Eliminate Your Duck-Feeding Costs By Growing These Plants In Your Edible Landscape

Take more steps to creating a closed-loop, permaculture system by feeding your homestead ducks…or chickens… the sustainable, low-cost way. Here are some plants to help you do it featuring many perennials.

gardener standing in a strawberry patch in edible landscape
gardener standing in a strawberry patch in edible landscape

1Strawberries

Easy to grow and makes a beautiful ground cover, strawberries are an excellent addition to any edible landscape or homestead for a reliable fruit that propagates easily and without any additional work on your part. Since they also grow close to the ground, they are easily accessible to the ducks so you'll never have to pick strawberries if you don't want to. 

Of course, if you are fond of strawberries, you can wall off a section for yourself and let the ducks have the rest. The thick canopy of the strawberry leaves also makes an excellent place for worms, slugs, and other grubs to hide, giving the ducks some readily available protein, which, depending on your grow zone, might be year round, as strawberry plants do not always go dormant for the winter. 

I have also found that strawberry plants that grow around the duck pond have their leaves gnawed on by ducks swimming around looking for additional greenage. An additional benefit of having strawberries growing by the pond is they help to soften the pond edge and give the ducks access to more food while on the pond, which is super useful if you are gleying or patching holes in your leaking pond using ducks.

When growing strawberry bushes somewhere where the ducks can yank them up...like on the side of the pond where erosion can be an issue, ducks may also eat the roots of the strawberries. I haven't found this to be an issue though as my Indian Runner Ducks only seem to eat the strawberries hanging on by a thread to the edges of the duck pond, which, I hope to have properly filled by summer. I have not seen any evidence thus far of strawberries being able to be grown as bog or marsh plants in the very wet area that will form around the pond as it ages and as the pond water level rises.

2Horseradish

Horseradish leaves are edible to ducks although they might not seek them out on their own. What they will seek out, however, is the massive amount of slugs and ladybugs that horseradish leaves tend to attract during the wet seasons. Otherwise, instead of chopping and dropping your horseradish leaves, you can toss them in your duck pond to tenderize for the ducks. They'll be sure to take care of them.

I have also discovered that ducks will FIGHT over the horseradish roots, which they only had access to when I harvested some horseradish and became curious about whether or not they'd eat what is classified as a root vegetable, like sweet potatoes. So, after throwing them a piece, which turned into quite the fiasco, I pruned off some much smaller offerings of the horseradish root which they gobbled right up.

Horseradish is one of the easiest to propagate plants in an edible landscape or garden so finding that it is so beloved by the ducks, it will easy to grow plenty for them to have as a regular snack. You can also try planting them in the bog or marsh area of a pond, giving the ducks easy access to them. You'll probably need to protect the newly planted horseradish roots until they can get established, byt then after that point, the ducks should be able to nibble on any exposed roots, hopefully without killing the entire plant. As horseradish is difficult to kill, that shouldn't be a problem.

Horseradish is also a perennial. This means that it may be possible to be used as a winter feed for the ducks since the roots will be continously growing. Horseradish leaves also make excellent duck coop bedding along with this list of other plants.

Growing horseradish in the edible landscape.
small horseradish plant in deep mulch permauculture food forest
small horseradish plant in deep mulch permauculture food forest
Golden Cascade Raspberry Ripening On Raspberry Bush
Golden Cascade Raspberry Ripening On Raspberry Bush

3Raspberries

Good luck trying to keep ducks away from raspberries as they truly love these sweet, soft fruits. Fortuantely for us food growers, raspberries grow fairly upright on canes, which can be helped along if kept trained using wires or threated over small bushes or trees. Either way, the ducks can only eat what they can reach, though you'll also want to keep in mind that ducks, especially Indian Runner Ducks with their more upright bodies can jump to reach things that are a little out of their range, so caging your raspberries or growing a living hedge will be a better way to make sure that the ducks leave some berries for you too. 

Raspberries also spread quickly and can easily be multiplied by splitting these plants, giving you a low-effort way of increasing duck feed and producing a larger food harvest.

4Sweet Potatoes

Needing to get more greenery in your ducks' diets? Sweet potato plants produce a bounty of leaves and vines during their summer growing season. Of course, if you live some place that doesn't have cold winters, you should be able to grow sweet potatoes, and their leaves, year round. 

