How to Have Good OPSEC in the Garden With Edible Landscaping
by Jayne Rising
Why do you need good OPSEC in the garden? Well, when SHTF, rest assured hungry and unprepared neighbors will look upon your preps with great desire. And that includes your garden.
For those new to the world of prepping, OPSEC means Operational Security. The term is military in origin and means, in the vernacular, to keep your preps secret. The Organic Prepper has many articles stressing the importance of good OPSEC.
So how can we maintain good OPSEC in the garden?
Fences are one obvious method. Fences make it a bit more difficult for nimble (thieving) feet as well. But there are more subtle ways to hide a garden, most notably the idea of edible landscaping.
One note for clarity: I am NOT advocating tearing up functional garden space in favor of edible landscaping. I AM suggesting a way to turn otherwise unproductive spaces, such as front and street-facing side yards, into productive food areas. This method can also work for apartment and condo dwellers, who may be dealing with property management/condo associations who want to see flowers growing, not food.
There are also many edible plants growing in city yards that most people have no idea are edible. Some are very decorative. Be aware, however, that some are considered noxious weeds. Your municipality may fine you for growing them. As always, I suggest some research into your municipalities’ regulations.
Identifying edible plants to use as landscaping
A plant identification app in addition to books on local plants might also be helpful. My favorites are Picture This ( app ) and a book called Midwest Foraging. I would suggest obtaining a book on foraging in your specific area.
The suggestions below are by no means an exhaustive list. Most of the plants listed as examples in this article are from my yard. I discovered these plants one year when I couldn’t garden due to health issues. I decided to get to know my yard and the plants growing there. If there’s a plant that you love, look it up! Or take your favorite plant ID app and check out what’s in your yard. You may be wonderfully surprised.
Fill deck containers with edible beauty for good OPSEC in the garden!
Some, like the humble hosta, are both traditional and edible. The best part is: few people know that! So it’s possible to decorate the more visible spots in the yard with a food source hiding in plain sight. Rapini, aka broccoli raab, is tasty, nutritious, and in warm climates, perennial.
Lavender smells good, has many health benefits, including use as a sleep aid, and seriously rocks lemonade! Swiss chard and kale are both showy and easy to grow. Other things that grow in my yard as perennials include ox-eye daisy, borage, yarrow, and sorrel. In my city, those are considered noxious weeds, so I might as well harvest them regularly.
And how about parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme?
Basil is great for pollinators and has many culinary uses, including pesto. Be sure to do your research, however! Bloody dock, while showy and edible, also contains oxalic acid. It’s, therefore, best used in a salad mixture and moderation. What greens and herbs do you use that would fit well in your garden?
Daisy wrote an article on growing and using Lemon Balm, which has many medicinal properties.
Flowers make excellent border & container plants, and they attract pollinators
Sadly considered a weed, all parts of the humble dandelion are edible. You can cook the greens like collards or rapini, the root is a great liver cleanser when taken as a decoction, and the flowers make a mighty fine wine! They’re also a great gift to pollinators, being one of the first flowers to bloom when they’re coming out of hibernation.
Lilac flowers make a great jelly, roses are excellent sources of vitamin C, and rosehip wine is glorious! Echinacea, the purple coneflower, is commonly held to boost the immune system and help mitigate the common cold symptoms. In addition to assisting pollinators coming out of hibernation, the humble wood violet has both culinary and medicinal uses. The leaves are high in both vitamin A and C, and the flowers make an excellent jelly. Nasturtium, violas, calendulas-the list of edible flowers is lengthy! Nasturtiums and marigolds also help keep pests out of your garden. What are the hidden gifts in your favorite flowers?
Berry bushes also make great edible (and defensive) hedges
While berry bushes are more recognizable, blackberry and raspberry have great thorns for discouraging pests in your garden, or not if you’d prefer. I have a blackberry hedge growing beneath my deck, where my container garden grows in season, and it has many thorns. Climb that if you dare!
Strawberries can be used as border plants since they’re low-growing. Blueberries can be grown in containers and overwintered indoors. Berries are generally high in antioxidants and useful in a variety of recipes. Here’s one from Daisy, Blueberry Lemon Jamgasm!
Fruit trees, vines, onions and chives!
Many fruit trees come in dwarf varieties. Be sure to check pollination requirements! My favorite plum requires cross-pollination with the exception of one variety. That has been a challenge. Climbing vines such as kiwis, grapes, and pole beans can yield both food and privacy.
Onions, garlic, and chives will help keep pests out of your garden while putting a bit of spice in your life. However, these need to be overwintered, so plant them in the fall for a nice summer harvest, or just let them reseed to grow back year after year.
Edible landscaping is a great way to ensure good OPSEC in the garden!
Growing edible landscaping can increase your gardening space while fooling everyone from the neighbors to property managers to wandering city inspectors! Many people are surprised at the goodness growing in their yards every year that some mistake for noxious weeds. What’s growing in your area? What lovely edibles can you hide in plain sight?
Jayne Rising is a gardener and bookworm with a BS from the University of Wisconsin and a Master Gardener certification. She’s been growing food on her small urban lot since 2010 and teaching others how to do it since 2015. She’s involved in a number of local urban agriculture initiatives, working to bring a sustainable and healthy food system back into the mainstream.