Tend Your Garden… Again

In the early 1940s, several countries saw an incredible shift in agriculture. What were called “victory gardens” were being planted en masse by people from all walks of life, encouraged by various national governments around the world. Millions of these small home gardens sprang up to help reduce the price of produce during World War 2, allowing anyone with even the tiniest pot of soil to contribute to the war effort.

It’s estimated that in 1943 alone, victory gardens accounted for around one third of all vegetables produced in the United States. Since then, however, the vast majority of these productive gardens have been abandoned in favor of highly manicured, fertilized, irrigated turfgrass (which produces no food yet costs more to maintain), but thanks to the recent global pandemic there has been a resurgence of people who at least are curious about growing their own food again, if not already actively planting gardens. In the modern age, even though a lot of the folk knowledge has been lost since the ’40s, planting a garden of any size is easier than ever especially with the amount of technology available to help.

As someone who not only puts food on the table as a writer for a world-renowned tech website but also literally and figuratively puts food on the table as a small-scale market farmer, there are a few things that I’ve learned that I hope will help if you’re starting your first garden.

You Can Garden Anywhere, But Location Does Matter

For reference, I live in south Florida (zone 10b, which we will talk about later) and I sell various salad greens to farmers markets near me. I also grow lots of other edible, but unprofitable, plants for fun as well. The soil here is mostly worthless sand, but that touches on the two most important things to know before getting started: your own climate and soil type.

The beginning of growing season at my mini-farm in December in south Florida. This used to be an expensive lawn and is now semi-profitable salad green beds instead: lettuces, kale, arugula, and spinach, with some tomato trellises on the left and fruit trees and pineapples in the back. In the summer I rotate to sweet potatoes, black eyed peas, okra, and watermelon.

Garden Keystone: Climate. The most important of these is climate, since almost every other factor for a healthy garden depends on it, so the first step is to figure out what climate your plants will grow in.

The Köppen climate classification system can help here, as it is much easier to grow plants that are native to the climate they will be growing in. For example, it would be difficult (although not impossible) to grow a mango tree in Michigan, or an apple tree in Texas, or a date palm outside of a desert. Another resource that is helpful for determining if your plants of choice will grow where you live is the USDA plant hardiness zone map. (Other countries have similar resources available.) This is a map of the lowest expected temperature in a typical year for any given location. A plant that is “hardy” to zone 6, for example, will survive temperatures down to -23 C but a plant that is only hardy to zone 10b (as I mentioned before) will likely not survive if the temperature even approaches freezing. It is important to note that this scale doesn’t apply in reverse, i.e. a plant hardy to zone six may or may not survive in a higher numbered zone.

Related to climate, you will also need to make sure your plants are growing in their correct season. For example, tomatoes are a common vegetable to grow in the summer in temperate climates, but if you live in a place that is hotter than average (like I do in south Florida) you may find out that almost all tomatoes (with some exceptions) will die in the extreme heat. To solve that problem, most people near me plant their tomatoes in October and harvest all the way through the following April, but if you happened to be living in Vermont you’d need to make some obvious adjustments to this schedule.

Köppen climate types (left) compared to USDA hardiness zones (right). There are some trends between the two maps. Also note that the section of blue at the tip of Florida isn’t the same color blue as the Northeast and Midwest. It’s the only tropical climate in the continental US!

Garden Keystone: Soil Types. The next thing to consider is soil type. Virtually all soils have some sort of plant that loves to grow in them, and it’s usually not too difficult to amend soil for small plots to allow other things to grow in them. For example, sweet potatoes love sandy soil with low nutrient content, but planting a banana tree next to them will not be fruitful. All states in the US have an agricultural university with extension offices that soil samples can be sent to, and these labs can tell you how much of various nutrients are available in the soil and some suggestions on what to plant, or how to add various supplements to the soil. They can also make recommendations for what plants you can grow natively, and are a tremendous resource. Soil is the most important thing to watch when growing any plants, though, and if you take care of your soil properly a lot of other aspects of your garden will fall into place naturally, such as disease resistance, pest resistance, and improved yields.

