Tag Archives: Strawberry

Edible landscaping for fall

        Fall is a great way to put out some additional color and harvest more vegetables. While many plants are starting to go dormant or die off there are several varieties you can plant now that can give color and life to your landscape.

ornamental-cabbage-plant-2961292421436aN2 Raw-Kale

Kale – Kale comes in a few varieties and is cold tolerant. We planted a blue green variety and a purple variety in our front yard. This is mixed in with all the “pretty” flowers. While some varieties are listed as an ornamental you can still eat it. Some studies have shown the more color a plant has the better it is for you. I have heard that you can turn kale into a chip for snacking. It is also good for juicing, cooked, raw, in salads and is really good for you. This is my first year growing kale. Someone told me about making them into chips as a healthy snack so I thought I would give it a try. If nothing else it can go into the juice mix.


Broccoli – While some of our lawn conscious neighbors shudder at planting broccoli in their front yards where all can see, I have no problem.  We planted some in the midst of our roses. The bold blue-green leaves I think will be a nice addition to the browns and yellows as other plants pack up for winter. They get about 2-3 feet tall and cover around 2-3 feet in diameter. Bonus we get to eat not only the crowns, but also the leaves AND you can re-harvest over and over. Broccoli is a crop that once you cut will return with another fruit. In this case it is the flowers trying to germinate and spread seeds. Once you harvest additional shoots will come up from the cutting. Cut several inches below the crown, at the leaf junction. The next set of crowns will be smaller but still edible. You can do this three or four times during the season. I recently discovered you can eat the broccoli leaves. I added them to my recent batch of V12. It’s like V8 juice but I added whatever I had handy. The 12 ingredients didn’t even cover any herbs I added.


Cabbage –I am not a big fan of cabbage. The wife wanted it. I think ever since I tried the fad diet of cabbage soup, I may have burnt myself out on it. She loves coleslaw, and having it raw on occasion isn’t too bad. I may even try my hand ad making my own sauerkraut. Fall cabbage can come in several different colors. We chose the purple variety and again a dark blue-green.  We planted this in our front yard as well intermingled between lily’s and roses.


Strawberries – Strawberries are a fall crop? Yep, the everbearing variety will give you additional fruit into fall. We planted ours as groundcover in our front yard. They stay green almost the year, and produce fruit. They do well in almost any light condition. When fruiting our youngest ,2, races out each morning to see if any have turned red overnight. Sadly, as a result I only got a handful of strawberries this year. Between 4 kids I am surprised I got that many. Looks like I will be planting more in addition to the 300 plants this year. One of the nice thing about establishing strawberries as ground cover is you can get about 100 plants for $20. Wait until spring to plant. Your first year will not have much fruit. The years after that they will do well. Many varieties will spread on their own. Within a few years you can have a blanket of plants and they will choke out any weed species.


Sugar snap peas – We had to put a line around our front garden to keep kids from running through while our strawberries got established. While planting a fall garden we thought, why not use that for sugar snap peas? It will give them something to climb up. So we will have a wall of peas surrounding one garden this year. Edible straight off the vine, super sweet, or we put them in stir-fry, and even cooked alone.


Beans – With the ravenous hoard (our chicken flock) in the back yard we have become creative where to plant things. There is a chicken fence to keep them out of the vegetable garden but we decided to try planting some beans along the front of the house. This was a new experiment and see what would come of it. In between the hostas and the cherry bushes we threw in some bush beans. I chose a variety that yields a purple pod. These should go nice with the purple cabbage and purple kale. It will bring additional nitrogen to the soil at least and hopefully some additional color.

While we have many other edible species of plants in our front yard, which is what the neighbors see, this is about all we have this year for our fall crop up there. People often ask “What do your neighbors think of you doing all this?” The answer is, I don’t know. I have never stopped to ask them if it is OK to plant in my OWN yard. I think it looks nice, it helps reduce the grocery bill, and they usually they get some overage if we have any. But the bottom line is they don’t pay my mortgage, they don’t put food on our table, and we don’t live in a restrictive HOA. You don’t see me complaining to them about spraying their lawn for weeds, or fertilizing their lawn with toxic chemicals. That is their choice, and this is mine.


Lessons learned in aquaponics

I don’t believe in failure. What others call a failure I call them lessons on what didn’t work, opportunities for improvement, and in some cases, the “failure” was an improvement. In each “failure” I learned something new or proved my hypothesis was wrong, and I needed to analyze what happened and why. Make it better then next time around.

I learned that you MUST make sure your system and all components are clean despite what people tell you. When I first started, I used 55 gal drums that previously contained vinegar. I bought them, and because the seller said they were cleaned, I started cycling my system. Well there was some residual in the containers and my pH was way off. Thus killing my first batch of fish and lesson two at the same time.

You must cycle your system for a while, and it depends on the size before adding plants and fish. I researched some and my first attempt was just to see if I could do it. Then learning from my mistakes I began to research more and understand the underlying fundamentals. There are three main components to aquaponics and each must work together effectively. If one of the three are out of balance then the other two get out of whack as well. Fish, plants, and bacteria. The bacteria break down the waste products of the fish, so the plants can take up the waste of the bacteria. The plants clean the water and grow off the bacteria waste, and then can feed the fish. At least in my case the duckweed feed the fish.

