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I can grow onions, what else?  RSS feed

 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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The one plant family I can grow easily are various kinds of perennial onions.  How can I use this information to select other edible plants that I might be able to grow easily, without trying every plant on the planet and killing it?

 
James Freyr
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May I suggest other alliums like shallots, garlic, leeks, scallions. I know shallots are considered perennial onions, which some people call multiplier or walking onions or potato onions. I believe they're defined as planting one bulb that grows many, and harvesting the largest leaving the smallest for next season. I'm not sure if you asking about what other entirely different crops will do well where onions grow, but I believe potatoes are going to do alright for you. I imagine other low maintenance subterranean foods like beets and parsnips and carrots will do well also.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you.  I have plenty of onion things.  I'm looking for ideas of what else will grow well where onions will grow well.  I've not had success with potatoes so far.  Are there any perennial food plants which will grow easily where onions will grow?

 
Casie Becker
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I'm still working on that problem myself. Despite many of my plants blooming before yours this year, I've still yet to reach highs in the 90's so it is only becoming clearer that my location is a kinder one than yours. I was going to suggest looking into what other plants grew where they originated... Then I looked into where the originated and got an answer of 'everywhere'. The plant that has always seemed the most productive with the littlest effort in all of the gardens my mother touches has always been cantaloupe. That covers a reasonably wide stretch of conditions in Central Texas.

edit: I know it's not perennial, but ours usually self seeded in the garden from a missed melon or in the compost heap.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you, I'll give cantaloupe another try.

I know there must be more edible plants we can grow permaculturally here in Central Texas.  It's not a desert.  I'm just trying to avoid buying and killing yet more plants, though that may be the only way to see if they might make it here.  My location might be especially difficult, a frost pocket which also experiences high temps and dry winds.  But I suspect I have a black thumb.  I've been trying to learn to grow here for many years, and have not achieved any kind of consistency.  Some years are good and others are bad, and it's hard to see a pattern.  For instance, squash can do really well here, but last year was an almost total squash failure.  I think I will have to try more kinds to see if any are consistently productive.  This morning I planted two kinds which you sent me seeds of - Seminole Pumpkin and Chihuahua Landrace.  I will also be planting three more kinds in the Zai Holes garden, Southwestern varieties.
 
James Freyr
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Heh! black thumb.... funny. I believe everyone can have a green thumb and I am certainly willing to help with advice as much as I can. Tyler, what sort of soil do you have. Describe a shovel full. Are there bugs and worms living in it? Is it easy to dig? Is it difficult to dig, being full of stones? What's further down below 10 inches? Is there a hard pan of different subsoil? Have you had a soil analysis done recently? What sort of trees are growing nearby?
 
Karen Donnachaidh
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Hi Tyler,
Have you already seen this?
 
Tyler Ludens
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I have clay soil, somewhat heavy and at least slightly alkaline due to limestone rocks. Trees growing nearby are Elms, Oaks (now all dead from Oak wilt), Hackberry, Persimmon, Juniper.  My kitchen garden has been improved by digging out down to the limestone shelf about 2 feet down and replacing the rocks with buried wood.  I've added chicken bedding, leaves, and sheep manure for years, but the soil still dries out and cracks in hot weather.  Lots of worms.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Karen Donnachaidh wrote:Hi Tyler,
Have you already seen this?


Thanks!  I have not had kales, etc go perennial.  Mine all froze to death this past winter.  I'm just really tired of stuff dying all the time.  I have killed most of the kinds of trees they list.

Oh I should add that lettuce grows well during the brief windows when temperatures are appropriate.
 
Karen Donnachaidh
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This link is to an article by Marjory Woodcraft of The Grow Network. She lives in Central Texas. You probably know all of this already. But this is a good article, although it doesn't list many plants. (I didn't know nutsedge was edible.)

Your self described "black thumb" may have to do more with the odd, unpredictable weather that has plagued the whole U.S. for several years now, than anything reflecting on your personal abilities. I've had failure upon failure for several years and this year seems to be headed in the same direction, so far. 😞

(Edit to add: I think Marjory grows a great deal of her vegetables in a hoop house. May be the way to grow in Texas.)
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thanks for that link, Karen.
 
James Freyr
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Well Tyler, I imagine from your 9500+ posts that you've been here a while and have read many a recommendation on adding compost and organic matter, so I don't want to be too much of a broken record. What I would like to suggest is reading some books on building soils and starting with a detailed soil analysis so you have quality information to start from. One other recommendation you can do immediately if you don't already is to mulch your soil so it doesn't dry out to the point of generating cracks and fissures. I'm sure you already know microbes in the soil need water, and when things get that dry, they die.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thanks, what I'm really trying to get at here is, is there any way to know what else will grow where onions already grow well?  Because onion things grow well here without much effort - some don't even need to be watered - what else might grow here under these same conditions?  I'm not asking for help with the soil, I'm asking if anyone knows of any resource or way of knowing what else will grow well under the existing conditions?

