan with small beige bulb at base and tiny white flowers emerging from the garlic bundle up top
Common Canadian Meadow Garlic

The next time the landscapers came, they gave the wild onions/garlic a buzzcut. Taking that as my cue to harvest the lot, I dug up as many as I could spot, given none retained their tell-tale flowers. While I was at it, I collected the garlic bulbs from the ground and planted those along the back of the proper garden. After rinsing the plants, I separated the bulbs from the stalks. While the leaves are edible, and supposedly taste like chives, I dumped those in the modest compost pile in the corner of the yard. The leaves weren't exactly in pristine condition. Originally, I cut away the stem and root tendrils with scissors, but eventually figured out that popping the onion away from the stem, also served to pull the dirty outer skin away. That meant going through all those I'd snipped off, and popping the outer skin off. I continued rinsing them as I went. When I was done, I dried them, tossed them in a ziplock, and put them in the fridge. Since then, I've been adding them to soups. The flavor is very mild.

a bunch of garlic are in the strainer, roots and all
Common Canadian Garlic being strained

The lid of a mason jar is overflowing with tiny shiny onions
They look like tiny pearl onions! So shiny!

When I originally discussed composting with my husband, he shared concerns about attracting bugs, so instead, I got into the habit of shredding potential plant food directly over the garden. Whenever we peel a fruit/vegetable, I cut the skin up, blend it with water, and sprinkle it over garden dirt. I've also taken to pouring used coffee grounds and crushed eggshell in those areas. A downside is that this is attracting fire ants to the garden.

The current compost pile is the result of me being too lazy to properly shred some produce. It consists of a single chopped onion, two potato stalks (that yellowed and fell over), plus now a ton of Common Canadian meadow Garlic stalks too, and clay.

I don't expect to grow enough food where I stop buying produce from grocery stores, but in an emergency, I'd like the option of leaning on the harvest. The UK is currently dealing with produce shortages, and when the Covid-19 pandemic was at its peak, there were food distribution issues. Better safe than sorry. Besides, I have a front and back yard! Got to use those for something, right?

Partially to protect the garden, I'm waging a war against ants in the yard, boiling their hills, since the dogs might eat anything I poison them with. I've also removed branches snakes could hide under. Snakes are cool and all, but there are venomous snakes in the area.

I'm thinking about picking up a book of food preservation. Depending on how the harvest goes, that knowledge might come in handy. As it is, I need to read up more of when to harvest each crop.

Thanks for stopping by! I drop a new blog post every Monday! Toodles!

Update: You probably noticed a distinct lack of flowers for attracting pollinators! My bad. There are flowers on the honeydew melon, pumpkin, and jalapeno plants, but they're rare elsewhere so far. I'm going to start using a paint brush to bring pollen from the male flowers, to the female flowers, first thing in the mornings when they're open wide. Hopefully that works! I also plan to plant more flowers ~eventually.~

Update 06/12/23: The pumpkin plant was swallowing the healthy garlic, so I moved the garlic over. The beans are flourishing all over, as are the popcorn and radishes. The potatoes are doing well in their bag now. One of the rosemaries is basically dead, so I've moved in away from direct sunlight in the hopes that it will recover. I expanded the garden to go along the entire back wall now. Every time I trim back the pumpkins, I plant the removed lengths there in the hopes that they'll sprout roots. Some have. Now that we own a hose, I water the garden more effectively every morning. The ground is moist and shady in the pumpkin patch, so aside from the toad and snakes, there are a billion mosquitos thriving there. I planted a ton of marigold, thyme, oregano, mint (yes! The dreaded mint. I'll use it is it grows.), and lavender seeds, in the hope that they'll grow an keep the mosquitos away. No luck so far. Also threw a bunch more garlic cloves under the potatoes, and planted a bunch around the garden. Supposedly they help keep mosquitos away. There are wildflowers planted along the edge of the yard but none have grown. It's probably too hot in the Texas summer. I've got some new pepper plants growing from seeds out back and tomato plants from seeds out front. I've also planted cherry pits and watermelon seeds along the back and maybe they'll grow. What girl flowers were on my pumpkin plant, died, after being blown full of debris by the landscapers. There were only ever three and hopefully I can expect more in the future. I've been using soil from under my compost bricks to cover the garden, as well as ash, coffee, eggshells, bits of used paper towels, broken browned leaves/branches, etc. So far, I have harvested a single jalapeno. There is another ready for plucking, and a bunch more growing now that I removed the first one. The sweet pepper plant is also trying to grow peppers. Oh, and I've been gathering purslane from around the neighborhood, since it's edible, and adding it to the garden. And I'm propagating some purple heart, in a jar of water, after finding it in a wood pile, waiting for bulk pick up. If it sprouts roots, I'll plant that too. I plant all of the seeds in my kitchen scraps, and composts everything else. I've ben noticing caterpillars and slugs in the garden, and have taken to moving them elsewhere.