I say that your cycle time is dependant on the size because not two systems are alike and not one solution fits the situation. You could be using a 30 gallon indoor system, or a 55 gal outdoor system and the cycle time is different for each, as well as how you flow the system, and the media you use, the amount of light, what type of water you use. How you start your ammonia for the bacteria to begin digestion etc. All can vary your system requirements.

You can learn a lot more from doing than theory and reading. From my research several sites, and books said you should only grow leafy plants such as lettuce, herbs etc. and you couldn’t grow fruiting plants. Last year I grew melons, cucumbers tomatoes, beans, peas, chives and water chestnut. I try something and if it works great, if not, I note it, and try it again a few more times to confirm the results. My 1st few attempt at growing peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and beans failed. I was attempting to start them from seeds in the system. I learned you need to get the plants started in some sort of media then transfer. I used coconut coir. I am attempting strawberries in addition to celery, marshmallow root, leaks, and some of my other past accomplishments.


Start with “disposable” fish. In my area tilapia are about $2 a fish for fingerlings. Catfish $1 for each 4 inch fish. When stocking a 2000 gallon system that is a big investment to have all of them die off. I used feeder goldfish from my local pet store. 100 for $12.49. My 1 inch fish I started with are not about 1-2lbs each. Goldfish are pretty hardy, they will survive through winter water temps below 40 degrees, they eat just about anything, and produce a lot of waste. Can you eat goldfish? Yup, it is of the carp family. But I doubt I would ever eat them. Because of their high waste output a larger bio filter is needed, but means a higher plant food source. We have added bluegill, read ear, and catfish as we catch them while fishing. Some fish are too small to eat, but they are great to add to the aquaponics and allow to grow to a bigger size.

Don’t believe you have to have a commercial system or parts. I wouldn’t ever but the thousand plus dollar kits they sell online. You can make an aquaponic system with just about anything. If it will hold water you can have a system. Rubbermaid plastic totes, 55 gal plastic drums, aquariums, in ground ponds. You also don’t need a commercial biofilter. I made mine out of plastic cat litter containers I found at my recycle center, landscaping lava rock, and seeded it with bacteria from a local pond. All free.


I attempted to use pipe as my grow area. This would work if you harvested the entire plant. I wanted to be able to pick a few things, and let the plants continue to produce. The roots end up clogging the system. So now I have adopted grow beds.



There are so many other things I know now that I would have done differently if I had to do it all over. I could have learned much of this from following someone else step and what they did. I could have bought a kit and paid for tech help and support. But I don’t think I would have learned as much about my own system. When something breaks I know how to fix it. I have learned to adapt other materials for my purpose, cat litter boxes, landscaping lava rocks etc. It would have definitely cost mre more. Experiment, learn what works for you and your system.

Want to start your own system? Let me help. I can discuss pitfalls and lessons learned. Help with sourcing materials that won’t break the bank. If you are in the Indianapolis area or are located in Indiana I can provide onsite help and consulting. Check out the consulting and contact us pages.

Morning strawberries


While it isn’t much our strawberry barrel is already producing strawberries after only 30 days of going in. Next year we should be getting much more we hope.

Strawberry Barrel V 1.0

What to do when you run out of horizontal planting space, or there is no soil to plant in? You go vertical. I saw this online and I decided to make my own it was relatively simple and I had an abundance of 55 gal plastic barrels.

My kids love strawberries and this is a way to densely pack plants into a small space. Since we grow with no chemicals, no pesticides, no man made fertilizer we will let our 2 year old pick and eat right off the plant. It is her favorite thing to do when walking outside. Our sidewalk going to our front door is lined with strawberry plants and the barrel is just off our front porch.  When the door opens she bolts to see if there are any red berries ready for picking.

I first take a 55 gal drum and cut off the top below the thicker ring at the top. In this case I purchased them with the tops already removed due to how they were used. Not all drums are the same. Some have thinner walls, and I always get food grade barrels that contained food grade materials.

Next I drill holes at varying levels, and use a jigsaw to cut the openings. The first one I made I used a 1×2 scrap wood and a blowtorch to open up the planting holes. I am in the process of making strawberry barrel V 2.0 and will have more pictures along the way, and list the improvements. I use the torch to heat the plastic to make it more pliable to bend the top of the cuts in, and the bottom out to make the planting hole. I drill a few holes in the bottom for drainage. Next I fill in the barrel with compost/mulch mix. Plant the berries. This particular design has 45 plants in a 2’ round space. It should produce about 5-10 lbs of strawberry next year. We are getting some this year, but they will be heavier the year after planting.

Look for version 2.0 in the next week. I do sell Version 1 and 2 if anyone is interesting in owning one, but either doesn’t have the time, tools, or resources to make their own. It can be barrel only, barrel molded, barrel molded and filled with compost mix, or the whole picture. Click on the contact us page, or consulting for more details.

You can plant more than just strawberries, but our new rule at our house is if a new plant comes in it has to have a purpose, if not more than one. Either we can eat it, it improves the soil, or attracts beneficial insects. Strawberries are green almost year round, produce fruit, and has taught the 2 year old colors. Well at least red vs green.

This is just after planting day 1



Here is 30 days after planting. The solar panel in the barrel has nothing to do with the plants. It is a solar charger for lights that illuminate our American flag at night, and that was the best place to get sun.