They make an excellent "pond snack" for your ducks if you're planning on trying to keep the vines in check by cutting them back every now and then. During these pruning sessions, you can toss the vines into the pond for the ducks to eat and, that very day, you'll receive more fertilizer for your edible landscape or homestead for your troubles. 

I've also found that you can do even less work of keeping your sweet potato vines from overtaking everything in your edible landscape by leaving the vines attached to the plants, but training them towards the pond. This will allow your food garden ducks nibble on the leaves while remaining in the pond and the sweet potato vines will make an excellent ground cover for the edges of the pond. 

Sweet potato vines seem to be a favored duck feed of my Indian Runners adn during the warm season, they ate sweet potato greens everyday. You can help the sweet potato plants keep up with the voracious appetities of ducks by keeping the plants well-watered and heavily fertilized. 

It is also important to note that ducks also love eating sweet potatoes, but since they do not have teeth, they seem to be woefully able to bite into the hard, uncooked tubers, keeping your sweet potato harvests safe from the greedy birds. If you're looking for a highly nutritious, filling way to supplement your ducks' diet, cooking sweet potatoes is a great and easy way to do so. 
Purple Sweet Potato freshly washed after harvest
Purple Sweet Potato freshly washed after harvest
Blackberries ripening on blackberry bush in edible landscape
Blackberries ripening on blackberry bush in edible landscape

5Blackberries

Equally sweet and irrestible to ducks, blackberries make for a bit more of a challenge for ducklings who may still have small mouthes. Larger ducklings or ducks will have no problem yanking blackberries straight from their vining canes and into their greedy little beaks.

6Goji Berries

Goji berries are not only easy to grow but they fruit throughout the warm season, giving you--and your ducks-- fresh berries to snack on until winter sets in. Like other cane-bearing fruit bushes, Goji berries also spread, so they will provide more and more fruit each season.
Goji berries growing on goji berry bush companion planted with sweet potatoes
Goji berries growing on goji berry bush companion planted with sweet potatoes

Indian Runner Ducklings Hype For Goji Berry Hunting

Ceramic Top of Slugs Caught For Duckling Feed
Ceramic Top of Slugs For Duckling Feed

7Grapevines

Not only do ducks love grapes regardless of whether they are ripe or not, but they also eat the grapevine leaves. Grapevines are vigorous perennials that can either be left to trail along the ground, hopefully somewhere they won't be stepped on, or trained over trees, up bamboo, and over sugarcane to help provide an edible canopy for yourself and your ducks. 

They will grow merrily right into and beside a duck pond, giving the ducks access to fresh greens without leaving the water. Grapevines are also relatively easily grown from cuttings, so that makes it a good plant to grow more of so as to have enough grapes --and grape leaves-- for you and your feathered friends.

More on using grapevines and other vines to create a sheltering canopy for your garden, homestead, or edible landscape ducks.

8Tomatoes

I'd argue that above anything else, ducks love tomatoes. Even the sweet fruit of organic raspberries seems to pale in comparison to the vigor with which ducks go for tomatoes. For small ducks or ducklings, these are fruits you might want to cut up for your ducks though, since ducks don't have teeth and will struggle with something that requires biting or having a large mouth.

Tomatoes also attract a pest known as the tomato hornworm that ducks find delicious. So by growing more tomato plants, you will attract more of these grubs that your ducks will eat along with the tomatoes. 

Of course, this system can be improved by growing tall-growing or indeterminate tomato plants, thereby giving your ducks access to the tomatoes they can reach and allowing you to harvest the tomatoes they can't reach.
Green Tomato on a Tomato Plant in a Tomato Cage
Green Tomato on a Tomato Plant in a Tomato Cage

Indian Runner Ducklings Against Cherry Tomatoes

Indian Runner Ducklings on a bed of horseradish leaves in their duckling brooder
Indian Runner Ducklings on a bed of horseradish leaves in their duckling brooder

9Broccoli

Growing broccoli will help provide something yummy and nutritious for your homestead ducks in the cool season. Broccoli makes a great "pond snack" for the ducks which will allow them to wait for the broccoli to soften and make for something to nibble on throughout the day.

10Cabbage

Another cool season crop that ducks will eat down to the remnants. Even if you are not growing cabbage, whatever is left from the kitchen after chopping up all that is needed for a meal, can be ripped up and tossed in a bucket of water or on a pond for the ducks to shred through. 

