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?
FYI-I was asked on another thread about a cherry tomato variety that can be grown in containers. I’ve just learned about Maglia Rosa. I haven’t tried it myself but from the accounts I’ve read, it’s well suited to containers and small spaces.
Make sure you at least attempt to network with your neighbors. Get them on the same page as you with food security so they’re increasing their own resiliency and have less of an inclination to steal your food when TSHTF (which I believe is in progress).
Tried this, been there. No dice. I live in a so-so neighborhood in a city. Some of my neighbors are grifters who steal for a living. Others are anti-gun and won’t be in the yard while I’m there because they know I pack heat. They’re afraid of me for now but once they get hungry and those government checks aren’t flowing anymore, they’ll likely be over. A fellow prepper up the road isn’t a guy I’d trust because I’ve profiled him enough to know that if his grandkids are hungry, he won’t care who else is. Including me.
This article is more geared towards city living and dealing with the bureaucracy. My municipality wants to see green lawns and has tried to ban vegetable gardens outright more than once. The high-calorie food is easily recognizable, but it is possible to turn nonproductive spaces into productive ones via edible landscaping. Hide the food in plain sight.
Pre-COVID, I would see people growing gardens from the road as I drove by.
During COVID and now, I see even more, or those who have expanded significantly.
Could someone steal? Sure.
But pulling to the side of the road, a busy, 55mph county road is a safety hazard. Mind the drainage ditches, or you will need a tow truck to get out.
Do it late at night? It is possible.
Ever been to high desert country at night? You can see light from a long ways off.
And hear sound from a long way off.
After sundown, traffic all but ceases to exist. The Amish going to and fro is more likely than vehicle traffic.
And then there are the dogs. Not just mine, but the neighbors and the ones down the road in both directions.
Then there is the fence, as we have deer. So the gardens are in a wide open area, with two windows over looking them. I have range cards next to those windows (Hat tip, Matt in OK).
That’s great in the country, but city living offers any number of hiding places. Sounds do carry further at night but softer sounds are covered up by car alarms and fire crackers. Traffic is pretty steady although I’ve seen worse. I have cameras everywhere because many new neighbors have come from worse neighborhoods to my south and crime is rising.
We prep for our circumstances, right? And kudos on the range cards. One of my cousins down in TX has them wallpapering his entire house. I call it an icon-based warning system, just in case the intruder can’t read.
How about moringa trees? I keep hearing good things about them as a food crop and apparently nearly every part of the tree is edible including the leaves so you don’t have to wait for a harvest season.
I’ve e never tried those. Do some research, see if they grow in your area and what it takes. If you get the green light, go for it!
I actually started Moringa trees last year and I will say that they grow quickly. I had mine at about 7 feet tall, 2 of them within 2 years and then the Texas Blizzard came, and even though I put then in my shed they still died. I put the dead roots in my compost after snow cleared and started over. 2 trees are sprouting up pretty quickly again. I have harvested some leaves just recently and boiled them, drank as tea. Still trying to experiment with them but the seeds are pretty expensive. I order from a prepper up in New York. Cukierski.com. Mrs. Cukierski follows you religously, Daisy, by the way.
Hostas are edible? Mind. Blown. They are unkillable in my yard. Good to know. Sauteed hosta …
Jayne, it sounds like we live in quite similar neighbourhoods. Even in good times when they are fully employed, my next door neighbours would steal the steam off your piss if they thought someone would pay them for it. I have spent an incredible amount of money buying new plants to replace those they have stolen or (more often) just wrecked. I’m sure I spend more on my garden than on food! My back yard (about the size of most people’s bathrooms!) has raised beds with veggies, but I do plant flowers, especially things like morning glory, around the perimeter, and with the tall fence, that’s probably all they can see. It’s onw of those crowded inner city neighbourhoods where the houses almost touch and parking spots are accessed via a narrow dirt back alley. I am gradually replacing the miniscule front yard landscaping with things that do not invite picking – lillies and wildflowers that the kids always picked have been replaced with hen-and-chicks and sedum and spirea. I do hide a few edibles in there, such as asparagus ferns and rhubarb, but the foliage of other plants is so dense, they are hard to pick out. The higher value herbs and fruits and veggies are hidden in back. I do encourage weeds to grow in the bare spots in the flower beds – dandelion in particular, since it has so many culinary and medicinal uses. I pick up the maple flowers that fall from the tall tree in late spring – they are a nice treat deep friend in tempura batter, along with dandelion flowers. I forage for a lot of weeds in the local inner city park, and |I must have at least 300 jars of jelly made from flowers and blossoms also provided by the local park in spring.
