The Best Produce I Didn’t Plant

It’s been just a little over three years since we moved onto this property and about two and a half since I started gardening, it was a slow start but even those very small efforts have grown into much more over the years. The first year after the house was built there wasn’t much time to even think of planting a real garden, we were busy moving in, clearing the land, and digging the pond. My vision then, and now, is that one day there will be a huge variety of edible things growing that require minimal care, they just produce year after year with little effort on my part.

Florida is a great place for growing, there’s many challenges such as heat, insects, and bad soil, however the year round warm climate turns what would be annual plants in many areas into perennial plants here. Plants that aren’t perennial often reseed themselves which also helps reduce the need to replant every year. These two things have already shown their value at Three Acre Paradise.

My first planting was on a whim, we bought some green onions and I remember reading that instead of throwing the cut ends away you could stick them in the ground and they would regrow. I didn’t have a garden or any area allocated as such so I just stuck them in the ground near a well head where they would be safe. They grew, and grew very well. A few months later I transplanted them to a pot and put them in a makeshift garden area. They became a constant handy source for green onions for salads and cooking and actually grew quite large. Then, one day they flowered. I didn’t really know what would come out of that so I left them alone. They finished flowering, then went back to normal.

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Funny thing happened, all the sudden there was dozens of new onions growing. They were in the same pot and in every pot and container nearby. Aha! So those flowers did produce viable seeds, and they grow very good! I’ve planted many store bought seeds since then but nothing seems to be better than seeds fresh off the plant. I transplanted a bunch of the baby plants to new containers, and here we are a year later and those children are flowering. This time, I’ll catch a bunch of the seeds and put them around the yard so they can grow year after year with no effort. These turned out to be really good white onions so I pull a bulb once in a while or just continue to harvest the green leaves.

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I can’t say I didn’t plant those original onions, but going forward they will keep going with no effort. I’ll make several areas in the yard for them and mix them among other plants. Here’s another reuse of a grocery store cut off, a celery stalk placed into the aquaponic system. It is growing great, I’m hoping it goes to seed and I can spread those around as well. Since a lot of our store bought produce comes from Mexico and Central America those varieties seem to do well in Florida.

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The garden area is full of volunteers (plants that weren’t planted on purpose). Here’s a Cucamelon plant growing up near an EarthBox, normally I pull these out but I’m going to let this one go to see what it does. Tomatoes and peppers are the ones that seem to do this the most so this little guy gets a pass for being different. The seeds probably came from a Cucamelon that fell off the plant.

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Last year I had some Bok Choy that bolted, I know most people say to yank plants out when they bolt but I’m trying to save seed so I let it go. I harvested a lot of seeds from it, so many that I didn’t bother with the last batch of seed pods but rather just crushed them up and spread them on the ground around one of the banana circles. Not much happened until a few weeks ago them bam! – hundreds of plants popping up. Technically these were planted but there wasn’t much effort involved, they weren’t even covered with soil. Now I can have Bok Choy every day.

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OK, all the above were started by me but are on autopilot. What about the real volunteers? That’s where it gets fun. I’ve got pepper and tomato plants growing in all kinds of places, too bad I won’t know what variety most of them are until I get some fruit. Here’s a new tomato growing in a banana circle, probably started from some chicken poop I threw in there after cleaning the coop.

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It gets better, here’s a tomato plant that started in one of the mulch bins. It is now producing tomatoes, and they are very good. They are most likely Husky Cherry Red based on size and flavor. That tall plant to the left is Romaine lettuce that recently bolted which will provide some seeds for next year.

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I haven’t treated the tomato plant very nice and in exchange it is producing pretty good. Seems like tomato plants like a little abuse.

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That metal grate on top of the mulch bin is to keep animals out, I cover one bin or the other depending on which is currently being used. While the mulch bin plant has been good, it doesn’t come close to what this next volunteer is doing. I do know this is an Everglades tomato, one of my favorites and a Florida native. These tomatoes are small and sweet, perfect for throwing on a salad.

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It’s hard to tell scale from this picture, this plant is around twelve feet across. I have never watered it or taken any care other than to not mow or weedwack it down. It is producing hundreds of tomatoes. I’ve been eating a bunch but also taking them and throwing them into other areas hoping to repeat this. Here’s a closer picture:

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No question that is my favorite one to date and I did not plant it, in fact it’s growing and producing better than any I have purposely grown. This is what I’m trying to accomplish but with a variety of other useful plants.

One other I’ll show here. This is interesting because I only recently learned about the plant. It is called a Plantain, not the one like a banana but this one is actually considered a weed in some cases. It is edible and has some amazing medicinal qualities, after reading about it I put it on my list of seeds to order. A few days later I hosted an event at the property for a local permaculture group and some one pointed out that I had some Plantains growing wild, nice! No need to order seeds, I have some plants and I can try to get seed from them so I can grow them where I want. Here’s what a Plantain plant looks like, this is one in my yard:

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Here’s what a bunch of them look like:

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Great! I have a lot of them. Actually,

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hundreds and probably thousands of them. This can be checked off the list.

My self sufficiency plan includes growing as much food as possible, as well as some animal products (eggs, quail, fish), power, and water production. These go hand in hand with homesteading and prepping which will be my topics for next week. Until then, keep on planting!

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