From Kitchen Window to Tilling the Yard Under

Once climate and soil type have been figured out, though, there is essentially no end to the number of gardening rabbit holes (pun intended) that can be fallen into. Did your worthless Bradford pear tree fall over in a storm? Plant an apple or peach tree! Want a maintenance-free groundcover for a patch of lawn that won’t ever grow because it’s too hot or sunny? Might be time to plant some sweet potatoes. Some of the more extreme of us have plowed up our entire yards to grow food, but it’s best to at least start small.

Even if you have limited space or no access to any land as an apartment dweller, for example, there’s still some ways that you can grow some food for yourself. With a few pots of topsoil from the local gardening center, or by being patient and using kitchen scraps to make your own compost, it’s possible to grow a lot of herbs and spices near open windows, especially green onions, basil, oregano, and many others. With a small grow light, other things like lettuce and peppers are possible as well.

Victory Garden poster via Wikimedia Commons

Technology can really step up in this area. If you have a fish tank, for example, it’s possible to filter the water for the fish using plants that will benefit from the waste the fish generate. This symbiotic relationship is known as aquaponics, and setups can be as small as a few plants, a grow light, and an aquarium with only a few fish. Of course, aquaponics projects can be huge as well, but if you have limited space and already have an aquarium then it’s a great starting point. If you don’t have an aquarium, you can build a similar system without the fish known as hydroponics, which we have seen in several projects before.

Apartment Gardening: Fungus

Other things can be grown inside a small space or apartment as well, and some of them aren’t even plants. Various mushrooms can be cultivated fairly easily in buckets of straw or spent coffee grounds. These methods require almost no specialized equipment either. Growing mushrooms also eliminates one of the greatest obstacles to growing plants in an apartment: access to sunlight. Mushrooms don’t require sunlight for the energy needed to grow, so this is a viable alternative to growing plants. While oyster mushrooms are the most popular for starting cultivators, other edible mushrooms can be cultivated indoors as well, such as shiitake, maitake, and lion’s mane mushrooms.

Growing oyster mushrooms from a five-gallon bucket isn’t too hard and requires very little space.

Making Small Plots Yield More Produce

If you do have a good amount of land and are ready to get started using technology to help cultivate as much food as possible for your area, climate, and soil type though, there is perhaps no better resource than Akiba’s various projects. He is a member of Freaklabs and while his projects aren’t all devoted to farming, and from his home base at Hacker Farm outside of Tokyo, a good percentage of his projects are aimed at helping farmers to improve yields or otherwise making their jobs easier. From sensor nets for improving rice farming to entire farms devoted to using and teaching technology, his work offers more than enough inspiration for the budding gardener or farmer to draw from. I have used some of his projects for inspiration on my own small farm, especially when it comes to managing irrigation with a limited/expensive water supply, so there is certainly a wealth of knowledge there to draw upon. Others that have had popular farming-oriented builds here include Brad aka [AtomicZombie] who grows a good chunk of his own food in the Canadian prairies and has built some unique tools to help manage his homestead as well.

Eating Something You Grew is So Much More Satisfying, and Often Objectively Better Tasting

The process of growing at least some of your own food is possible in virtually every circumstance, provided that you understand the basics of climate and soil type and have reasonable expectations. As a beekeeper (a rewarding hobby in itself that can greatly improve your garden’s yield, as well as provide tasty honey, useful wax, and even tasty adult beverages), there’s a common saying that easily translates to growing a garden: “All beekeeping is local”. This means that only you can find out what works best for your specific set of circumstances.

In a sense, all gardening and farming is local too, and a certain amount of trial and error will occur before you really get the hang of your current situation despite all the things you have read online about the “right” ways to grow various plants. But using the technology widely available to most of us as part of the Hackaday community should make the process of starting a modern victory garden much easier. You’ll end up eating more produce as you don’t want your hard work to go to waste. And I’ll put my garden tomatoes up against those in a grocery store any day of the south-Florida winter.

