- If your water supply is very limited
- If your soil is impossible to work
- If you are renting a house
- Or live in an apartment with a balcony
- Or only have a small court yard
- If you go away a lot, as water gardens are very low maintenance
- If you just love having lush green growth in a dry climate
- Just for something different
I don't know why edible water plants are not promoted in dry areas like here in South Australia because it is so beautiful to look out on a pond or tub of reeds, such as water chestnuts, or the graceful and colourful taro leaves or the lime green water spinach stems and leaves all of which can take the heat as they have their feet in water. No water is wasted and keeping the tubs topped up with water is easy, so long as you have a creeper such as azolla on the surface to reduce evaporation and keep the mozzies away.
I have 3 large tubs from a hardware shop. Each is ........ To insulate them from the heat I surrounded them on 3 sides with small bales of straw and sat them along the front edge of my vegetable garden.Here they get a little sun but are in the shade of the carport roof during the middle of the day. I don't know if this is necessary but they are certainly very happy there, with no attention except a little water now and again.
Right is November 2008 and left is today, April 2009.
Each tub is about 1/3 full of rich compost. I planted into this and gradually filled the tubs with water as the plants grew in height.
I am always on the look out for suitable plants as they are hard to get. I started with just 1 or 2 water chestnut plants that I found in an Asian shop at the Central Market. Cath produced so many last year she didn't want them all so now I have hundreds.The reeds will die down in winter and I will harvest the corms then. I bought water spinach in November at an Asian Green Grocer, to eat, and I put the stems in vases of water to get them to sprout roots. By January they were overgrowing the vase and sprawling over the kitchen bench. I have been able to pick leaves for salads and cooking now for 3 months and they are still growing fast. The taro plants I bought at the Stirling Spring Fair. I hope there will be lots of tubers when I dig them up in winter. The water cress will eventually go to seed and seems to happily reproduce each year, providing more than I can eat.
If, like me, you are addicted to leaves then growing water spinach and water cress are a must. If you like digging up potatoes and finding buried treasure then taro and water chestnuts are for you. If you live somewhere too cold for hot climate plants, there is some more information on Edible water plants here. Scroll down that page for more links. There is a lovely website all about watercress here. Interestingly, it was thought in ancient Greece that watercress would cure a deranged mind. It hasn't done much for me!
I am giving a little talk to some inner city gardeners later this week. If you know any blogs about gardening in small spaces please email me the links so I can pass them on.
There are a few more of my photos here.