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Stealth Veggies  RSS feed

 
D. Logan
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Location: Soutwest Ohio
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A recent posting by Jennifer Wadsworth got me thinking about some of the things I have done over the years that would have lent themselves to stealth permaculture. I would like to have a thread focused on the stealth permaculture people have come up with over the years, so that is what this is going to be.

Some years ago, I was living in a location where my only option for growing was a modest balcony. The space was limited, so I was using a few hanging baskets to improve my space options. One of the things I had growing was cucumbers, thinking to hide the nature by the sight of more flashy things like hanging strawberries. When the landlord came by for an inspection, the first thing he noticed was the cucumbers hanging halfway down to the first floor and displaying their wide leaves to the world. Apparently to someone unfamiliar with how plants look before the vegetable is picked off of them and trussed to the supermarket, it looked like an exotic hanging vine. He complimented us on how beautiful the trailing vines looked from a distance and how nice they remained up close.

I think it says a lot about how just changing a long vine from a ground cover into a trailing basket can completely alter the perception of what it is. Another time I was living in a place where you weren't allowed to have a food garden, but were allowed to have a small flower bed in front of your trailer. I had to sneak around this rule by planting decorative versions of plants. Colorful kale, swiss chard borders, dragon tongue beans and a number of other exotic looking versions of common plants all got nestled into every nook of that small flower bed. No one ever said a word about the food being produced and several complimented us on such unusual flowers and plants. Again, it is a matter of most people being unfamiliar with what their food's origin even looks like.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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D. Logan, I think you are "right on the money" both with your observations and your stealthy ways of getting around the "rules"! Kudos and hats off to you!

Here in Phoenix, many subdivisions have Home Owner's Associations. Sometimes these are great, other times they are a "farce" to be reckoned with. Many HOAs state that you cannot grow edibles in your front yard. This cracks me up because so many plants are "edible" but we never see them as such. For instance, almost everyone has a mesquite tree in their front yard. Whole cookbooks are dedicated to baking with mesquite flour. Sweet potatoes do well here and their decorative foliage occurs as a lush groundcover in the desert (never mind that you can harvest the tubers!). Prickly pears are also common in front yards - pads and fruit are edible (and delish - best margarita I've ever had was prickly pear margarita!) Most Mediterranean culinary herbs do very well here and most people would think that okra was some kind of hibiscus bush (which, technically it is). Passion vine is a show-stopper as a plant and the fruits are delish but you don't find them in stores.

Another sneaky thing I've done is grow things like melons in amongst shrubs and just tuck the melons behind the shrubs as they mature. Passers-by see only the vine and assume it's a groundcover.

Gotta love stealth permaculture.
 
Jen Shrock
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Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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I think that, even if you don't have to be stealthy, it is a lot of fun to plant different versions of the typical edibles to, not only entertain my own insatiable curiosity and love of variety, but to have a pleasant surprise to introduce others to. Sometimes the wierd gives you an opportunity to start a conversation. I know, your goal in this thread is to hide things, but some edibles are downright beautiful and deserve to be put on display front and center.
 
John Elliott
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What's more stealthy than beautiful flowers?



Yes, daylilies are edible and this pic is courtesy of the page "how-to-grow-daylilies-on-your-balcony". They aren't the only edible flowers, nasturtiums, dahlias, canna lilies, and...oh if you want to find more edible flowers, just do what I did and spend some time on eattheweeds.com.

People have gotten so dumb about where their food comes from, that if it's not in a plastic tray with shrink wrap all around it, it's not produce. Any time that I am foraging in a public place, I get strange (usually disapproving) reactions from people. One of the few things left that people can recognize is a tomato plant. Only because stores sell tomatoes on-the-vine and also plants with fruit on them in pots. Usually they can put 2 and 2 together and figure out "oh, these aren't ripe yet, but if I buy it now and they turn red, then I can eat them". Anything that's not common in the produce section, you're probably good to go. Just when you go to harvest it, don't tell the on-lookers it's a "harvest"; tell them you are deadheading it so it will flower some more.

If you grow something that people can't recognize as food, it's not stealth, it's taking advantage of dumbth.
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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My local supermarket recent spread woodchip over a large area of scrubby raised beds, and cleared out a lot of woody growth. It looks lovely and tidy.

Basically right for a "Back To Eden" Veggie plot. I'm planning doing some rough planting of runner bean seeds that will climb up the remaining shrubs, perhaps some globe artichokes (tall, sturdy and pretty, maybe a couple of my walking onion sets)
 
D. Logan
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John Elliott wrote:One of the few things left that people can recognize is a tomato plant. Only because stores sell tomatoes on-the-vine and also plants with fruit on them in pots. Usually they can put 2 and 2 together and figure out "oh, these aren't ripe yet, but if I buy it now and they turn red, then I can eat them".


