Eat Your Yard

PENNY STINE/The Daily Sentinel

I decided to plant a bunch of potatoes in this bed, then I thought I’d plant red and white onions around all the potato plants. The walking onions are the ones on the far side of the photo — they’re getting ready to sprout more greens and eventual bulbs from the top. The bindweed doesn’t care about my plans for potatoes or onions; it’s trying to take over the world, starting with this potato and onion bed.

I’m on a mission to be ruthless with the flowers, plants and weeds that self-sow all over the place in the garden.

Of course, I say that every year, and my ruthlessness and willingness to spend hours every Saturday pulling unwanted plants lasts only until it reaches 95 degrees or I find something more fun to do.

This is why walking onions, carrots, sunflowers, borage, love-in-a-mist, salad burnet, columbine, bindweed, dandelions and lambs quarters (along with various weeds that I don’t know by name) are the happiest plants in my yard.

They’re so happy that they grow and flower all summer long, creating more seeds for the next year.

Well, the walking onions don’t exactly flower; they just sprout more little onion bulbs from their tops, fall over and plant themselves in a new place.

I started with 15 walking onion bulbs a dozen years ago. I think I have 1,500 now.

I used to let the walking onions grow because they are edible, and they are reliably easy to grow, two of the top considerations when it comes to my gardening priorities.

But then I realized they’re also inefficient onions, with an enormous green top, which is only good as a green onion in early spring, and a ridiculously small edible white part.

It takes a long time to clean away the dirty peels, and when you do get to the actual onion part, it has an enormous woody center later in the season. On top of that, they take over the garden.

This year, I’ve been ripping walking onions out to create space for plants that are easier to eat or admire. In spite of all my ripping, I’m pretty sure there are still 1,400 walking onions in my garden.

Because walking onions are such a poor onion choice, I also plant both red and white onions in hopes of growing one big enough to offer large onion slices on a hamburger. They’re looking pretty good so far this year, but my garden looks like an onion farm.

Scratch that. It looks like a bindweed farm where I also grow onions.

Oh, bindweed, that bane of every gardener’s existence. I pull out the bindweed, which only encourages it to send up more shoots.

I’ve bought bindweed mites from the Palisade insectary, but the insectary warns that the mites usually survive in areas where they won’t get hit with sprinklers or drip emitters.

Regular watering just washes the tiny little guys away before they can get established and do any damage to the bindweed, so I’m pretty sure I don’t have bindweed mites in my vegetable garden.

I may have them around one rose bush that struggles to survive because it doesn’t get enough water, but based on the health and productivity of the bindweed everywhere else in my yard, the mites are not migrating from that spot.

I was reading online tips for controlling bindweed and came across this gem: Pull it all up, then plow every three weeks for seven years. You read that right: Seven years.

Since pulling all the bindweed in my yard would be a full-time job and my garden is scattered in too many places that aren’t conducive to bringing a plow into the yard, I’m thinking that advice isn’t going to work for me.

I also don’t want to devote the next seven summers of my life to eradicating bindweed.

Obviously, my only choice is to co-exist with the bindweed. Maybe I can use it to strangle the walking onions.

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Penny Stine is the staff writer for The Daily Sentinel’s Special Sections department and can be reached at Penny.Stine@gjsentinel.com.