55 thoughts on “Tend Your Garden… Again

  1. Not to be ‘that person’, but should this be a hackaday article? Recently, hackaday articles have been becoming more and more generic, like things I’d find on any old news outlet/blog. I read hackaday because it’s uniquely about hacking technology. Loose this, and you lose what makes you unique, and you may lose people like me.

    1. There have been some good aquaponics articles previously, plus tons of garden automation. If you don’t consider biotech and chemistry interesting, do what I do when I see another boring windows vulnerability. Keep scrolling.

      1. /r/hydro and hydroponics are a perfect fit for HaD because it involves a lot of DIY and technology. Plus a lot of you are in suburbs or in the city, and good gardening space is at a premium. Putting all those maker skills to good use.

    2. I sympathize but I think this article threaded the needle nicely. With mentions to the Koppen climate classification and the USDA hardiness zones it showed the technology side of gardening. If it was a guide on how to dig dirt and look how cute these tomatoes are then yeah it wouldn’t belong but this fits nicely into the idea of brining technology into things generally thought of as low tech. I would have loved a bit more on what this author does to bring hack into the garden but overall I thought this was excellent in introducing how I can use tech to improve a garden.

      1. Author here! Since you are interested, I try to keep my farm/garden as simple as possible but the area I leverage technology the most is around water management. I live under the auspices of an expensive water utility and since I am not able to get water from a well I collect rain water (strongly encouraged by local government in Florida, illegal in other locales) and irrigate with that until it runs out. Then I regrettably switch to the *insanely expensive* city water. Luckily in my tropical climate I can do pretty well with around eight 55-gallon drums and rarely need to use it, but making sure to stop irrigating if it’s recently rained and making sure to know what amount of water the rain barrels currently have can go a long way.

        Sensors are a little difficult to use in something as dynamic as soil but a few moisture sensors integrated with an Arduino do the trick and can stop the irrigation pumps when needed, and I would like to have the system eventually automatically switch over from rain water to city water when the rain barrels are empty too. I have also fiddled with the idea of building the system around a Raspberry Pi with internet access that could use a weather API to make predictions about when to water the garden based on weather forecasts. Right now it can only tell if it has rained but not if it’s going to rain, and in Florida it can look beautiful one moment and the next moment there’ll be a tempest so fierce you can’t see your hand in front of your face. It’s not great to use 1/4 of your free water supply on irrigation and then have a storm like that pop up an hour later.

        It’s all also completely off-grid (except using city water when needed) so valves/pumps etc. are all run from solar power. We get all the sun (and rain) we need in Florida.

        We also have a complicated set of soil amendments that we add depending on soil chemistry, but mostly farm all that out to an independent lab about once a year with a few exceptions like soil pH and generically just trying to give our salad greens all the nitrogen that they could ever possibly use.

        1. Wow… That was excellent and a lot more then I expected. I would honestly love another article on just that with photos and guides and such. I wouldn’t have considered all the methods to try and optimize water but it makes sense, plants have enough trouble without being drowned. I live in relatively cheap water area and have considered moving to well land but the inconstancies have my wife shying away.

          I honestly think some practical quick hacks can be appreciated just as much as the big ones. Sure an auto planeter is amazing but just managing rain water is no easy feat when you consider how brutal it can be on materials.

          1. I kind of glossed over my specific tech use in the article because I don’t think it’s particularly groundbreaking (never one to miss a good pun), but basically my setup is a soil moisture sensor (Watermark soil moisture sensor I found on Amazon) which runs some code on an Arduino that the manufacturer actually wrote most of, and all it does is turn a relay on and off. The relay cuts power to the pump unless the soil needs it. It’s almost embarrassingly simple. The solar setup is similar, basically a 100W panel, an old car battery, and a 12V pump hooked up to an otherwise normal irrigation system. Two valves control whether or not the system is getting water from the rain barrels or from the utility. Lots of options for growth but not a lot of true “hacks”. That being said, my system saves me a good amount of coin over using utility water only with no control or sensing. Most of the time, simple things work best.

