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Friday, April 17, 2015

Time To Get Gardening, Or, At Least Planning For IT

Even with the snow still lingering on the ground, now is the time to turn your attention to the outdoors and your food production for the coming season. Growing your own food is a sustainable way to prepare yourself for hard times. With some simple storage and preservation methods, you can produce some of your own food storage right out of the dirt!

When planning your garden, think preparedness. Try to grow foods that are nutritious and can be stored. Of course, having a way to can, dehydrate, or cold store your produce not only helps, but is a must for the prepper gardener. In fact, I have a hard time thinking of something that I grow that can’t be preserved for later use by at least 2 of those methods.

Be creative and search out new ideas for storing your produce. I used to grow a very limited amount of greens because there was no really good way to preserve them and the kids wouldn’t eat them anyways. However, I just came across a really neat blog post suggesting that I dehydrate them and use a blender to turn it all into powder which could be used in soups, stews, sprinkled on salads, even hidden in a meatloaf mix! Sounds like a great idea, and this year I will surely be opening up some new ground for more greens.

We all know that we should eat what we store and store what we eat…well the same goes for growing. There is really no point to growing wax beans if your family just doesn’t like them. There are a few exceptions to this however, like the trick I use in my pasta sauce of putting zucchini in a blender,then mixing it into the tomatoes while cooking it down. Not only do I get a boost of nutrition, but it stretches the tomato crop that much further(and the kids are none the wiser).

Keep an eye on the frost date for your area. Believe it or not, you may be closer than you think to have to start long season crops indoors. The information on the back of your seed packs will let you know how long before the last frost that they need to get a much needed head start so that you can get the expected yield. If you haven’t ordered your seeds from a catalog yet, it may already be too late for some of the early starters. That doesn’t mean that you’ve missed the boat completely though as almost every hardware store, grocer, and yard center already have their seed selection out on display. If you look closely enough, you will even find some heirloom varieties too!

Don’t be afraid to try new things…especially if you have a problematic crop from years past. Even I admit that there are just some things I can’t get the hang of growing well. My nemesis is peas. Try as I may, year after year, I just don’t get a crop, so out they go from my plans. Instead, I’ll try using the space for a dryer bean that I can use to supplement the protein shelf in the pantry. Besides, I can live just fine without peas!

Don’t forget to keep track of how much you plant and how much you harvest. I use a database I made in Access, but a pen and paper will work just as well. Once the season has come to an end and the stalks are all in the compost pile(you DO have a compost pile, DON”T YOU?) then you can look back and make adjustments. What crops were you short on? Plant more of that one accordingly next year. What crops were you giving to friends until they hid inside their homes when they saw you coming with yet another armload? Dedicate less space to that one going forward.

Let’s not forget about seasonings. I always have space dedicated to herbs to season my food with. Don’t add too much to foods that you plan on canning as the end result will be less than ideal, but dry and store them seperately and add them as you cook for dinner.

Some final points:

1 – grow what you eat
2 – have a way to preserve it
3 – start early seeds indoors now (or very soon)
4 – track sow/harvest and make adjustments in subsequent years
5 – leave space for herbs and seasonings

Now, stop reading and go get your hands in the dirt!

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