As people jump into another growing season, this could be the year to plant a garden to enjoy year-round preserves. It’s easy to make and can certainly be a lifesaver for avoiding last-minute trips to the store for commonly used pantry staples or simply reducing fresh vegetable waste from the harvest by preserving it at its peak.
passion for conservation
I started small first, with crunchy summer cucumbers that magically turned into savory cucumbers. Over the years, I’ve worn the imprints off the corners of my favorite Kerr canning guide and experimented with canning a variety of vegetables: corn, beans, tomatoes, baby baby potatoes, homemade peperoncini peppers (for salads and Italian roast beef). recipes) and our own Garden Supplies Jalapeno Tomato Blend. I have canned salsa and sauces, homemade vegetable juice, and a whole host of pickle and corn relishes — thanks to Marlys Lien and Jan from Fayette Lumber for sharing their time-honored recipes so many years ago.
Our family has canned venison, beef, and chicken (cooked and plucked straight off the slaughter line), as well as casseroles and chilli and vegetable mixes. There were bushels of canned peaches and pears – and I’ll admit I blossomed late when I discovered the joy and creativity of fruit jams, preserves and compotes. The possibilities of what to put in the jar are only limited by imagination and preferred recipes and flavors.
Rather than planting on a whim, think of this year’s garden as the “personal grocery store of the future” and plant what the family loves to eat with extra thought about when and when you can eat it – a growing grocery list . When planning for those winter cravings, keep an eye out for special dishes or holiday dishes that the family can’t get enough of when it’s cold. Planning ahead means stocks are there and the quality is top-notch, packed with vitamins and minerals from the summer garden.
Make a plan first
Bring out the family’s favorite recipes that are used the most and go through the vegetables needed. My vegetable soup needs corn, green beans, tomatoes and potatoes. Can they grow in this area? Can they be canned together at the same time and temperature? Can they be planted to coordinate the harvest? Then add them to the list for the garden this year, in addition to vegetables planted for fresh consumption.
Next, think about the amount required and make sure enough seeds or plants are planted to produce the amount needed. Some vegetables are easy to plan, like canned tomatoes, green beans, and corn. These are used in a variety of dishes and can be canned individually in pints or quarters, depending on need.
Adventurous? Take this year’s gardening to the next level and plan for preserving soups, stews, and casseroles. Old canning books and online resources have recipes for canning mixed vegetables in user-friendly sizes for easy meal prep with favorite vegetable soups, chili, curry, or tater tot hotdish vegetable mixes.
Mastery of the realm of time and space
With successful canned vegetable mixes, it is especially important to plan each planting in sequence and to observe the average growing time of the planned vegetable to ensure that corn, beans, carrots and any other combination are ready to harvest at the same time – at the peak of freshness. This also works well with relishes, salsas, and ketchups.
After making the list of plants to plant, the next step is to map out the garden area to maximize the growing season and harvest potential. A 4-foot section can hold up to 144 green bean seeds planted 4 inches apart and produces up to 35 pounds of tender, crisp beans per planting. Or use the same space to plant carrots three inches apart and harvest up to 30 pounds of the vision-enhancing roots.
Planting certain items one at a time can also maximize soil productivity. Planting early radishes and lettuces in a smaller space over a three week period will ensure a little fresh harvest is produced each week. If you plant tomatoes or pepper plants in the same space after the first harvest, the space can be productive even after the last of the radishes are gone. Broccoli is a great plant to plant in mid-summer to take advantage of early harvest space.
Plantmaps.com is a wonderful resource for really narrowing down the best growing seasons and understanding the area we live in from a growing perspective.
Larger gardens can use a more traditional row layout, but allow for more space to avoid overplanting too soon. Those wide open spaces and the springtime excitement of digging in the dirt might cause too many to do one thing—throw a wrench into the meticulous plan, schedule, and storage space. Speaking from experience, 99 tomato plants is too many for a family of five, as are 68 hills of potatoes. Just because the yard or garden has space doesn’t mean it needs to be filled – stick to the plan!
For best results after so much hard work, sterilize any reused supports, cages, stakes, or scissors to eliminate potential disease. Once the harvest arrives, take time over the weekend before harvest to prepare the canning equipment and jars and ensure there are enough canning lids of the correct size for the expected harvest.
The most useful effort for a large garden is still pulling the weeds – unfortunately. Allowing garden plants to absorb the lion’s share of nutrients from the soil and get all the water they need means eliminating their competition – the weeds. Regular and consistent weeding ensures that this year’s crop is as bountiful as possible.
To make the effort even more economical, coordinate with neighbors or family to divide and conquer garden production. Garden A will grow beets, corn, and green beans for both households, and Garden B will focus on tomatoes, potatoes, and cucumbers for both households. It can be much easier when the burden and harvest are shared.
Incorporating additional help to conserve produce once harvests begin is a great plan. Even those without a garden can help with the processing and ensure that everyone can enjoy the bounty of the garden all year round.
Garden thoughtfully for maximum results
Are you planning a garden? Think a little more critically about the space available and the needs for the coming year to plan a garden and to fill a garden to fill the pantry. One of my canned books dates back to World War II and encourages its readers to plant a victory garden. Even though times have changed, personal victory is within reach every year with a well-planned garden and a well-stocked pantry.