        2. ” I have also fiddled with the idea of building the system around a Raspberry Pi with internet access that could use a weather API to make predictions about when to water the garden based on weather forecasts. Right now it can only tell if it has rained but not if it’s going to rain, and in Florida it can look beautiful one moment and the next moment there’ll be a tempest so fierce you can’t see your hand in front of your face. It’s not great to use 1/4 of your free water supply on irrigation and then have a storm like that pop up an hour later.”

          I always have thoughts like that in relation to irrigation systems, as it would also piss me off if it rained within minutes/hours of watering. Or the system wasn’t smart enough to know it had just rained.

    3. Correct.
      Seems to be some trend that way.
      And this article on its own.

      But this article’s info does provide more background that is relevant to sucess pertaining to many prior (and future) gardening related hacks. So, somewhat six of one, half dozen of the other?

    1. There’s no harm in starting now, unless you live in the southern hemisphere and are currently hip deep in snow or something like that. No one ever said “oh it’s such a shame I started this garden a year too early!” or “this free food is just too delicious for me”.

      Green onions in a small pot is where I would begin. Buy some at the grocery store, cut and use them like you normally would, and then put the root part that you would normally throw away into some soil. Then go from there!

    2. There’s a lot you can plant right now for late fall into winter harvest. Like carrots, scallions, spinach, arugula, beets… look up “winter vegetables”

    1. Must be a regional thing. I’ve read through a lot of HOA agreements when buying houses and I’ve personally never seen anything that would prevent a home owner from maintaining some sort of vegetable garden.

    2. Fun fact! In Florida at least, a state law prohibits HOAs from restricting your use of plants which are native to Florida. You can rip your whole lawn up and plant nothing but saw palmetto and Virginia creeper if you’d like and your HOA can’t do anything about it except complain (but they’ll probably do that anyway since they’re an HOA). There are several native AND edible plants that grow here too so you have legal options for edible gardens even if you made the regrettable mistake of buying deed-restricted property:

      https://floridanativeplants.com/edibles.html

      If other states have laws like this I’d be curious to hear about them.

      1. I seem to remember a number of years ago a multi-year court battle between and HOA and a home owner over the type of grass that was planted. I think it ended up being settled out of court. Doesn’t sound so easy.

        1. There are no native turfgrasses in Florida so you will have a hard time getting around the HOA rules with that one. Also part of the reason that lawns are so expensive down here: they will die within about three years even with thousands of dollars in fertilizer, irrigation, pesticides, herbicides and mechanical maintenance because they really don’t like the tropical climate.

          You could plant a really awesome yard full of Fakahatchee grass without HOA issues if you took advantage of that law but it would not look like a traditional lawn. I would at least think it was really cool if I saw it, though.

          https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/fakahatchee.html

          1. @Ren:

            I always presumed that St. Augustine grass was named after the saint and not the place, but even if it is native to St. Augustine the place, that’s still a much different climate from tropical Miami, which is what I am more familiar with. It may do better in the Jax/Panhandle area than it does down here.

  2. My interest in bio-fuels lead me to a love of gardening. I live in a temperate climate but collect odd plants from both colder and warmer climates. I keep them mostly in pots, including things like sugar cane, kava, chocolate, coffee and saffron. I love the idea that these are essentially a carbon negative resource that I can pull raw materials from. Sugar can be made into ethanol for use in fuel cells, combustion, consumption or conversion to graphene for use in supercapacitors and batteries. Starches from potatoes can do the same. Or they can be used to make dextrose for use in binders or rocket fuels. I’m currently extracting salts from worm leechate that may contain nitrates for use in electronics. Boiling it all down in my shed that I keep my tropical plants in helps stabilise the temperatures during winter here in Australia and keeps humidity high. I’m hacking the climate of my shed! I’m experimenting with buffalo grass runners in training them up trellises and growing them hydroponically. I’ve even got a bucket of Kangaroo poo that’s been fermenting in the hopes of finding a flammable gas. They deliver it free to my front lawn. Which reminds me. I have to look at making a better way of collecting their pellets. All in all, gardening provides a great opportunity for a lot of hacking. Farmers are notorious hackers as we have seen here before.

