Social media sites are full of gardening tips right now. How to start a garden from seed. When to transplant. How to use pallets in 50 different ways to beautify your garden.
But what I haven’t seen (yet, anyway) are posts talking about things to consider ahead of time so you don’t end up wasting all of that precious produce.
I supposed that’s because, in our excitement, we’re only thinking about the delicious Capresé salad we’ll be making with our heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil we grew ourselves. We can’t imagine letting any of it go to waste.
But it can. And it will, without a plan.
I don’t say this to be a downer. I love gardening and growing my own food. However, I’ve had lots of food from my garden go to waste.
Did I want it to? Absolutely not. And it could have been prevented had I planned ahead and considered three important things:
1. What is reasonable for the amount of time/space/skill you have?
This year, we have a huge garden space available to us, but we’ll only be using a little of it. Why?
Because we’ve learned in years past that just because we have the space, doesn’t mean we have to use it all. Not until we get better at this gardening business and have more time to dedicate to it. (Our bus project takes up a lot of time.)
So, before planting a garden, it’s best to look not only at how much space you have, but what your skill level and available time to commit are as well.
If you’re super busy all the time and/or travel frequently, it may be best to keep your garden small. Likewise, if you have a hard time keeping plants alive, a small garden is best to practice on.
On the flip side, if you’ve got the time, space and skill to grow a lot of food, you might want to consider ways to plant an even bigger garden.
Do you have a friend with unused garden space you could use? Could you use the space between your fence and your grass to grow food in? Could you creatively place a garden box near your home? (We’ve tried all of these in the past, with great results.)
2. What will actually get eaten?
Have you ever gotten really excited about growing a lot of food and planted a ton of different vegetables that you ended up not even eating?
Before you go crazy and plant a bunch of varieties, try testing them out first. If there’s something you want to plant that you’ve never tried before, try sampling it first from a farmer’s market or grocery store.
It’s best to find out that your family won’t even eat chard before you plant a whole box of it. Maybe just one or two plants will suffice so everyone can develop a taste for it. Or you can just omit it and plant more of what your family loves.
3. What will you do with extras?
Every year, no matter how few tomatoes we plant, we always end up with a counter full of tomatoes that we aren’t sure what to do with. If that happens to you too, plan in advance what you’ll do with all that fresh produce.
Here are a few options:
One great way to cut your food budget for months to come and lower your dependence on grocery stores it to preserve your garden bounty. You can do so in a number of different ways.
- Canning: Put all those wonderful canning jars to use. Can fruit or veggies by themselves, or whip up something yummy, like jam or relish. (You can read more here about canning foods.) This is a fabulous pressure canner to help get the job done.
- Freezing: For those of us who are still a bit intimidated by canning, freezing is a great, easy way to preserve food in various forms. Berries, for instance, can be frozen whole or pureéd then frozen for future use in smoothies.
- Dehydrating: Dry fruit and berries (and other foods) in a dehydrator or oven for delicious snacks you can eat year-round. (Read more about dehydrating food here.)
Give it away
We love giving away garden extras. Those times we’ve grown stuff we didn’t end up liking, we were able to give most of the produce away easily by asking friends on Facebook if they wanted it.
If you have a large garden with a lot of extra food, you could consider selling some of your excess produce. Ask friends, family or co-workers if they’d be interested in buying any. My parents have even been able to sell garden extras at the farmer’s market in our small town.
What other things do you consider before planting your garden? Share your tips below!
image credit to Rick Ligthelm