Gardening is a hot topic in the prepper community and pretty much anything related to food production is of interest to us. Traditional gardening and other modern food production systems like aquaponics are quite common subjects of debate. However, I want to bring up to the table something new, the topic of having an edible water garden.
If you have a standing source of water on your homestead, you can utilize that precious resource to grow extra crops. There are quite a few nutritious aquatic and wetland plants that you can grow. How about growing some watercress or wild rice?
This topic is hardly touched by preppers due to the lack of familiarity and knowledge. I think it’s time to expand our horizon and venture out from the typical raised beds of tomatoes and carrots. We need to give the world of lotus root, wild rice and taro a chance.
Why is an edible water garden a rare sight?
Most Americans have eaten one or more aquatic plant at one time on another. However, these plants are not part of the standard diet we are used to. Even more, for some homesteaders, growing an edible water garden seems too much of a hustle.
In other parts of the world, these vegetables are treasured for their nutritious properties. They are the standard repertoire of vegetables. Water spinach, for example, is one of the most common leafy green in Southeast Asia, where is consumed daily by millions of people.
If you like Chinese food, you’ve certainly eaten water chestnuts in stir-fry dishes. Now, how about growing the? How about the Lotus flower, which is admired by many, did you know the roots are edible? The Japanese and Indian gardeners are growing it not only for its looks but also for its nutritious roots.
Taro or the elephant ear plant which is grown for its leaves in our country is actually a common staple food in Africa and countries in the South Pacific. Even though the edible corns are poisonous if eaten raw, few people know that cooking them removes the poison and makes them safe to eat.
When it comes to other edible plants such as rice and cranberries, these are less foreign to our diet. However, creating an edible water garden requires experimenting with some toxic food and a general interest in having alternatives to common crops.
The configuration of an edible water garden
If know now a thing or two about ornamental water gardening, you already have the knowledge to grow an edible water garden.
In fact, it has pretty much the same structure.
- There are five basic planting zones for growing a water garden:
- The water’s edge areas which are used for plants that like wet soil, but not standing directly in water.
- The margins for plants that emerge just a few inches of water
- Shallows which are the planting ground for reeds and other grass species
- The deep-water zones which are the perfect spots for emergent plants that grow from large tuberous roots
- And open water for the floating plants that do not need anchored roots
Most of the aquatic edibles can fit into one of the categories from above. The only exception being plants that require running water to grow like wild rice and watercress.
When it comes to building an edible water garden, access is vital. For example, in a terrestrial vegetable garden, you have pathways for accessing each bed. These pathways are used for planting, tending and harvesting the produce. However, putting a pathway in an edible water garden is almost impossible.
Related article: Survival Food – A Guide To Edible Seaweeds
Your main option for reaching your aquatic plants is investing in a pair of waders with suspenders. The type you are using when fishing. Every time you need to take care of the plants, you will need to strap them on and go in the water.
While in an ornamental water garden sloshing around is avoided in order to maintain clear water, you don’t have to worry about this aspect in your edible water garden. Stirring up sediment and creating cloudy water doesn’t bother the plants.
Some aquatic gardeners prefer to structure the garden in such manner so that they can access the plants from the shore. This is done by those growing mostly marginal and shallow-water plants.
When it comes to deep-water species, you may want to plant them in submerged planters mounted on casters. To best way to stay dry is to attach a polypropylene rope to each planter and pull it ashore when you need to tend the plants. You can even tie rocks to the rope every few feet to prevent the rope from floating on the surface of the water. It’s both an esthetic and protective measure.
Keeping the edible water garden clean
In ornamental water gardens, there are all sorts of pumps, liners, filters and things like that. While these are not mandatory for an edible water garden, it is recommended to have a filtration system put in place. You will need to prevent any toxic substances from leeching into the water. It’s up to you to take steps and prevent polluted run-off from herbicides or any other projects from your yard.
All the materials you are storing on your homestead should be kept away from your pond. It will help prevent leaching or heavy metals or other chemicals into the water.
This is not a concern for many since these pollutants might not be strong enough to kill the plants. However, the chemicals will build up in the tissue of the plants and you will end up serving them to your family.
Planting and harvesting
When it comes to planting and edible water garden, the hardiness zone plays an important role. Many of the edible aquatics you can grow are tropical and subtropical plants. They can be grown during the frost-free months in most temperate climates.
However, the thing about tropical plants in temperate climates is that they can grow, but not many of them grow well enough to produce a good harvest. You will need your edible water garden to be located in a sunny protected area. One with a southern exposure to make sure it has the longest possible growing season.
Another thing recommended is to start your plants in a greenhouse to get a jump start and speed things up. Some people improvise a floating dome from PVC pipes covered with clear plastic. This can easily be removed and it will float easily.
Suggested reading: Growing Your Own Food From Seed
The thing you will love about having an edible water garden is that the plants require little maintenance compared to terrestrial plants. The only thing that requires maintenance is the pond itself, but that’s another topic.
When it comes to weeding, this is rarely an issue and your plants don’t require any form of staking or training. Not to mention that you won’t have to waste time watering the plants.
The main task you will need to handle is fertilizing the plant to boost the growing and harvest. You can use the same type of fertilizer you can find on the market for pond plants. Fertilizing the plants is mandatory in a short temperate growing season. Without it, the plants won’t be able to reach a harvestable size.
You can try edible water gardening at any scale and you don’t need a large pond. Even a tiny patio fountain can support enough watercress to provide a tasty bite once a week. On the other hand, if you have a large homestead with an adequate naturalized pond that is fed by a stream, you should consider growing various aquatic edible. You can have a successful wild rice crop and you could also grow lotus flowers for both esthetic and harvesting purposes.
You can experiment with a few plants each year to see what grows best before settling on a certain crop. Growing an edible water garden is a good alternative to terrestrial gardens. It takes less work and it provides tasty crops.