It’s spring time! Or so I thought. Mother Nature has decided that tonight we’ll have freezing weather so it’s sure not feeling like spring. At any rate, it’s time to start thinking about gardening.
Having a garden offers you so many benefits. Not only are you going to grow food that your family can eat—food that you know what it’s been treated with (if you go that route), how it’s been fertilized and where it came from—but you’re also getting the health benefits of gardening. It’s good for your body (a workout) and it’s good for the soul. There’s nothing like coming home from a long day of work to wander in your garden picking green beans, pulling tomatoes and seeing what you’ve got coming in that day. It calms me. Last year we planted 4 varieties of tomatoes (8 plants), bell peppers, jalapeños, corn, ornamental pumpkins, green beans, squash, zucchini, hot peppers and Tabasco peppers. I think that was it.
I canned food for the first time last year. It’s hard, hot, long, time consuming work but we have really enjoyed having our home grown food this year! Last year I canned spaghetti sauce, tomatoes, green beans, apple butter (which we have not eaten so I won’t do it again), and then I pickled jalapeños and mixed peppers for Hunter. He’s working on them. I also froze tomatoes, a couple of random small batches of spaghetti sauce and shredded zucchini and squash (not used so won’t do again). I kind of let my herb drying go but I plan to get back to that this year. I need to organize this better.
We didn’t have a ton of anything except just plain tomatoes canned/frozen. We’ve used up all of the green beans and we have 1 jar of spaghetti sauce left. Still lots of tomatoes but that should be fine. I can simmer those down into tomato sauce and chili at any time.
Gardening can seem so overwhelming and daunting but give it a try. You don’t have to have top of the line stuff and you don’t have to be a professional. You can rent a tiller from a local hardware store for about $35/day if you’ve got really tough soil like our red clay. Even soil amendments (manure, compost, etc) can be bought if your soil needs it. This does make it a bit more expensive but over time, if you use the same area, you won’t need it as you steadily improve your soil.
If you live in an apartment, consider container gardening. Just buy some good potting soil to start with and be sure to buy the best looking plants you can find (and on a side note, go to a hardware store or a local greenhouse and buy them—BUY LOCAL!!!) Sure they’re probably shipped in too (unless they’re bought from my dad!) but you’re still supporting a local business instead of a big box store. Even if you only do 2-3 plants in larger containers, you will provide yourself and your family with some tasty grub for the summer (and the winter if you just freeze it). I’ll do more on canning/freezing once that time is here. You could also start smaller than that and just really focus on herbs in a window. Just try 2-3 of your favorites. Herbs can be hung to dry in the top of a closet, the basement door, or they can be dried in your microwave. Just don’t set your microwave on fire like I did. ) True story.
I started years ago with herbs in the window. Then I did an herb pot and just put 5 or so herbs in a huge pot on the back porch. Then I did tomatoes in the huge pot on the porch and separated the herbs into smaller pots on a shelf on the back porch of my duplex. I also managed to plant green peppers in pots when Hunter and I got married, forgot about them and looked over one day and saw red and green peppers shining! Pots will work! Just don’t expect those huge peppers you get in the store. Your peppers will be smaller but they will taste WAY better. I promise.
Start thinking about it. Look it up online and do a little research. Check your local extension office for information and talk to them. They’re a really valuable source of information on what will work and what won’t work in your area. I always wait until after Easter since our chance of frost declines dramatically after that…and tonight? Freeze warning. I’m worried about my Japanese Maples, Azaleas and Tea Olives right now!
Good luck and I hope you’ll post your progress as we get into gardening season!