  3. You know what tech I need for successful gardening? Probably some shock collars for my uncoachably “helpful” in-laws or a point defense turret to keep them away from it or something.

    I’d love to try a raised bed, square foot approach, that’s a nice hack, it’s like companion planting and self mulching, you match the nitrogen fixers with the nitrogen users, and plan the “canopies” as it were to shelter each other and keep weeds low. Raised beds have the advantages of extending the season, due to soil warming quicker, and less compaction from not walking on it, so root systems develop more easily, plus you don’t have to be bent over to tend to them.

    You’d think a solution would be to give them their own bed to screw up, but I know from bitter experience the fallout isn’t confined to one bed, and they don’t learn. Maybe I could implement an automatic watering system to deprive them of excuses to go anywhere near it, but if one sunny day has the soil lightened on top by noon, they’ll be flooding it with the hose by 1pm and be all “Saved your garden!”

  4. in the end, growing and storing your own food is the mother of all hacks. it requires short, middle, longtherm thinking and recurring actions *beyond* “getting things done” – if you succeed, you have a better and healtier life, and you are able to put yourself out more and of the corporate loop. Compare that to accepting any low wage because you have to…
    I’m no prepper, but in february I only had to buy tiny amounts, the rest ist in the basement.

    It gives peace of mind.

    Opportunities for “hacking” are plenty. Be it better software for handling recurring tasks in the future, be it building a solar drying rack which wirks even in moderate climate (i’m still searching a hear exchanger wheel), be it ovens and plates which can control heat or humidity over weeks, be it magnetic stirrers if you make fermented sauces, be iz semiautomatic soil tests, be it building rotating drum composters, which provide hot rotting continous process throughout the year.

    If you want to start gardening, start with herbs and spices in buckets. SNR is good there. start collecting bpa free buckets preferably with a tight lid.

    Even before growing, you should start buying bulk at the farmer and learn drying, canning, storing.
    yes, preppers are sometimes too alert, but they oftentimes have good advice on how to preserve things for a tiny amount of money.

    1. Sorry for the mobile typos right out of the suburb train.

      I forgot to mention irrigation as a topic, which gives adventures of its own: building sth. that waters a bed is easy if you compare it to building something which waters a whole garden and is resilient (frost, UV radiation, biofilms…), lasts without maintenance a long time and doesn’t set the neighbors basement under water just because a arduino hangs in a loop. If you change water valves for the second time in 3 years, maybe using watering cans with a farmbot is NOT the badest idea.

      food drying as a topic also contains making beef jerky ;) and if you construct a smoke generator, cold smoking is the next step.

      Viewing/deconstucting/recomposing polytunnels to get a “best of” model from cheap commodity parts is fun too. Skimming ebay for used *commercial* stuff (“has to go by the end of the month” => cheap AF). Buying wiggle wire rails seems expensive overkill, but enables you to reuse smaller parts of used polyfilm from commercial gardeners, come cheaper over hailstorms like last year, and you can use clear film on the walls and diffuse film on the roof.

      It is hacking, but you are left with food instead of dust catching 3d prints and LED objects.

      Slow cooking kitchen cutoffs and “accidentially” having a good soup stock was one of the best experiences ever.

      If you do lots of things like that, you neet something which can hold certain temperatures, count time from the point of having reached a certain temperature, or stopping a cooking process if you reached a certain weight (reducing stocks or syrups). Why? because then you can do it while sleeping, with the cheaper night tariffs!
      Almost nothing of that exists, or it is expensive as hell.

      I found after lots of testing and measuring, that the cheapest way to cook stock ist in a pot in the oven, with a slow cooking program. The oven is new and has a catalytic cleansing program, which means is has to be insulated very well. Which means it is frugal electricity wise. Only thing to do was to route the steam chimney pipe (tiny exhaust pipe for cooking steam) outside the house (recommended for baking bread anyways), so that the condensed water does not run from the windows. Nothing burns, nothing spills if the pot is big enough, just the right thing for dreamy me.

      My crockpot is sold, and I’m thinking of buying a second oven.

