Free Gardening Advice!

I still need volunteer hours to earn my Master Gardening certification, so ask me questions!! I love fruits, vegetables, and edible landscaping, so you’ll get a very enthusiastic response on those, but I’ve had the full training from soil preparation through to lawns – so ask away!

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ETA: Knowing your climate zone – USDA zones for the US, or rough coldest winter temperatures, will also help me give better info. 🙂


5 thoughts on “Free Gardening Advice!

  1. Steve says:

    I see you are a big fan of edible landscaping. What types of perinnial leaf plants can I plant in my shaded garden (under oaks) Which I can eat as lettuce?

    I see my succulent hostas produce huge leaves, but they aren’t edible.

    I want to some food to take up the space.

  2. Great question!
    The perennial-ness of certain plants will vary, depending on where you’re located. The ones I tend to remember are the ones hardy for me in USDA Zone 3-4, which should also do well for most of the country; if you’re in a warmer climate I will also refer you to the awesome “Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, A Gardener’s Guide to over 100 Delicious and Easy to Grow Edibles” by Eric Toensmeier, for more varieties. Heck, I’d refer you there anyway just for his pictures.

    Perennials –
    * Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia or Montia perfoliata) is one of my favorites, as it really does taste like lettuce. Zone 4, and will reseed to form a cute 6-12″ groundcover.
    * Scorzonera is usually grown for its roots, but its leaves are nicely lettucelike. This is also a great specialist nectary to help out your beneficial insect population.
    *Sorrel has a nice lemony flavor, good sparingly in salads but great in soups and sauces.
    * Chicory, rocket (arugula) and dandelion (yes, seriously) are often used in mesclun mixes for their spicy-to-bitter “sophisticated European” taste. 😉
    *Lovage – young leaves have a celery flavor, and would be good for fresh eating. Older leaves are very strong-flavored and might need to be used in soup to tone them down. I have a picture in my “garden visitors” post, it’s a lovely 3-4′ specimen plant.
    * Good King Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus) is a true perennial, and its sister Lambsquarters will at the very least reseed so you don’t have to replant. It’s a spinach relative, so the flavor is closer to that than lettuce. Young shoots can be eaten raw, but leaves tend to be cooked; the flower buds taste like broccoli; and the seeds of both can be cooked and eaten as a grain, or ground into a flour.
    * Sea Kale (Crambe maritimus) will take shade, but its shoots and remarkably broccoli-like buds are cooked before eating.
    *Stinging nettles love shade, and are terribly nutritious both to us and to the plants around them, as their root systems bring up nutrients from deep in the soil and share with their neighbors. However, you want to use gloves when harvesting, and cook well before eating; and use a rhizome barrier to prevent them from spreading. They might not be for everyone, but if you have a spot in the back somewhere where you won’t be accidentally brushing against them, they could fill a gap otherwise left empty.

    Check out the Overwintering Vegetable Seed section at; the greens listed here will keep growing for you through the winter if you’re warm enough. Plants in shady areas should still produce leaves, even if they don’t get enough sun for flowers or fruits.

    These are not quite lettuce, but perennials that will produce some form of food in shade –
    *In the allium family: chives, garlic chives and ramps (wild leeks) – “one of the few truly excellent food crops that can grow in full shade.” (quoted from Jacke and Toensmeier, “Edible Forest Gardens.”)
    * Have you considered ostrich fern? They love shade, and produce edible fiddleheads in the spring.
    * Wild ginger (Asarum canadense) will make a nice groundcover, and the roots do taste of ginger.
    *If you’re warm enough, try cardoon. It’s related to artichoke, but the part we eat are the leaf stalks – and you should definitely at least get leaves in shade. It’s a nice architectural plant about the size of a good hosta.
    *The Ribes genus (currant, gooseberry and jostaberry) and the elderberries will produce at least some fruit in partially-shaded to shaded areas, better than most fruit crops.

  3. Susannah says:

    oops — I may have left that message in the wrong place — sorry. follow-up question: where do you suggest getting seed for things like miner’s lettuce and ramps? (and these are perennial in zone 4?)

  4. Miner’s lettuce I get from Johnny’s ( or Territorial (; I haven’t planted ramps myself yet, but it looks like offers both seeds and bulbs in season. Both show hardiness zone 4 according to “Edible Forest Gardens”.

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