Cabbage makes another long term snack that, when kept fresh, as in in a cool body of water, ducks will come back to the next day and continue to eat.
Blue Indian Runner Duckling Showing Off His Tiny Wing
Blue Indian Runner Duckling Showing Off His Tiny Wing

11Watermelon

Despite its hefty size, watermelon also makes a wonderful duck feed that can be grown again and again from just one pack of watermelon seeds. In fact, the watermelons in the videos have been reseeding themselves for the past 3 years after a $2 purchase of watermelon seeds. Just be sure to leave a couple of melons on the ground at the end of the season, they'll rot down over the winter and spring, then start up again once the rainy season comes in. 

Then, you can thin them out and replant the stronger ones in new places to increase your harvest with less work. 

Though the ducks didn't seem to go for the watermelon on the first day, perhaps because it was unfamiliar to them, they certainly warmed up to it and have even begun eating the rind which will be much softer after soaking in the pond for a couple of days.

12Peaches

This lovely tree produces sweet, crunchy peaches that your feathery landscape crew will love. Of course, you don't have to grow Bonfire Patio Peaches, there are lots of peaches and peach tree varieties to try. With anything hard though, you'll want to chop it into small pieces or toss it into the pond to soften up for the ducks, giving them a more longterm snack than the chopped pieces with less work.

After harvesting peaches and cutting them up to prep for making pies, the remnants were given back to the Indian Runner Ducks, adn they were quite happy with the contribution. 
peaches growing on Bonfire Patio Peach Tree
peaches growing on Bonfire Patio Peach Tree
A small comfrey plant beneath a fuyu persimmon tree
A small comfrey plant companion planted beneath a fuyu persimmon tree

13Comfrey

Ever since the ducks discovered that they liked comfrey, I haven't had a tall patch of this hardy, fast-growing plant since! Although many consider comfrey an annoying weed, the ducks will make it part of their daily foraging. You can make the best use of planting a lot of comfrey by using it as a companion plant to break up heavy soils for your fruit trees. 

In fact, the ducks love the comfrey so much that even a tiny leaf of it does not go uneaten. For you this means you'll want to fence off an area to grow comfrey or grow it somewhere they don't have access to all of it so that you'll have the plant for years to come. 

14Persimmons

Unripe Fuyu Persimmons Hanging On The Fuyu Persimmon Tree
Unripe Persimmons Hanging On The Fuyu Persimmon Tree

15Tree Collards

The ducks already love the tree collards so much that they are eating them to the ground way before they can get big enough to withstand the loving attentions of the ducks. Will update more once I get a patch of tree collards well-established. 

16Pumpkins

In an effort to get more vegtables into my fruit-loving ducks, I tried out pumpkin with them. They loved it! By purchasing one pumpkin in a grocery store, you'll then have 50 or so seeds to grow a whole field of pumpkins for you and your ducks in the next season. 

I'm going to be trying growing pumpkins at the edges of the duck pond come spring since they do well with being heavily fertilized. The hope is that they'll be able to tap into that good duck and fish pond water, thereby eliminating the need for me to fertilize and water them by hand. 

The vines of pumpkins and other melon-type plants also provide lots of shade for the ducks to hide in from flying predators and from the sun during the hot summer months.

17Figs

After witnessing one of the sinister Indian Runner Ducks pecking away at a fig still growing on the tree, I proceeded to toss that gnawed on fig into the pond for the Indian Runner Ducks. Chaos ensued! A good measurement of just how much ducks like a food is how vigorously they fight to steal it from each other. So figs rate high on the list of foods to grow in your edible landscape to keep your ducks fed. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of figs growing much higher than any of the ducks can reach so there will be plenty left to harvest for human consumption too.

18Snap Peas

The only real reason these peas ever got harvested was so that I could have the snap pea seeds to grow more for the ducks next season. They love the snap peas, and if you're diligent about harvesting while some are still green and haven't yet dried out, you can chop them up for your food forest flock and they'll eat them whole. 

My Indian Runner Ducks have been pulling these snap peas out of trees, bamboo, off of trellises. They will not be stopped when it comes to snap peas. So I'll be sure to grow a ton of them this season so they can help themselves. 