Ain’t life grand? But we work with what we have. My skills are all city but I lived in the country long enough to know that outsiders aren’t really welcome, and for sure won’t be once shtf. Honestly, I’d love to watch the neighbors head out to the country with visions of free food floating in their heads! They’d get an entirely new view on country hospitality. LOL
Cities unfortunately need services to make them livable, like water and trash removal. Selco’s stories of living in the city without are pretty horrific! But we work with what we have.
I like making flower jelly too. My favorite so far is lilac.
I wintered my new blueberry bush in the house last year, until I couldn’t take it anymore, for some reason it was a magnet for Knats it was so annoying. I finally took it out and covered with a trash bag, it survived.
I put mine outdoors in a combination of acidic media. I just couldn’t see growing in soilless media in a container and then burying the container. I’ll keep an eye on the pH and use an acidic fertilizer. And keep my fingers crossed lol
Gnats can be controlled with a mixture of 3 cups water to one cup hydrogen peroxide. Let the plant dry out completely then water with that mixture once a week till no more gnats. It won’t hurt the plant but kills the gnat larvae which will eventually damage the plants roots. Also put out shallow bowls of water with a couple drops of Dawn dish soap in it which attracts the mature gnats and they die when they land on the water. Bringing plants in from yard to house can import things like pesky fungus gnats and they need to be brought under control quickly, this works without resorting to damaging insecticides.
How about Jerusalem artichoke ( sunflower fam eat the root) sunflowers (seed) rain lillies (root) day lillies (flowers and root) sweet potatoes has a beautiful flowering vine, ornamental peppers , orange / lemon/ apple / pear / plum / peach / etc , all these trees have been used for shade and ornamental look , bonsai versions of these trees still produce fruit or nuts, use strawberries as a ground cover… do not plant as a food garden plant your garden as a flowering garden . I once planted corn that had a flox flower on top … or strawberries and onions around a small water feature.
There are so many ways to disguise a producing garden.
Sounds yummy actually:)
I’ve always thought this was a good idea, but it’s one I dont follow. For me its been a time issue and my dog will eat them if she can get to them.
I have planted blueberries in the treeline near pine and they seem to be doing well. I have other fruit bushes and trees growing and am working to get more in. While I expect everything to go to hell I work on improving what food my property produces.
My garden area has become the chicken run and I haven’t picked another spot for a garden. The last few years have been time and money tight so it hasn’t happened. But there is a good size garden where I will bug out to, and I’d rather put in time and money there.
This brings to mind the concept of guerrilla gardening. Plant some seeds or bulbs of edible plants in public spaces like the back corner of a park, along a stretch of rarely used road, at an abandoned property.
I’ve seen posts where people have planted edible plants along their bug out route.
The theory is that you know where the plants are and most others do not. They may or may not be there, but it is a small cost and can supplement your garden or provide food when you have to bug out.
Great ideas! Thanks for sharing!
Also, dandilion buds double as a replacement for capers and can be pickled!
I’m not sure what you mean by buds. Do you mean bulbs?
There’s always the option of having big planters of salad greens with some fake flowers added. From a distance it will look like decorative foliage.
That’s a great idea!
I think people see what they expect to see. If people see an archway with vines on it they won’t look closer to see that the vine is really sugar snap peas.