Whether it be freshly prepared meals all through the Spring, Summer and Fall – or using our canned and frozen produce the year around – what grows in our garden provides the majority of food for our family.

2016 Garden Plan
Our 2016 OWG Garden Plan. You can click to make full size.

With that said, creating our plan now is a big key to attaining our food goals once the growing season arrives.

At the beginning of each  year – we take time to plot out what varieties to grow, how many to plant of each – and where to put them in our raised row beds.

As for guidance, when it comes to what we plant, we always follow what we call the Golden Rule of Garden Planning : Grow What You And Your Family Like To Eat! 

The 2016 Garden Plan…

As you can see from the 2016 plan – this year’s garden is once again chock-full of heirloom varieties of tomatoes and peppers. Beyond the incredible fresh eating they provide all summer long – they are also perfect for creating our canned salsa, sauces, ketchup, pizza sauce and more.  See: The Best Tomato Canning Recipes

They also form the base for our chili, tomato and vegetable soups – which are great to then freeze and utilize all year-long.

Along with the big plantings of peppers and tomatoes – we also have plenty of cucumbers, peas, green beans, garlic, popcorn and more to go along with succession plantings of our salad beds filled with lettuce, kale, spinach and broccoli.

 Nothing can beat the flavor of heirloom tomatoes!
Nothing can beat the flavor of heirloom tomatoes!

Cherokee Purple, Brandywine and Amish Paste remain our favorites among the tomatoes.  They simply burst with flavor and make for incredible pasta sauce and salsa – not to mention they are BIG producers! Taxi (yellow) and Valencia (orange) tomatoes remain a hit as well – their flavor is simply amazing in salads or to just slice and eat. Those two varieties also are the main ingredients of the most amazing tomato soup I have ever tasted – and it freezes perfectly!  See recipe here :  OWG Tomato Soup Recipe

When it comes to peppers – the staples of Jalapeno, Italian Roaster, California Wonder Green Bell and Cajun Belle remain – but the heirloom Chinese Lantern Pepper remains our absolute favorite. We are also trying two new edible ornamental pepper varieties in our beds this year – McMahon’s Texas Bird and a variety called Candlelight. Both varieties should be filled with hundreds of edible and colorful peppers that can be used in salads and salsa – not to mention they look great in flowerbeds!

How Much Should I Plant?

 Canning is a major priority when it comes to meeting our food goals
Canning is a major priority when it comes to meeting our food goals

So that leads to one of the most asked questions every year – how much do I need to plant to feed my family?  Although every food goal will be different based on family size and eating habits – I can tell you that our garden plan last year (using the same space) provided all we needed for our family of four full-timers and 2 college part-timers. And we still had enough left over to give a few bushels of produce to family and friends.  You can see our 2015 yield at the end of this article.

When it comes to staples like tomatoes and peppers – a good rule of thumb is 2 to 3 plants per person.

So get started on your garden plan and prepare to feed your family this year with fresh organic produce straight from your backyard!

And for those of you that might not have space or time for a backyard garden but still want to garden – stay tuned to our updates the next few weeks!

We will be launching a new low-maintenance twist on container gardening that can easily provide some, most, or nearly all of your fresh food goals. We’ve named it the  Any Age / Anywhere Garden – and as the name implies – we think it will be a big hit for anyone, anywhere, and of any age that wants to grow their own food!

Happy Gardening! – Jim and Mary

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2015  Preserving Yield

Canned/Dry Storage : Tomato Juice :  48 quarts; Salsa : 24 Pints; Picante Salsa : 24 pints; Hot Pepper Mustard : 24 pints; Pasta Sauce : 18 Quarts; Green Beans :  24 pints; Pizza Sauce : 6 pints; Hot and Spicy Ketchup : 3 pints; Strawberry-Honey Jam – 6 pints; Pickles – 12 pints of assorted varieties; Popcorn – 18 quarts (not canned – just dried and sealed)

A few jars each of jalapeno rings, banana pepper rings, hot pepper flakes, cowboy candy, cayenne pepper powder, chili powder and taco seasoning. Freezer : Chili – 24 quarts (we freeze them into quart bricks); Tomato Soup (18 quarts); Vegetable soup – 24 quarts; Jalapeno, Cajun Belle and Mini Belle peppers for appetizers; Corn – 30 frozen quart bags; Stir Fry Packets – 36 packets of onions, peppers, and sugar snap peas for stir fry

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