Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Garden Goodies!

We've been gardening for several years now with mixed success. Our very first garden was amazing, and it's what got us hooked to begin with. Tasting those home grown tomatoes and cucumbers was heavenly and addictive! Nothing from the store has been able to match up since!

When we moved to our home six years ago, we had to start everything from scratch. Our soil was terrible, but we didn't realize how terrible until we tried to grow stuff in it. Then there was the matter of the weed field behind us. It makes for a nice view (strange that it would, but it really does), but the seeds blowing constantly into our garden area made for poor turn out in crops. There were so many weeds growing at once that it was impossible to keep up the large garden area we'd planted.

Some of our neighbors, upon learning of our troubles, told us about a product called plastic mulch. It's not really mulch, persay, but a very thin sheeting used for agricultural purposes that keeps the weeds from growing up, but lets your garden plants thrive. Last year we used it with great results, though our soil still wasn't up to par (but it was much improved from throwing in our compost and yard clippings).

We continued to condition the soil and used the plastic mulch again this year and the results have been amazing!!! I've canned a lot of salsa and have the makings to do even more.

I've got enough cucumbers that I've started giving them away by the bag. We had about thirty or so melons, and even though our family loves and eats them like crazy, I've not had to buy any for quite a while and don't think I will have to for the rest of the year because I'll be able to cut up and freeze all the extra we have.

I've made a lot of tomato sauce and will be canning even more due to our enormous crop of tomatoes (we did multiple varieties and have lots for snacking too).

I'm thinking of doing some vegetable juice in the next week or so, since it will give us more of a variety in the pantry.

Our pumpkins have really taken off too. I have more than enough for all those pumpkin cookies and pies I love so much. I'm going to have to figure out some more uses for them! We did the Orange Smoothie variety, which like the Sugar pumpkins, are the best for baking needs because they aren't as stringy and are more dense than the carving pumpkins used at Halloween.

We also jumped into growing our own herbs this year with gusto! We've got sage, chives, oregano, and basil. We plan to do even more next year, since we discovered how easy and delicious it is to grow our own. I dry the leaves in my dehydrator and then grind them up. It's better than store bought and it's much cheaper too!


Besides all of that, I've been making peach, apricot and berry jams and syrup. We go through a lot of that around here, so it makes sense to make it so we don't have to buy it. Plus, we know what goes into it and it's much tastier than anything on the market.

Though I feel extremely blessed with the bounty the Lord has given us, I have to admit that I'm more than a little overwhelmed at times. Believe it or not, it was easier to do the canning when the kids were out of school because 1) I had helpers who wanted to learn 2) I had someone to talk to during the long process of seeding and chopping all those peppers and tomatoes 3) I didn't have to worry as much about schedules.

I've gotten a lot of my canning recipes for free on  Pick Your Own and The National Center for Home Food Preservation. Then I also have Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and Canning and Preserving for Dummies for even more recipes, procedures and ideas.

Anyway, I am thankful for all that we've been given and for the ability to be able to preserve so much and save my family money in the long run!