There have been a number of police reports in the past month regarding theft of garden produce. This is not happening in the rural areas it is happening in the suburbs and cities across the Midwest. It may be happening elsewhere in other areas but I can only report for the states I have friends in. So far I have received reports from WV-VA-KY-TN-IL-IN. The thieves wait until the produce is ripe and under the cover of darkness, or while the owners are at work in the daytime, they pick the garden clean.
If you allow some “weeds” to grow up you can put a living fence between your garden and the public. Privacy fences are nice but they have drawbacks. First is the expense. Even simple privacy fences are expensive. Second is while you may prevent others from having a good look at your yard, criminals can peek in but you can not see out. Having a dog inside a privacy fence is better but you are still unable to see out while criminals can still see in.
Living fences such as Rose of Sharon trees produce a less visible line of protection. Osage Orange trees are better as they are covered in nasty thorns and will in time grow so close together that nothing can penetrate them without being skewered. Both of these trees have edible and medicinal properties. Osage Orange is a very good wood fuel. The problem with both of these is that it takes time to get trees established.
Hiding garden produce plants with other plants is relatively easy. Large leaved vegetable plants like squash, pumpkin and gourds can hide small plants like greens, beets, turnips, kohlrabi, and carrots. Dwarf tomatoes can be hidden with large herbs like basil. Planting culinary herbs densely can also help hide smaller plants. Dill, mints and sage will all grow tall and thick providing visible cover for shorter plants.
Bordering vegetable plants with common flowers is another option. If you plant marigolds you will get an extra benefit. Marigolds are natural pest deterrent plants. Bugs that love to eat vegetable plants will avoid marigolds. All calendulas have insect repellant properties. Gerber daisy’s, pot marigolds sometimes called Calendula and variegated marigold cultivars are a few of the many species in this family. Marigold flowers are also edible. They are also very astringent making them great for minor wounds, scrapes and burns.
This is the view of the backside of our house, what do you see?
On the other side of this patch of Giant Ragweed, edible for those not allergic to it, are pumpkins, goats, dogs, medicinal and culinary herbs, tomatoes and Amaranth
A unique stealth gardening technique is to develop an overall edible landscape. Consider what could happen if something happens to the food supply. People recognize gardens with their exposed dirt and neat rows. They may not recognize a tomato plant hiding behind some big green plant like basil.
Alternative plants which are edible can be encouraged to grow so that while the neighbors think you have no garden plants you do have edible weeds. I have talked about the edible properties of Day lily’s, Hemerocallis fulva, before. The spring shoots can be cooked and eaten. The flower buds are high in protein and slow release carbohydrates. The flowers are sweet even when dried and also contain protein. The roots after the first frost are tasty and full of starch. By eating them regularly you do not need to worry about dividing and or the parent plants taking over your yard. Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus, has edible flowers, leaves and roots. The flower brewed into a tea can be used for itchy skin and rashes. The inner bark of the root can be used to treat fever and colds. The common Kudzu vine, Pueraria montana lobata, has edible flowers, leaves and roots. The roots are best eaten in the winter and can weigh as much as 20 pounds a piece. The roots are mostly carbohydrates, about 80% per root. The cooked leaves have over 9 grams of fiber and the cooked flowers and flower buds are spicy sweet. The flowers and roots make a great tea for colds and coughs. Anyone who have ever been in a kudzu area knows how fast they can take over.
How about hiding your house with an edible plant? Virginia creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, is also edible. The peeled stalks can be cut and boiled or mashed after boiling. The root is also edible and is prepared the same way. While the fruit of the Virginia Creeper is small and rather bland, they have almost no taste they do contain Vitamin C and the fruit juice can be used as an astringent for minor injuries. Virginia creeper is also very prolific and can easily cover the side of a house in a couple of years. Camouflage is not just for warriors it is used by animals, insects, plants and many types of aquatic life. Using edible vines to obscure your shelter or home would be a wonderful way to utilize them.
Snapdragon seeds contain a usable oil. Snapdragon flowers are great for ski conditions, rashes and contact dermatitis, (a rash from an allergic reaction to plant sap or juice.) Rose geranium flowers can be made into jams and jellies or put into salads or on sandwiches. Tulip bulbs after a hard frost can be eaten. They have a laxative effect and some people are allergic to them. Eating a lot of them is probably not a wise idea.
The following web sites have great information on how to design stealth gardens and develop an edible landscape.
Edible Landscapes and Stealth Gardening Links
Specifically for Southerners
Specifically for Northerners