Actually, I have gotten around this as well before. People just fail to recognize a tomato that isn't like the ones they are familiar with. Colorful ones like Indigo Rose can sometimes pass unnoticed, but the ones that really throw people are currant tomatoes and pear tomatoes. I am shocked at the number of people who can't seem to recognize the fruit as a tomato even though the plant itself should scream tomato. The dead giveaway is always the yellow flowers, but if you plant it further back from a walkway, sidewalk or road then you can often have it ignored as just some minor yellow shrub. Pear tomatoes are very good for bushing out in my experience.
 
D. Logan
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I hate to double-post, but it occurs to me that I failed to mention a few other obvious choices. Plants that are already classified as decorative and houseplants make good choices. Stonecrop and Hosta come to mind. Also, some of the lettuces out there are almost more decorative than the standard yard plants! I have been loving the newly developed sister-strains of Joker and Jester.
 
Su Ba
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Potatoes can be snuck into flower beds, with most neighbors being none the wiser. Plant them 10" apart for a dense green fill between shrubs. Harvest before the plants turn ratty and brown. Just use your fingers to check the size of the tubers and if they are present, harvest at will. Here in Hawaii I harvest at 2 to 2 1/2 months.

There are a number peppers available that are being hawked as ornamentals. Some are sweet and some are hot, but all are edible. They are very pretty in flower beds. And since the stores and nurseries sell them as "flowers", you're home clear with them.

Extra dwarf tomatoes can be nice in an ornamental patio container. A variety called Balcony lends itself well to this. The first time I saw this variety was in a window box in someone's front yard. I had to stop the car, get out and knock at the front door, and ask what type of tomato it was. I was intrigued. The plant is tiny, very compact and bushy, so the tomatoes are pretty well hidden. Just bits of pretty red show through.

Some varieties of sweet potatoes make dense, lovely ground covers. I can't say which ones but I've had a few in the past that were better for greens than tubers. By the way, the growing tips of the vines make a nice pot green.

For trellises in the front yard, besides using something like wisteria you could try scarlet runner beans. Very pretty. For warmer areas you could try chayote. Lots of things vine but the neighbors might recognize the fruits (cucumbers, squashes, etc).

Frilly or colorful leaves look good in flower beds. This opens the door to various kales, mustards, turnips, Chinese cabbages (there are a number of pretty non-heading types), bok choys, and lettuces. I recently visited a new small farm here that is producing a mixed lettuce crop. The person who seeded one row obviously had an artistic heart because the row was a stunning presentation of color and texture. It was amazing how pretty a lettuce bed could be made to look.

A window box or hanging basket can be used for short vined peas. Keeping the soil cool and moist will require attention though. You'll probably harvest most of the peas before anyone notices.

It's so true, and sad, that most people don't know anything about where food comes from. If it isn't in plastic, they don't recognize it.
 
Thea Olsen
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Location: suburbs of Chicago USDA zone 5b
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Plenty of berry bushes could apply here as well. Particularly serviceberries and aronia (chokeberries). I see these all the time planted as ornamentals around restaurants, stores, banks, and public parking lots. If businesses can plant them as decorations, surely individuals living where there are rules against food gardens could as well.
 
D. Logan
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Amaranth such as Burgundy are stunning, Magenta Spreen Lambsquarters is visually appealing and of course the fabulous display of grains like Cherry Vanilla quinoa all make great choices for adding to a stealth garden. People will be begging to know what these striking plants are and you get the benefits of grains and greens for your troubles.
 
jack vegas
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Don't forget dandelions. Probably the most familiar stealth edible that thrives in nearly every front yard, regardless of ordinances and association rules. When I was a young struggling student, I made the rounds of my neighborhood offering to rid people's yards of this terrible menace, for a small fee. Free food and a tidy little income to boot! I always asked the homeowners if they sprayed, explaining I was very allergic to herbicides and insecticides and couldn't crawl around their yard if they had. Due to the tenacious nature of the plant, I always had repeat customers!
 
Sunshine McCarthy
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I planted a lemon aid blueberry that has beautiful red tinged foliage, I have other blueberries as well and they mostly resemble large leafed boxwood. I had tomatoes along my front walk (in suburban Illinois) trained on a white pole with a little ceramic bird on top. I'm ordering a red dragon hazelnut tree, it has red leaves and corkscrew branches, very decorative. I'm planting a rhubarb next to my front door as soon as the snow melts.

Most areas discourage food producing gardens because the focus is on getting the maximum production of produce. Its all a mater of presentation. By shifting the focus to what is visually appealing and mixing plants to create an interesting color combinations, you can expand what is accepted. I saw a beautiful picture of a border of artichokes with red chard growing around their bases, it looked like something you'd see in a formal french garden. You can probably get away with any climbing food producer by training it on a decorative colorful trellis. Espaliade fruit trees are intriguing to look at and produce fruit.


 
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