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Years ago, I would never have thought that I’d have a huge garden, growing as many vegetables and fruits as I possibly could so that I could sustain off of my garden from the summer into the winter months. I was more interested in spending my money in bars and on clothes. I was in my early 20s when I bought my first house, so story checks out.
It takes a lot of planning and some trial and error, but you can feed your family from your garden! Gardening season may be well on its way, but it’s not too late to start a garden full of veggies that will give you fresh produce all summer long, even into fall and winter!
Plan out what you like
This is always, always the first step in any of my gardening tips. Why are you planting brussel sprouts if no one in your family likes brussel sprouts? For years I’d plant beets, but I haaate beets. My husband eats them occassionally, but not enough for me to plant a whole row of them. He’s more of a if they’re there, he’ll enjoy them kind of guy. I’d use the leaves for salads and for a delicious ukrainian dish, but I’d give away the beets. This year, I’m planting only the beet leaves so I don’t waste my time on the vegetable that I don’t even like!
Figure out what you like, what you eat the most. For us, that’s a lot of potatoes and carrots. I plant 20-40 hills of potatoes (as many as I can do until I get tired and annoyed) and numerous rows of carrots. If your family loves eating fresh tomatoes, plant ton! If they love lettuce, succession plant your lettuce until the middle of June! (lettuce doesn’t like the heat too much, so won’t do as well in the hotter months. it’s best to succession plant until around the middle of June, or whenever the hot hot temperatures turn for you and your zone. You can plant some towards the end of the summer, enjoying delicious lettuce into early fall)
The point is, plant what usually ends up on your dinner plate, not what you think should. You can move towards being more adventurous later.
Plan out the garden
Okay, so you have all of the vegetables you would love to have in your garden, now what? You clearly can’t plant 50 zucchini plants if you’ve a tiny backyard. Unless your whole backyard would be an entire zucchini patch…which would be pretty cool.
If you’re not into the giant zucchini patch, try these easy ways of saving space:
– square foot gardening. This helps you plan out, exactly, how much room you’ll need in your garden.
– planting up. Use a trellis for anything that likes to climb, like peas or cucumbers. Buy, or make, raised garden beds that go up in a staircase-like pattern. This will allow you to use as much space as possible.
– think outside of the raised bed. Cabbage, lettuce, and kale make really nice accompaniments to flower beds. Mix in your leafy greens with your annual flowers for veggie room.
– use pots. Peppers and tomatoes grow really well in pots. Line the staircase of your deck or your front steps with pots of tomatoes and peppers, lettuce or radish for some extra gardening space.
Succession planting is so important if you’re trying to enjoy your garden for as long as possible. Succession planting is when you plant things in…a succession. If you’re planting lettuce this week, plant a few more seeds every 1-2 weeks until it gets too hot for them. Read the seed packet to see how long the vegetable takes to mature. Some vegetables, like pumpkins or melons, won’t have enough time to mature if succession planted, but you can get away with succession planting slow, but cool weather loving/accepting plants like potatoes (about once or twice) and carrots (same).
Fast growing veggies that are excellent for succession planting are radish and lettuce. I plant these a few times every year and have enough delicious produce to add to sandwiches and salads – without going to the store.
Start your seeds early to get a jump start on your vegetables, planting them when you plant your seeds. This way, you can get a bit of a succession planting going for those vegetables that need more time like melons, pumpkins or cucumbers.
There are some vegetables you can plant later in the summer season and harvest in the fall, like lettuce, radish and carrots. I’ve harvested carrots when there was a bite to the wind and snow about to fall.
Keep it Organized
The one thing that I always mess up on year after year is keeping my garden organized. This year, I got more garden stakes to keep my garden in line and let me see what’s actually going on there. Sometimes, there are a few things that take a little longer to germinate and I don’t want to end up planting over them (hello, last year where I planted onions and carrots in the exact same row) or digging them up by accident.
I’ve used small plastic markers a time or two and they often just blow away. As an environmentalist, it dries me bonkers that I have plastic strips blowing all over town.
Now, I have metal markers that are powder coated so they’re protected from the elements of the wind and rain. So far, they’ve been smacked in the face with the tornado like wind that hits our yard and have survived a classic prairie thunderstorm and they’re still looking perfect. They look super cute in my garden and keep my veggies nicely organized. Plus, the company is a small business and made here in Canada. A bonus during times right now where I’m trying to buy everything as local as possible.
Store your Food
Freezing and canning are the two most popular methods of storing food and is what I use for a lot of my vegetables and herbs. Proper storage of vegetables (like storing potatoes in a well ventilated, cool area) can keep them lasting for months without the efforts of canning or freezing!