Toughest garden vegetable there is?
June 8, 2012 3:54 PM   Subscribe

Toughest garden vegetable (or herb) there is?

I am blessed to have an actual vegetable garden in NYC, but cursed with groundhogs (or a beaver-like animal NOS) and, worse, some exceptionally bloodthirsty neighborhood kids. Many of them I know personally, so I can attest to their lack of upbringing.

I need some very hardcore plants that also have low theft appeal. For example, no watermelon. Last year's tomatoes were used as baseballs, so I hear.

Put in some squash. A whole package so that at least a couple vines make it. Put in some green beans, about which I am less sanguine. Will perhaps try hot peppers, but the animules may well eat the foliage before the peppers can repel them. (Wait...the chile pequin isn't a perennial?) Rosemary and mint come to mind, too.

Groundhog already ate the tomatoes, but they aren't done yet. He seems less interested in the cucumbers. Soil is too bad for root vegetables--carrots won't grow, radishes barely.

Because this isn't actually my property, sadly, no, I can't put up a fence beyond the merely symbolic. I also cannot shoot a couple of these animals and thereby discourage the rest, it being the city.

The purpose of the garden is for some little kids I know. As long as they can play in the dirt, they're happy, but it would be nice if SOMETHING made it.

Thanks for your help!
posted by skbw to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Basil and sage. Any kind of mint. Thyme. Okra is hardy and fast growing.
posted by I'm Brian and so's my wife! at 4:03 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

How about Rosemary? My wife planted a small plant last year and now we have a bush. We can't give away enough rosemary.
posted by Fleebnork at 4:14 PM on June 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

How about green onions from sets? They grow fast, showing results for the little kids. You could grow arugula, something boring and leafy that grows very fast and then later has pretty white flowers and then seed pods (possibly interesting for kids). BOth of these things have flavours that probably won't appeal to kids. (I'm guessing because I really don't know about kids, but they are strong flavours.)

Some herbs are extremely vigorous, such as mint. Chives or bunching onions are also perennial and will come back very early, something exciting for the kids (and useful to you) and yet they look like boring grass to a bratty kid, I suppose. They are flowering now in my area, with gorgeous purple heads covered in beautiful bees. Rosemary, yes, as Fleebnork says; it should grow well, since your tomatoes actually grew (lots of light and some heat, don't mind it dry.) Parsley is another boring yet pretty thing that is very useful (tasting worlds different from bland story parsley) and can withstand picking abuse.
posted by Listener at 4:18 PM on June 8, 2012

Tarragon will grow in dry, rocky soil, and nothing much eats it or bothers it.
Be sure to get the French tarragon, not the Russian. It is delicious with eggs, seafood, chicken, etc.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:39 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Tarragon,Lovage (grows HUGE), any of the mints,lemon balm, parsley, sage, cilantro.
posted by Isadorady at 4:48 PM on June 8, 2012

A local teacher had her class make a "pizza garden". Yes, there were tomatoes, but also basil, oregano (very hardy), garlic, and onions.
posted by amtho at 5:08 PM on June 8, 2012

Rosemary will be the first herb to grow back after a nuclear holocaust, no doubt. That shit is bomb-proof.

Mint is more vulnerable but it is the running bamboo of the herb world; you cannot outpace it.
posted by smoke at 5:31 PM on June 8, 2012

I have a giant bush of mutant, unkillable oregano. Another member of the mint family. It survives drought, bugs, neglect and Minnesota winters, and still tries to take over anything around it.
posted by gimonca at 5:37 PM on June 8, 2012

I planted various veggies from plants, and various herbs from seeds. Out of all of them, the rosemary from seed is kicking serious plant butt.
posted by Ruki at 5:55 PM on June 8, 2012

How about growing herbs that smell and taste interesting for the kids, rather than trying to grow something to eat (by taste I mean taste-test). Herbs are way less interesting to annoying neighborhood kids. There is a great children's garden at one of the local gardens near me, which has all sorts of cool stuff like "chocolate mint", spearmint, basil, etc. Herbs can be smelled and tasted right there in the garden, rather than taking them home to cook or prepare like vegetables. You could also grow some edible flowers like nasturtiums, which look pretty and grow really easily.
posted by Joh at 6:30 PM on June 8, 2012

Re root vegetables: do you have room for some containers? If you fill them with a mixture of soil from your garden, peat moss, and composted manure, you could plant carrots, which kids seem to especially love to grow and harvest. The containers don't need to be very deep if you harvest the carrots while they are still "babies". Also, cherry tomatoes (perhaps too small to be of interest to the local hoodlums - don't know about ground hogs, though) do fine in containers.
posted by she's not there at 6:35 PM on June 8, 2012

Borage for the pretty flowers and edible young leaves, garland chrysanthemum for edible greens and pretty flowers. Korean perilla is also pretty tough once established.
posted by needled at 6:39 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a groundhog (with babies!) this year too. I started off thinking she was cute but now I hate her with a passion. Here is my damage in the veggie/herb garden so far. She also eats flowering plants but I won't go into that here. It is all too depressing.