19Fava Beans

20Sweet Flag ()

I originally planted sweet grass into the bog area of the duck pond in order to stabilize the pond's edge and prevent further erosion. Hilarious. Every time a single sprig of sweet grass appears, a duck demolishes it. Since I've recently come across one little piece that regrew and somehow was overlooked by the voracious food forest ducks, I dug it up and replanted it outside of the fence in hopes of growing a long row of sweet grass where they cannot reach the entire plants. In this way, they'll be able to nibble on some sweet grass without totally destroying the plants which should keep the sweet grass growing much more merrily. 

We shall wait for summer and see how this plan goes. Updates to come! 

21Inland Sea Oats (Chasmanthium Latifolium)

The Sea Oats grass is currently filling in, but I'm not particularly sure if this is a plant that needs to reach maturity before it can seed properly like some other plants. I did find my feathered food forest goblins eating the seed heads off another native grass and having a jolly good time with that, so the hopes are high!

Indian Runner Duck Having A Delicious Bowl Of Oatmeal For Breakfast

22Basil

I'm really just trying to make it a habit to give a sample of every new plant I introduce to my edible landscape to my runner ducks to see if they'll eat it or not. I'd certainly hate to come back to a plant that's been eaten to the ground because I didn't cover it until it got established first. 

After tossing some basil leaves into the duck pond for my hateful little birds... they quickly made a snack of those. 

23Asparagus

It took me awhile to realize that I wasn't seeing any asparagus spears and asparagus season was nearly over! So after going to find the known asparagus patches (I planted so many seeds last fall, there's really no idea just how much asparagus will be growing in the future), I noticed that my little asparagus spears seemed to be missing all their tops. 

BUT, my purple asparagus has gone uneaten, I suspect that is due to its odd coloring. The ducks probably don't see it as food so it has been growing without chicken wire, fencing, or covering and been safe from my greedy ducks. 

πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ It's been a couple months since I originally added asparagus to this list and I am here to say that my greedy little ducks started nibbling on those too. Fortunately, I have found that once asaparagus is very established and growing at a good rate, they don't do all that much damage to it as it will just grow additional spears. 

This might get in the way a bit of the seeding process for the seed-producing asparagus plants, but if that is of no concern to you, then I'll say that adding asparagus to your ducks' regular diet will be a great choice for a fast-growing vegetable. 

If you're not too fond of having your asparagus eaten, I've figured out some methods of prevention to keep your greedy little feathered friends at bay.

Also, using quackaponics in the fertigation process of your asparagus does absolute wonders! 

24Juncus Inflexus (Blue Arrows Rush)

The grass-like plants known as rushes come in tons of varities so don't feel like you have to grow the Blue Arrows Rush variety just because that's the one I found to be the best choice for my sinister plan of solidifying the edge of the duck pond while growing basketweaving fibers for my crafting endeavours

That's the permaculture way of stacking functions. What I have very recently discovered while staring lovingly at my hateful, bottomless water birds, is that they've been snacking on the Juncus in the same way they've been doing the asparagus, by biting off the tops. 

Blue Arrows Rush is a relatively fast-growing plant and has been growing very well as a companion plant with my Fuyu Persimmon tree, in the wetland area of the duck pond, and on a berm used to redirect rain water to refill the duck pond. 

25Peedee Gold Ingot Liriope (Golden Monkey Grass)

Currently growing! 

Golden Monkey Grass is supposedly a member of the Asparagaceae (asparagus) family and since my greedy little waterfowl love asparagus, I'm expecting this one to be a great hit. Will be testing to see if it truly is an evergreen as the goal is to be able to grow and provide fresh greens to the food garden ducks yearround. 

Due to its shade and sun tolerance, the Peedee Gold Ingot Liriope will be a filler plant, but also be used to help make space in the heavy clay soil for other food-producing perennials like sweet potatoes, savory potatoes, and banana plants. 

26Texas Sedge (Carex texensis)

Sedge, in general, is supposed to be a duck-favored grassy-looking plant. In my edible landscape, it will also act as a filler and a companion plant to continue to support the growth of the food forest. It is both sun and shade tolerant, a wonderful, flexible option as the tree canopy of fruit trees, banana plants, and bamboo continues to fill in. Sedge is also supposed to be evergreen, here in zone 7b, providing a yearround source of fresh greens to my food forest ducks. 

The Texas sedge will be companion planted with wasabi, which hasn't been doing too well in the heavy clay but is hanging on to dear life. The wasabi greens should also become a yearround source of fresh leaves for the ducks once they really get a good foothold and grow nice and big. 
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