Planning a vegetable garden and knowing what your family likes to eat prior to preserving helps prepare you for a summer of family fun. There are many fresh vegetables that we enjoy from our gardens such as tomatoes, lettuce, peas, and more. With planning and effort, we can create a garden to enjoy all our fresh items throughout the year by planning for canning, freezing and dehydration of our harvest to feed our friends and family.
Make a list of produce that you could grow in your garden and eat soon and preserve for the winter. Here are some questions to help you make a list:
- What fresh produce does your family like to eat from the garden?
- What items in your pantry have you canned from your garden or farmers markets?
- Do you have items that you have frozen from your garden or farmers markets?
- What products have you dehydrated from your garden?
- What items do you like to have available in your pantry to cook with?
Our Garden and Harvest
At our house we enjoy a fresh garden salad, fresh salsa or peas from the garden. We also use tomatoes all year round for cooking, appetizers or as a base for a stew. Our favorite tomato products are salsa or diced tomatoes. On average we can go through a pint of salsa every other week. We will need to preserve 26 pints of salsa to get through until the next canning season. I know with this information I need a dedicated area of 3 square feet per plant for growing 6 to 8 tomato plants. I mix the varieties to make it more fun. We will be using tomatoes for slicing, canning and salsa. This last harvest we put up from garden produce 30 pints of green salsa and 30 pints of red salsa.
Plan to Plant
Planning your garden around the items that your family will eat and that you can preserve by freezing, canning, or dehydrating is fun. We plan our garden around tomatoes and other fresh items we like to eat such as onions, peppers, squash, carrots, green beans, and peas. Many of these items can be grown in containers to help extend harvest into the fall. Contact your local Extension Office for assistance in selecting varieties of vegetables that will grow well in your area. For Food Preservation techniques for your elevation, again contact your local Extension Office.