In some of my gardens I've been improving the soil for years.  But onions will grow in parts of the gardens which I have not improved at all.  That's what I'm trying to find out if anyone knows - what else will grow under those same conditions?  Is this information known, or is it information which I have to learn myself by trial and error?

 
James Freyr
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Sorry I guess I still didn't quite understand what you were asking. I don't know of any resources with the information you seek. Trial and error may be the way to find out. You may find that beets will grow where your onions are, and some beets are as quick as 45 days to harvest so you'll know relatively soon if you get good results.
 
Karen Donnachaidh
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Another interesting find here. I don't know if I am only pointing out the routes you've already investigated, I just want you to succeed in a big way. You deserve the best and I know how hard you've worked.

(Edit: If there's a snafu with that link try here.)

(Edit #2: I've tried twice to get the url to work. Try Googling Texas A&M AgriLife extension. Great chart of vegetables per map area. Sorry.)
 
m c nestor
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Currently, I have my perennial onions in a bed next to the house and I have seeded a variety of spring greens and salad plants among them. This is their third home. So far they are doing great. I'm not opposed to moving plants from one area to another until they are happy.
We live in a suburb that was constructed on farmland. Unfortunately, when they built the houses, they bulldozed the top soil off leaving the subsoil. There have been a few pockets of fertile soil here and there but we have been adding manure, humus and composted materials each year. Last year we acquired composted coffee debris from a coffee roaster in exchange for some sewn items for sale. My blueberries and azaleas are loving it. We have a third of an acre and my goal is to delete all lawn and make it into garden. We've been here 4 years.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Thank you, I had not seen that chart.  That might help narrow things down from "sounds like it might grow here" to "it's supposed to grow here."

Ultimately what I hope to do is find more things like the onions which grow like weeds with basically no care.  I expect people to admonish me "that's not gardening."  But I see other people claiming that some things "grow like weeds."  I want to identify those edible plants which will grow like weeds here, especially perennial edible plants.

 
Maureen Atsali
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Hi Ludi,
I can't remember if I have seen any mention in your other threads, but do you grow sweet potato? 

Sweet potatoes amaze me here because they grow right through our dry season.  Blistering heat, drought, hot wind... As long as they are established before it dries out, they do their thing with little human assistance.  And in the crappiest dirt ever.  the leaves are also edible.  So you can be eating those while you wait for the taters.

I don't think you have a black thumb, I just think you have a really difficult climate and environment! 

Me, on the other hand, I can't grow an onion from seed to save my life. 
 
Tyler Ludens
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I've had some success with Sweet Potatoes, but not consistently.  I have some which lived through the winter and are growing back.  I hope to plant a lot more this year and that they will also survive as perennials. 
 
Karen Donnachaidh
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From Eric Toensmeier's Perennial Vegetables.org

Hope my link works this time.

(And check out the Hot and Humid list.)
 
Marco Banks
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Have you tried chaya?  Its a perennial native to Mexico/Central America that does well here in Southern California.  I'd think it would do well in TX.

This past year I planted moringa and now I'm thrilled to see that the plants/trees are coming back to life this past week with new growth.  That's a lovely green and is a super healthy food. 

Chaya requires a bit of special preparation before using (you need to boil it for 10 minutes to remove toxins) but moringa can be eaten straight off the tree or used in cooked dishes.  I really enjoy the taste of it.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I'm afraid my question is just too specific and attempting to shortcut around killing more plants.  I'm afraid I'm just doomed to have to kill more plants!  Thank you all for the suggestions.

 
Karen Donnachaidh
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Have you tried to grow bamboo?

How to Plant Bamboo in Texas from Garden Guides.com


According to the permaculture playing cards:
Bamboo holds more rain in the soil than trees, recharging watersheds with up to twice as much water. It also creates 35% more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees. Most varieties of bamboo are edible.

So, holds rain water and I know they can make good windbreaks. Maybe that could help you in trying to grow other things. Edible, I like bamboo shoots.

 
Nicole Alderman
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Hmmm, have you tried looking up what other places around the world have similar climates to yours, and then seeing what grows there naturally? Maybe look at this website: http://www.codeminders.com/weather_similarity/ and plug in your information?

I'm also trying to find out where multiplier onions originated, and see what else grows there, but I'm not having the best luck...
 