  5. I have to disagree with the complaints, I think this is great hackaday bait, as well as a nice article in itself.

    “more technical” could perhaps be satisfied with some work on indoor garden lighting? The modern LEDs are changing that world and yet the opportunities for timing arrays of lights instead of tramming fixtures seem under explored… to say nothing of opportunities to contrast wavelengths and strengths and efficiencies and so on.

  6. +1 on the complainers – if it wasn’t for this site I wouldn’t have found Vinduino, FarmBot, HackerFarm etc. etc.
    Already a gardener from a young age, I was limited to the usuals (greens in spring/fall and berries/peppers/tomatoes during the summer) because it was rote. Now I’ve incorporated some sensors to learn from before I integrate them; got a small 6 bucket hydro system going just for giggles and have the south side of my house sheathed in hops (IMHO – the *best* planting I’ve ever done LOL). There’s eating from your gardening efforts and then drinking it too. Add to that the benefit of getting one’s hands dirty to nurture a piece of nature and you’ve got something one can’t buy.

  7. Bona fide public sector plant scientist and hacker here. I advise anyone interested in horticulture to grab a copy of the California Master Gardener Handbook ISBN-13: 978-1601078575. Some of the figures are specific to California but much of the information is generic, peer-reviewed, plant science knowledge useful to any horticulturalist. There are lots of ways for new technologies to help inform decision making in agriculture but one should spend some time learning plant science basics before getting to hacking.

    Trial and error problem solving is fine but the author’s tone rubs me the wrong way at the end of the article. Plant science is a science, not roulette. Humans understand plant biology and soil science as well as how to artificially manipulate environments to successfully grow plants. HaD readers wouldn’t let an author get away with writing an article on how to properly write software only to tell the readers to ignore compiler errors at the end.

    Plant scientists use scientific instruments to help diagnose plant health problems the same way an EE or CE would use an oscilloscope or logic analyzer to investigate a problem. Gardening doesn’t have to be complicated to be successful either. Humans figured out how to do it successfully, multiple times, independently, over 10,000 years ago. Tweaking supply chain management to reduce food waste is the low hanging fruit hackers should be looking at with respect to agriculture. Resource use efficiency and overall success at the backyard garden scale is best improved through education, not technological intervention.

    At least this isn’t another misguided “soil moisture sensor” article. I think there would be less groaning from the peanut gallery if there was more hard science and less conjecture. Nevertheless, I appreciate the spirit and call to action.

    1. I think many states and provinces have that sort of resource available if you go digging round the agriculture and food ministries websites. You can try looking for those of neighboring states or others where the climate and soils are similar also.

    2. I’m late to the comments here, but… if you wrote up a short article along these lines and hit the Hackaday Tip Line, you might have something there. Especially given the higher-than-normal quality of the comments this article has attracted. “Popular Press” articles don’t carry a lot of weight in tenure review, but they don’t exactly hurt, and half a million views beckons…

  8. Up here in colder climates, a greenhouse (doesn’t have to be ‘house’ size either) can help jump-start the shorter growing season and extend it a bit longer as well. Thought I’d just mention this for us in high altitude northern locations. There could be some technology hacks there to help keep the plants thriving outside :) . Right now we mainly just harvest Rhubarb and strawberries outside (no greenhouse yet) and some herbs.

    1. If I had more space, I’d like to try a half sunken greenhouse with a stone/brick/rubble northern back wall for thermal storage. Actually I could probably squeeze it in if things got desperate. With those you’re meant to be able to have salad stuff through December and be starting seedlings in March.

  9. By the way, in case the mere title puts you off, be aware that Mother Earth News is THE self sufficiency bible. They have many eco, bio, garden and smallholding hacks featured, and solid information in all manner of self sufficient ways of feeding yourself, clothing yourself, electrocuting yourself… ummm supplying yourself with energy and heat. Their website is at https://www.motherearthnews.com/ which if you dig, has numerous articles from past issues. Older paper issues can often be found by the stack at thrifts, yard sales etc, and are goldmines.

  10. The article mentions growing “various salad greens”. What have you found that fits that description and handles zone 10b heat?

