Gardening 101

Gardening 101

gardeningI love to garden, however, it does take up a lot of time in the beginning, but once I get a garden established it’s just the maintaining part that I can putter around and pick at when I get the chance. It’s so rewarding to have a garden and be able to pick things to add to meals or make up an entire meal; which is possible. Planning out a garden isn’t always as easy as it looks. The size of the garden has to be considered. How much are you willing to maintain? How much will you and/or your family be able to consume from your crop? Will you start from seed or buy your plants as seedlings?

The first time I planned to have a garden I decided to start all my seeds inside. What I learned was, the plants started off quite healthy, but eventually they became weak and slowly, one by one, they withered away to pathetic limp, lifeless plants, that eventually met their demise. At that point, I realized that I really didn’t have the space to start plants inside and the honest truth… I wasn’t really good at starting plants. My next step was going to the nursery and buying already established plants.  So off I went…

Vegetables:

As I mentioned in an earlier post, “gardening made easy”, you don’t want to buy too many plants of one kind because you’ll be stuck eating all that you grow, or end up giving a lot of it away. Our first year, we had zucchini coming out of our ears. Start off by growing a couple plants of the things you like and one plant of the things you THINK you may like. It’s really hard to judge from year to year how many you will consume or how much will actually grow.

vegetable gardenI doubled my garden this year (picture is previous year) because I realized that I needed more room for my plants, not because I wanted to plant more, it was because I wasn’t putting in consideration how much room the plants should have in between each other. Another thing to consider is when planting ground covering plants such as, cucumbers, watermelon, pumpkin, etc…you need a big area for them to spread around on the ground. I tend to grow my cucumbers along the fence edge of the garden so I can direct them, as they grow, up and through the fence; allowing for

more space in my garden.

When deciding what to plant, I didn’t totally wean away from starting my own plants from seed, I just limited myself to the ones that I had success with. If you have a little gardening experience, I’m sure you understand what I mean. I learned that, for me, cucumbers never worked to well, but tomatoes did. Zucchini didn’t work to well for me, but snap peas and green beans did. Spinach didn’t work to well, but kaleKale did, and so on…
I guess it’s the gardener and their luck, it might just be me, I don’t know, but you don’t know unless you try.

Fruits:

I also tried starting strawberries from seed. In the pictures it shows my process:
strawberry seedsFirst, I took strawberries that had several bruises on them and cut off the bad parts, tossing them into my compost. Then I put the, still ripe parts of the strawberry into the blender, with a little water, and pureed them.

strawberry seeds

After the strawberry pieces and water were mixed, I poured the blender contents into a small mason jar where I let the mixture settle (the seeds made their way to the bottom of the jar).

strawberry seedsNext, I carefully poured out the liquid contents, discarding it, while trying to keep as much of the seeds at the bottom. Having a paper towel handy, once the majority of the liquid was disposed, I poured the seeds onto the paper towel. The most important part of doing this process is pushing out the access liquid, enough so that your paper towel is still moist and able to keep the seeds damp.

strawberry seedsAfter labeling a ziploc bag “strawberries”, I folded the paper towel and gently put the strawberry seed filled paper towels into the ziploc bag very carefully and kept it flat. I then placed the bag of seeds into a dark closet and the wait began…
After about 4 weeks, my seeds began sprouting and I was able to plant the seeds. The ultimate test will be to see if next year, I get any strawberries! This was my first attempt at trying this. You can also do this process with blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries.
**Update: I got a few strawberries from the seeds I started.strawberries
I am eager, now, to try this with blueberries.

applesAlong with my vegetable and berry gardens, I have several apple trees, but haven’t mastered the skill of pruning.  I would love to get more apples from the many trees we have. If any of you know how or know of a really useful YouTube tutorial that could offer me assistant (from your own experience), please comment below. This has been something I’ve been wanting to learn.  It would be great to be able to provide my family with apples and have the option to can and bake from our own trees.

Canning:

When you’re finally rewarded with a vegetable or fruit-filled garden you may choose to can.  This is one great way to preserve what you’ve grown and enjoy it on the off seasons.

picklesJust recently, I gathered enough pickling cucumbers from my garden and decided to make and can some pickles.  picklingI always make sure that I have at least 6 large mason jars full of cucumbers before I even attempt to can them.   It is a process when canning; one that I would not do if I didn’t have enough to make it worth the effort that goes into it.

Days before I’m ready to can, I get a clean, dry container and mix all my dry ingredients.  I keep them in an air tight container for C-day (canning day).  Doing this allows me to cut down the added time of measuring out and the clean up of the spices and powders the day of.

picklingpicklingpicklingpickling

I would share my recipe, but it’s a family secret.  So if you are looking for a pickling recipe make sure to check for recipes online; or if someone reading this cares to share their recipe, please comment below.  The recipe I use has a bit of a spicy bite to it; a ‘kick’, one might say.  These pickles are something we look forward to diving into the second they are made.  We can’t help it.  They are so good!

Pickles are not the only thing I’ve canned.  I’ve done diced tomatoes, salsa, blueberry jam, and pear sauce as well.

canning

For the past 3 years I have been growing my own garlic.  I had gone to a local farm and purchased a garlic bulb, broke it into separate cloves and each Fall I poke the cloves one by one into the soil in my garden.  In the Spring I have many garlic bulbs ready to be harvested.  Such a great way to grow something and basically have no work that goes into it.

I will be canning my garlic this year.  I purchased smaller sized jars and will peel the garlic cloves and put them into my food processor to mince them before canning.

I also planted a very large amount of basil this year, because I read that basil keeps mosquito’s at bay; I will be adding olive oil and basil to my food processor to mince and also can.  This will be a great way to have the yummy fresh flavors of basil anytime throughout the year.

If you have gardens and/or can, I would love to hear what you plant, what you can, and if you have any secrets to any of these that may help myself or other readers, please comment below.  What is your favorite home grown vegetable?  I have to say, for me, it’s a toss up between cucumbers and tomatoes.  Love the occasional zucchini and may even attempt to make my first chocolate zucchini bread this year.  Can’t wait!

 

 

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