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Planning a Vegetable Garden to Can

Updated on May 31, 2012
By Spedona (Spedona) (Cliché personnel - own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Spedona (Spedona) (Cliché personnel - own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

There is a certain satisfaction to getting your hands dirty and growing your own food. I am a big fan of self-sufficiency and one of the first things my husband and I did when we bought our house was plan out a garden. My mother-in-law taught me how to can what I grew. For the last few years I have loved the fall because I get to harvest the yummy fresh vegies and preserve them to eat for the coming year.

The canning process takes a lot of work and time to can everything. Not to mention the planning. The initial investment in canning jars and a few other supplies may seem a bit overwhelming, but it all can be reused year after year. I will usually plan a day to do canning at least once a week as I get enough to actually put through the process. The one problem is that not everything gets ripe at the same time.

Every year, we have to plan out what will go in to our garden. We look at how much space we have, what we will grow well in my area and, most importantly, what will we want to eat and how much will we need.

Here are a few things to consider when planning your garden. These are things I’ve had to learn the hard way.

Where

This is always the first step if you are new to gardening. You need to decide how much space you have available. You also need to know how you will be watering your garden. One other thing to help determine where to put your garden is sunlight.

Find a spot that is not in a high traffic area, away from where pets and children play. We built four eight foot by four foot raised boxes for our garden. They are on the northern fence line of our property where they will get plenty of sunlight without taking up the space in the yard for family gatherings.

When it comes to watering our backyard is flooded once a week but that isn’t nearly enough for healthy, producing garden. For around $60 my husband bought high pressure PVC pipe, sprinklers and all the fittings we needed to attach the line to our pump. Now we can easily water the garden alone for about thirty minutes a day. Realistically, garden hoses with sprinklers would work just as well if you are working with a smaller space.

Not everyone has a yard they can put a garden in to, so you have to be creative. Container gardening is very popular because of the small amount of space that is required. Another technique I personally love is square foot gardening which allows you to plant much more than you thought you could. Some people have even mounted rain gutters to grow radishes and small carrots in. Look at your available space and then do some research as to the best option for your situation.

Let me know

What is your favorite thing to grow?

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What Grows Well

Knowing what grows well in your area is so very important. Before in living in Southern Idaho, my husband was stationed at Fort Lewis (now Joint Base Lewis-McChord) in Tacoma, Washington. I attempted to plant a garden but quickly learned it wasn’t going to work. There had been a smelter about ten miles from our house so the soil in the area was rich in arsenic. Things would grow reluctantly and never tasted quite right. So there, I decided to stick to planting flowers.

When we settled in our new home, we were surrounded by my husband’s family so I had instant resources for advice. I was able to find out that, with proper care, tomatoes, carrots, onions, corn, potatoes and all the other yummy foods I love grow quite well here. Of course, if you don’t have a fountain of knowledge in your family to turn to, go to a local nursery and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Of course you also should not feel obligated to buy everything suggest. Do some research about your area and go from there. The best thing you can do is educate yourself so you don’t plant things that simply will not grow.

How Much

Knowing how much to plant is pretty important. You need to have an idea of how much you want to be able to can. I usually plant one full box to tomatoes in my garden, often it holds a total of ten plants. I know this will provide me with plenty of tomatoes to can two cases of quart jars. I love making homemade spaghetti sauce or using them in soups.

Figuring out how much to grow often involves a few years of trial and error. Remember that it is always better to have too much than run out, especially if the whole point of preserving your homegrown vegies is to save money. Preserving your garden can be done through freezing or traditional canning. And there are tons of recipes available for you to try. And the best part is you can determine how much salt goes in to them (I try to avoid) and the fact there are no preservatives.

All Things Considered

Growing a garden and preserving its bounty used to be a fact of life for many families. It really is part of our shared heritage and reminds one of a time when people took pride in the work they did. I grew up a city girl from Southern California who knew landscape lawns of school grounds, parks and apartment complexes. A farmer’s market was something snooty rich people did on the weekends to feel normal. I never would have imagined that I would ever be excited about a vegetable garden. I’ve grown up quite a bit and have learned that being able to take care of yourself and grow your own food brings a sense of satisfaction that is hard to find in a grocery store produce aisle.

Share your thoughts in the comments below. I’d like to hear your opinion.

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