If the prices at the grocery store are getting to be too much for your budget it is time to start thinking about growing your own in a fresh country garden. Even if you manage a plot through the summer months, as fresh food prices go up growing your own keeps your household budget in check.If you’re like me and love fresh produce at every meal, you’ll be dreaming of ways to extend the growing season (such as having your own greenhouse) or moving to a location where the weather facilitates a year round country garden.
For most of us, moving is not an option. We’ve made our roots in our communities, we have family and friends nearby that we don’t want to move away from, or we simply can not afford to move. We can grow enough to last the year but then we are consumed for months afterward canning, drying, or preparing for the freezer to keep our summer vegetables from the country garden as fresh as possible.
Country Garden Greenhouse
But consider this: you could have your own fresh vegetables year round just by adding a greenhouse to your country gardening scheme. Whether to start your plants from seed or bring container vegetables indoors, a greenhouse is a great addition to your home. By adding even a simple, inexpensive greenhouse and employing the tips below to plant an early spring garden, a fall garden, and overwintering the hardier vegetables, you’ll be growing vegetables for longer periods than the standard 60-90 day growing season.
With country garden plants started earlier, for your early spring vegetables or plants that take longer to grow, you can employ the use of protective plastic covers and heat absorbing mulches to trick the plants into thinking they’re in full summer heat. This speeds the growth of early vegetables and ensures that you’ll be in salad greens and sugar snap peas by May.
The Late Country Garden
On the other side of summer, fall garden plants keep growing right up until the first hard freeze (a hard freeze is more than a light frost). Broccoli and brussel sprouts, cabbages and kale last well into the cold months of most regions. Carrots, potatoes, parsnips and other root vegetables can be left right in the ground with a little mulch over top until regular snow removal becomes too much of a pain digging them out. Once they are in your house the shelf life of turnips, rutabagas, carrots, parsnips, and Bermuda onions will be between two and three months if you store them in a cool area.
Long storage vegetables such as squash, sweet potatoes, yams, cooking onions and garlic can be stored in breathable containers in a cool area of your house for up to 9 months.
To save the most time and keep your plants going strong, harvest your country garden bounty every few days. I keep large plastic bags in the freezer for the different vegetables and use them up as required. Beans are one of my favorites to pick this way as I know they are going from garden to freezer and then to the table in less than 20 minutes of handling time. There is no time for them to sit in the fridge waiting for me to have enough to freeze or can. The same is true of tomatoes. I freeze them as they come in from the garden, even if only two at a time, and when I’m ready to make salsa, spaghetti sauce or canned antipasto, I take them out, run them under cold water for 30 seconds and slip off the skins. This eliminates scoring, scorching and peeling tomatoes before use and keeps them fresh until I’m ready to use them.
Adding these few tips to a lighter freezing and canning schedule extends the season of feeding your family fresh garden vegetables and saves you piles of money at the grocery store checkout.