Nicole Alderman
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I picked a random location, smack dab in the middle of Texas, and it showed places like Syria and Lebanon have similar climates to yours. Then I looked up what is grown there (lentils, in addition to normal wheat, cotton, etc). THen I looked up native edibles. I found a few interesting pages this one (http://www.springer.com/cda/content/document/cda_downloaddocument/9789401792752-c2.pdf?SGWID=0-0-45-1489287-p176838584) is a PDF of wild edibles of Israeli tradition. Marjoram is from Syria, and another supposed edible is tumble thistle ( Gundelia tournefortii). Asparagus aphyllu (prickly asperagus, a perennial) and Pisum fulvum (yellow wild pea), Arum palaestinum ("Solomon's Lily"--the leaves are edible and medicinal), and Malva nicaeensis (mallow) are some of the plants they mention. Later on they describe them and their uses.

This one (https://environment.yale.edu/publication-series/documents/downloads/0-9/103jaradat.pdf) shows traditional crops of the fertile crescent. ON page it lists the crops originating there: onions (wild and cultivated), carrots, mustards, and brassicas. Those aren't perennials, though. Olives, plums, apricots, almonds, figs. Some of those might be more suited to the less cold areas of the fertile crescent.  

I hope something in there might be helpful!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you, that's an excellent strategy.  The main challenge is sourcing seeds or plants from those regions.  I've thought possibly non- tropical parts of Africa might be similar to here, but again, trying to find seeds is tough. 

Many of the plants people are suggesting are ones I've killed, unfortunately.  Why I think I have a black thumb.  I will keep trying, though.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Onions sure thrive for me. Too bad that I consider them to be more of a flavoring rather than a staple.

Horseradish grows about the same time as the onions, and is perennial. But is even more of a flavoring and less of a staple than onions.

Here's what my perennial onions looked like yesterday. They are typically the first thing I harvest in the spring.
egyptian-walking-onions.jpg
[Thumbnail for egyptian-walking-onions.jpg]
Perennial onions.
 
K W-Schornak
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I have a perennial bed of catnip, strawberries, and chives that's doing well.

Green onions or chives grow well with strawberries and mints (though be careful with some types of mint that they don't take over; lemon balm and catnip should be a little less invasive)
 
Nicole Alderman
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Thank you, that's an excellent strategy.  The main challenge is sourcing seeds or plants from those regions.  I've thought possibly non- tropical parts of Africa might be similar to here, but again, trying to find seeds is tough. 

Many of the plants people are suggesting are ones I've killed, unfortunately.  Why I think I have a black thumb.  I will keep trying, though.


Yeah, I totally understand. And, I often wonder if I, too, have a black thumb. I've killed a lot of plants that aren't supposed to die...like 2/3rds of a patch of sunchokes, and all the perennial fennel I planted (from seeds that self-seeded and took over at my Mom's house only 30 minutes away). I'm pretty sure I even managed to kill my pot of mint. It's MINT, for goodness sakes, how did I manage to kill it?! And, I'm in a much kinder growing climate than you, and have been at this for four years. So, you're not alone!
 
Casie Becker
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Tyler have you seen this http://www.wildflower.org/project/taste-of-place ? I don't see anything you're not already using, but one of the people involved was interviewed on Central Texas Gardener and she brought evening primrose leaves as a green.  Apparently they taste similar to arugula. I'd keep an eye on this program, they're working with more than is shown on the web page.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Oh neat, I hadn't actually seen anyone pickling Devil's Claw in the present, I only knew they had been produced that way commercially in the past. 

 
wayne fajkus
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Each year I add a dozen asparagus and half a dozen blackberries. My personal.observation is to baby them for the first couple of years. After that they need less and less help. Asparagus more so than blackberry.

This year I moved the new plantings away from the house. Time will tell, but im hopeful I can establish them with little more than adding hay mulch and a dressing of manure.the location is out of hose range. I'll have to carry buckets to water them

This is also first year I planted persimmons tree. This one is very exciting as I hear its a fruiting tree that can take some shade. When you think of a food forest, and all the layers, this was a "missing link" for me.

This year, for a reason I can't explain, I have hundreds of wild blackberries. I have thousands of wild onions that have always been here. This may give some indication of my conditions.
 
Amit Enventres
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Onions can grow in a fridge, so perhaps they aren't the most telling of things. Perhaps you can tell us about your weeds? Got wild things that you can plant their domestic cousin? I am for mimicking mother nature, which involves trying everything and repeatedly with variations. It caters nicely to my seed addiction and gets me more variety in my belly. As for an easy thing to grow here in my heavy clay and cold, where onions and garlic seem to do fine: French Sorrel, rhubarb, American cranberry, lemon balm, mint, elderberry, alpine strawberry, chard, ... But it's only 2 years on this property and I'm in zone 6. Good luck!
 
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