Update 07/12/23: Planted the purple heart a few weeks ago. Then, a week back, I received a free onion plant and so planted that as well. More white onions spoiled in the cabinet so I propagated the centers of those that sprouted and have planted them. While my pumpkin, spaghetti squash and honey dew melon plants are drying up, my jalapeno pepper, red pepper, tomato, eggplant, (pop)corn, onion, bean, carrot, oregano, thyme, ginger, purple heart spiderwort, and citronella plants are doing well. Radishes are doing okay. Basically, the morning sun plants are thriving and the afternoon sun plants are having a rough time. Checking the soil in the seeming dead patches, the ground is layered with root systems so they may make a come back come fall. And while my potato stalks died earlier this summer, they left me tubers so I've been able to start over with those, which is nice. There is one surviving rosemary plant nestled between corn stalks. My basil is either dead or very well concealed. Husband's basil is thriving in it's pot, as are his potted green onions, and amaranth. There are more herb seeds arriving soon. I've been sprinkling red pepper, marigold, lemon, apple, nutmeg, cilantro, and oregano seeds around the garden. Of those, a single marigold plant has sprouted. There were watermelon sprouts but either the heat or the ants got to them. The purslanes are doing well.

Update 10/16/23: Summer killed all but the eggplants, cherry tomatoes, one pepper plant, oregano, an onion, purslane, a mystery melon plant, and a little basil sprout. There is one surviving corn stalk. The rest dried up and died during the drought. My husbands potted green onion, basil, and amaranth are doing have been fine throughout. He brings them in occasionally to protect them from the elements. Recently, we got enough rain and the weather cooled such that some of those many seeds I planted throughout the summer, appear to have spouted. The whole back yard is green with tiny sprouts poking up. At a guess, I've noticed marigolds, melons, peppers, and basil. However, many are unidentifiable at this scale, to me. Here's hoping they don't mind a little winter! Because it's supposed to be a doozy this year.

Update 01/25/24: The cold killed everything. I was able to harvest a radish and a large onion but I didn't eat the radish quickly enough so I ended up composting it and the onion didn't smell which made me nervous so I composted that too.

Update 03/25/24: I'm still working deduce which plants have sprouted, in some cases, but of those I recognize, there are radishes, pumpkin, arugula (I think), lots of wild onion, potatoes, thyme, parsley, cilantro, and cornflower coming up. I plan to harvest the onions and the radish this week. The wild onion has fun pearl-sized onion bulbs at the base and garlic pods up top. I'm going to plant half the garlic, since there is so much, and pickle the other half, along with all the onion bulbs, and the radish/es. My biggest parsley is flowering. I may take the opportunity to cut some and include it in the pickling. I'm going to have my husband double check that the arugula tastes right and if I've identified it correctly, I'll also pull that soon, in order to make some sort of arugula kimchi. I've found that the easiest ways for me to eat vegetables involve cutting them up and flavoring them, plus pickled, they don't expire so quickly.

Pulling up root vegetables will disturb the soil and leave big empty patches, so I've ordered Jerusalem artichoke bulbs to fill in some of those gaps, while the digging is easy. They won't arrive until early April though.

I intend to harvest as much as I can before mid-June. Here's hoping the potatoes have flowered by then! I'm also going to move the lofted tent that I sell art under, so it provides some shade to the garden, once that becomes necessary. I'm also always composting. My garden is lined with bricks, under which I have dug pits, where I still bury expired produce, coffee grounds, egg shells, etc. Occasionally I lift the bricks, break up the compost if necessary, or spread it around the garden if it's broken down enough. The worms are very well fed here. And, as it gets warmer, I look forward to seeing frogs and snakes hiding down there, where water collects after I water the plants.

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