6 Unusual Things You Can Grow in Your Garden

When I hear the words "vegetable garden," tomatoes spring to my mind; they are the reason I began gardening. You might think of green beans, or lettuce, or peas ... all those standard and well-known garden plants.

This year I've grown some experiments and some unusual plants. Some are well-known staples that I'm growing in unusual ways. Others are plants that I'd never even considered growing before, but my gardening know-how has increased enough that I think I can handle them.

I've written about my comfrey patch before. Comfrey is a large perennial plant with a dozen or more uses. From a healing salve to livestock feed to compost activator, comfrey is worth the space it takes in the garden. They could easily take over the raised bed they're planted in (I'm not kidding, they can get huge), so I "prune" them often. The leaves are not wasted; I use every one of them for something beneficial. The last time I pruned them I gave a sack full of leaves to a friend to help get her new compost pile off to a fast start. You can read more about comfrey in this post.

Comfrey also makes a great plant food, which you can read about here.

I've been disappointed by the onions I've tried to grow for several years. I'm lucky if they are golf-ball size at the end of the season. Rabbits and grasshoppers have decimated my onion crop more than once. I've decided to depend more on my patch of perennial walking onions.

Walking onions grow well for me. I originally planted them in a large metal container, but they've managed to "walk" out into the lawn. As soon as the weather cools off a little so I can spend more time outside, I'll be moving some of the plants to one of the raised garden beds - and I'll put a cage around them to keep out the rabbits until I can patch the holes in the fence.

While these plants aren't unusual, this year I grew sweet potatoes in a metal sink and it was a success! They are safe from gophers, armadillos and bunnies in that elevated sink and it's so easy to weed them. I just keep adding soil as it compacts during the season. I pulled up one plant last week because I couldn't stand it any longer and had to know how they were doing. (Do you do that too?) There were four beautiful tubers underneath which we ate for dinner and for lunch the next day. We have several weeks before our first frost though, so the rest will have time to grow larger.

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When you grow in containers it's easy to rotate your crops. You can either rotate the plants from container to container or, like I plan to do, you can rotate the soil and use the same containers. Realizing that was a light-bulb moment for me. My sweet potatoes can always be safe above-ground from marauding armadillos!

I also have a crop of potatoes growing in a metal trash can, but I don't know how that's going to turn out yet. I found out that blister beetles like potato plants as well as tomato plants, but thankfully my potato plants are valiantly trying to come back.

Potatoes are another crop that need to have their container "topped off" regularly during the season. I ran out of mulch and dirt before the end of the season, but I'll plan better for next year's trash can potatoes.

Artichoke seedlings

A friend gave me half a dozen artichoke seedlings this summer. They've been rather slow to grow, but they have more than a month until our first frost and I hope they'll get a good start by then. My mother loved artichokes, and I remember many Sunday drives that took us through the fields of Castroville, California, the "artichoke capital of the world." The spiky plants are related to thistles. I didn't like them until I was an adult, but hey, I didn't like avocados until a few years ago either. Silly me!

Not sure what to do with artichokes? Bon Appetit has 24 artichoke recipes to choose from.

Toothache plant

My latest addition is a pot of toothache plants given to me by the same friend. We had a fun visit the other day; she brought me a variety of seeds and went home with several herb and plant cuttings as well as those comfrey leaves for her compost pile.

Chewing the toothache plant's attractive leaves and those eyeball-shaped flowers will numb a sore tooth in no time. Toothache plant is an annual where I live but it self-seeds easily, and I was pleasantly surprised to find some flower buds on mine when I took these photos. I was afraid it was too late in the year for them to flower and produce seeds.

Toothache plants can also be brought indoors for the winter. My friend has been dehydrating the leaves of her toothache plants for winter use.

Do you love to experiment as much as I do? What unusual things are you growing in your vegetable garden?

6 unusual plants for your garden and why you should be growing them too.

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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  1. The toothache plant is just pretty, nice add to any garden. This year we mistakenly bought purple potato plant. (we wanted purple sweets potatoes) So I contained them as well. My daughter did find some P-sweets. At the Asian store. Some were leafing out, so they will spend this winter in the greenhouse. You can eat sweet potato leafs.

    1. I didn't even know there were such things as purple sweet potatoes, although I've seen purple [regular] potatoes. Interesting!

  2. I had comfrey and artichokes in my garden before we moved. Sweet potatoes and walking onions are ones I've always wanted to try. Now I'm excited to get planting my new garden!

  3. Anonymous8:18 AM

    Nice list of plants. I actually bought some sets of the walking onions earlier this week and I am excited about getting them out in the garden! I live in central texas, and I am not sure if I should plant them in a place with full sun or partial (morning sun)? How much sun does yours get?

    1. Mine get partial sun. I don't know if that's optimum but they are doing well with it. Like you, our afternoon sun is brutal.

  4. Oh, I do love experimenting in the garden...and then writing about it, just like you. You have some interesting new things going on. I'd really like to try growing potatoes in containers. Artichokes would be interesting, too. It's fun to trade plants with garden friends!

    1. I wish you were close enough that we could share plants too!

  5. When I got my first house there was comfrey growing by the back porch door. I didn't know what to use it for (plus I was working long hours then) so out it went. If I knew then what I know now ...

    1. Well, we live and learn, right? I wouldn't have known what it was years ago either.


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