    I started a hydroponic system in my garage in zone 8b but the May heat rolled around, everything got pretty sad and I ended up cleaning out my system.

    If you’ve got any suggestions for salad greens that thrive in the 90F+ heat range, I’d appreciate it. All the greens I’ve tried so far have either gotten extremely bitter and woody, bolted, or both.

    1. You might want to look at trees with edible leaves, then. Moringa, maybe. Check out David the Good’s work, he was all about Florida gardening, so probably touches on that in one of his books.

    2. I only grow greens during the Florida winter, from November-May, which might see average lows at night in the 50s-60s (sorry for the freedom units) and average highs in the day in the 70s-80s. Even that is too hot for spinach; I only grew that in my first year and it died after January because it was too hot.

      I can grow arugula, romaine lettuce, butter lettuce, red Russian kale, and a few others that are specific varieties for “warm” weather like I described above. I also played around with the idea of growing with shade cloth and watering for 1 minute every hour in order to cool the plants down and be able to grow into the summer. There are some larger market farms that do this successfully but they have much more land than I do so it’s more economical for them. I find this to be too much effort though and generally switch to the very few varieties of crops that will survive our Florida summer once it starts getting hot in April/May. Those are okra, black eyed peas, watermelon, and sweet potatoes. Unfortunately those crops are essentially worthless on the market so they’re effectively cover crops that I can eat for my own personal enjoyment. Last year I grew approximately $10 of black eyed peas, for example, and they took up 2/5 of my land over the summer. But they’re nitrogen fixers so that’s a plus too.

      I would suggest switching up your crops if your temperatures are getting too high. Don’t try to force plants to grow and be happy in a climate/season they don’t want to grow in. Or get an air conditioner for your garage, but watch out because that will bring humidity down too.

      Another commenter mentioned Moringa which is a good plant for food, and I have also had luck with various varieties of chaya (I think that might also be known as “tree spinach”) but there’s also Jerusalem artichoke which likes hot weather and a few other edible plants like that you could try which you would never find in the grocery store.

        1. Was it these? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerusalem_artichoke

          They grow as “weeds” quite a few places. I had some coming up in a corner, but my “helpers” decided that they should be slaughtered with maximum prejudice… after I’d told them to leave them be… probably the roots are still there, might come back.

          Also various species of lillies have edible roots. They have become wild some places.

        2. Since I learned that every part of the dajdelion is edible, I have stopped trying to remove them all from my lawn…

          I have yet tried to make “coffee” from the roasted roots, though I have heard it tastes OK, as long as you don’t expect it to taste the same as coffee.

  11. a.) we’re all nerds here so let’s not get our pants in a knot about what’s HaD relevant and what isn’t

    b.) if you’re so short sighted as to insist on tech, tech & only tech then check out https://farmhack.org/tools

    c.) the first thing a farmer, large or small, grows is soil (dirt is dead, soil is alive)

    d.) compost is the way to ‘grow soil’ so get started http://jerrywhiting.com/compost/

    Now back to our regularly scheduled program already in progress…

  12. I have been charting plants growing in various arrangements using my app, Leela Maps (LeelaMaps.com). I’m presently working on an entry form for coordinating cropswaps and seed exchanges using LM as for the backend, though it can be used for any public or privately shared map notes with text and #hashtags.

    Apologies if this seems needlessly promotional! I care a lot about helping people in this time of crisis: LM presently has free COVID-19 test locations, various medicinal herbs in public spaces (including Wintergreen, used to synthesize Aspirin and Tiger Balm) in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    If anyone has resources they want to share in their neighborhood, I suggest that you map it and share it with others.

    Caveat: This app presently only available for iPhone/iPad and Mac OS.

  13. A couple of months ago, cow-orkers were talking about growing potatoes in a 5 gallon bucket.
    I had never heard of that before, it might be something I try next year.
    (Maybe something that can be tried on Mars as well!)

      1. If the soil in your garden bed is soft enough, you can just rummage around in there and pluck out one potato at a time, without disturbing the rest of the plant. Local (.au) gardening author, Jackie French, calls it “bandicooting,” after the native bandicoot.

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