Hasn't touched the:
Garlic chives
Arugula *
Spinach *
Peppers *
Cucumbers *

Has nibbled the:
Horseradish (only the young leaves - this stuff is pretty indestructible but spreads like crazy)
Peas *
Beets *
Carrots (the tops)
Onions (the tops again)

Has completely devoured the:

* under light netting - not that that stops her unfortunately
posted by Cuke at 8:34 PM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Wait, what? Physical barrier. Just enclose everything in tomato cages (or DIY version with chicken wire, if that's how you lean.)
posted by desuetude at 10:41 PM on June 8, 2012

Daikon radishes.

They are very easy to grow, and they grow big. They are spiky and nasty on the top so they are hard to steal. They will give some people, like myself, a rash just from touching the spiky nasty leaves. Most animals I know won't eat them, even the rabbits that ate all our regular radishes. They are also great shaved with sashimi, or slow cooked in soup. They absorb the broth's flavor pretty well, just cook them enough to reduce spiciness/bitterness if you so desire.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 10:53 PM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Mint is a go to if you can keep it watered and there are lots of interesting smelling mints as mentioned above. It's a bit late for rhubarb this year but if this is an ongoing project it's a good time to divide it so you may be able to get some plants for free though depending on the age of the kids caution is warranted as the leaves are poisonous but they are also very bitter; not too many animals will eat them. Horseradish is very hardy and though a root vegatable will grow in poor rocky soil. Not much for straight up eating for kids though.
posted by Mitheral at 11:08 PM on June 8, 2012

Garlic. Hardy, low-maintenance, groundhog-resistant, and not visually appealing enough to be used as a tool for a game.

You might also want to check out this discussion board, which is specific to guerrilla gardening in NY.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:08 AM on June 9, 2012

Stinging nettle. Can be substituted for spinach in any recipe, has more nutrients than spinach, and no one will try stealing it once they've been stung. Warn the kids about it it and glove them up for harvesting.

Like mint, it can be invasive.
posted by vitabellosi at 6:56 AM on June 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

NYC? Yeaaahhh...those probably aren't groundhogs. Get a rat trap.
posted by sexyrobot at 8:34 AM on June 9, 2012

Thanks, everyone! Here are some thoughts.

Okra (Brian): Great idea. Have to locate some seeds ASAP. Derelicts will not even know what it is. (These are derelicts of E. European, not Caribbean, extraction.)

Horseradish (Mitheral, Cuke): Fantastic idea and popular with target audience kids (see E. Europe). I did not know it would grow in bad soil. Must find.

Daikon radish (Earl): Tempting but see bad soil. I do believe that the hardware store(!) has some--worth a try.

Tarragon: Another great one. Had forgotten all about it as I do not use it regularly.

Stinging nettle (vitabellosi): EXACTLY what I am looking for, but one of my target audience kids is so neurotic that the idea will give him a major complex. He will torment his parents at night after I go home. (Unrelated to my childhood bull nettle, a mean SOB that is likely not edible at all.)

Basil: I've got some (seed) and so has the guy next to me (starts). Statistically it should be OK in the end. For some reason, the animal has not eaten it all. (Full?)

Thyme: Guys on either side have plenty. Kids keep treading directly on it but some of it seems to be alive still.

Oregano (Mexican?), mint: My seeds got trampled; budget permitting, I'll get some plants later on.

Rosemary: Guy next to me has. Kid came by and ripped off the top. I replanted the top nearby and what with the rains it should come back. Didn't want to take it home, root it, and then replant because it is not actually mine.

Onions, garlic, chives, arugula, parsley, cilantro, sage: Tried and eaten (man or beast?).

she's not there and desuetude: You are right about barriers and containers, but the kids have straight up destroyed everything I've put out so far. Budget is also extremely low.

sexyrobot: Without playing the "who knows New York better?" game, I know a rat when I see one, and this (self-link to groundhog alert) is not it. She also (see Cuke) has adorable light brown babies.
posted by skbw at 10:03 AM on June 9, 2012

Victorians used to plant chamomile along footpaths so that when it was trod upon it released its lovely appley smell.
posted by amtho at 2:09 PM on June 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

Here's an update for future gardeners. This NY-area groundhog will NOT eat:

Basil (won't touch it--I am going to buy some more kinds of seed and just plant it like a weed)



Squash (zucchini and yellow): will eat some, but not all, of it
posted by skbw at 11:29 AM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

« Older Do blotting papers just make your skin more oily?   |   Help me write an anti-bucket-list Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.