More and more people are planting backyard gardens every year for canning and preserving! Beyond the simple joy of getting to play in the dirt and experience the great outdoors – gardening has become more popular than ever as people look to grow their own nutritious, healthy, pesticide-free food.
There is just something so incredibly special about knowing where your food came from. And when that “somewhere” is your own backyard – it takes on a whole new level of special!
But beyond growing a few fresh tomatoes or green beans, with a bit of planning and preserving, you can maximize your gardening efforts to create a virtual year-round pantry.
Not only will you be providing you and your family great tasting, healthier food, but you can save big money on those ever-soaring grocery bills! Here are a four key tips for planning to get the most out of your backyard garden. Especially when it comes to canning and preserving.
#1 Take Stock Of What You Consume Now
Before you ever plant that first plant – before you ever put that first seed in the ground – know what you need to grow!
If you want to grow more of your family’s food, then you have to know what you consume in the first place. Start by writing down what you and your family eat most that can come from a garden.
This step sounds so simple – but its where a lot of home growing plans fail. Without knowing what you eat, its hard to plant and grow what you will need.
Do you like potatoes and tomatoes? Does your family eat a lot of garlic? How about salsa and pasta sauce? Salads? You want to start by writing down the foods you and your family like to eat that can be grown in your garden. This eliminates the issue of growing things you won’t consume, or not having enough of what you do love.
#2 Create Annual Food Goals
Now you need to find out how much you will need to grow to feed your family all year.
Think of it as creating a grocery list for an entire year. Simply write down what you think you will need each month, and multiply it by 12 for a yearly food goal. If you go through a couple of jars of salsa each month, then you will need to can or preserve at least 24 to get you through. Likewise, if you have green beans or corn 4 times a month, you will need 48 servings either frozen or canned to make your goal. This step is so critical in keeping you on track when you go to plan and plant your garden. It will never be a perfect process, but it sets the stage for success.
#3 Plan and Plant To Grow What You and Your Family Like To Eat Most
Now that you are armed with a list of what you eat, and how much you will need for canning and preserving – you can plan and plant that garden!
If you want to make 24 jars of salsa, some pasta sauce and maybe a little homemade ketchup – then you are going to need to plant enough tomatoes to do so. And with that, the right varieties to make those goods.
We dedicate two rows (14 to 16 plants) of Amish Paste and San Marzano tomato plants every year to make our food goals of 48 salsa pints, 36 pasta sauce quarts, and a few jars of homemade ketchup and barbecue sauce. Without knowing how much we would need, we wouldn’t have ever had a clue how much to plant.
We use the same process for our green beans, popcorn, garlic, and every other crop. It’s never perfect. We still fall short at times on a few things. Other time, we might be overloaded on something. However, it is far better and easier to have the plan in place to make the most of the garden space! And, most importantly, each year it gets easier.
#4 Supplement Your Growing With Local Sources
That leads to our final tip. Concentrate your efforts on growing what you can grow well in the space you have. In other words, don’t try to grow everything under the sun. All you will end up with is a garden that is so congested that nothing grows well. Or, one that becomes so large and hard to maintain, it causes frustration.
If there are things you and your family want to can or freeze that you can’t grow, or grow enough of, then buy in bulk to save and have healthy food all year long. There are so many great farmers market’s and local farmers now growing great produce.
A great example for us is sweet corn. We love it fresh, but love to can and freeze it as well. Unfortunately, it would just take up too much space in our garden to grow as much as we consume. However, we have a local farmer down the road that grows incredible organic sweet corn. We purchase in bulk from him, and then can and freeze it to have all year long. Not only is it inexpensive, it’s organic and delicious!
With a little planning, you really can grow and feed your family more than you ever imagined!
Happy Gardening! – Jim and Mary. We hope you enjoyed this week’s gardening article! If you would like to receive our DIY, Gardening and Recipe articles each week, you can sign up to follow the blog via email in the right hand column above, “Like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter. This article may contain affiliate links.