Last year was the first year we had the garden. My hubby very sweetly made me a raised garden in our backyard. We have a lot of clay so a raised bed would give this beginner more success. So some sweat, manual labor, lumber used to create a E shaped garden and then loads and loads of compost and we had a fresh place for the dog to sniff around. No just kidding, he does sniff in there when there are no plants but that doesn’t last long.
We planted tomatoes, beans, basil, cucumbers, yellow squash, zucchini, watermelon, honeydew, and pumpkins. Then we were given tomato plants and asparagus from my parents as they were moving and couldn’t take them with them.
So I learned a couple of lessons last year as well. First of all, pumpkin vines are very strong and took over, they killed the watermelon and honeydew plants. Which is sad I was really looking forward to some sweet watermelon from my own garden. Cucumber plants need something to climb, if you don’t give it to them the will climb your other plants. Cucumber plants will produce a lot. I have pickles coming out of my ears, but more on that another time. My tomato plants became very large with a ton of green tomatoes, which most didn’t ripen. I learned that you need to stop the tomato plants at the height you want, for the plant to focus the nutrients on the fruit not the leaves. Our squash and zucchini produced nicely, but I want more of those plants this year, we love that combo in the summer.
Craziest part of the pumpkin veins – NO PUMPKINS!!!! They killed off my watermelon and honeydew and didn’t give me any fruit! Not ok.
I also learned how to can chicken broth, vegetable broth, and turkey broth. I really do love canning. But the part I love most about canning is being side by side with my hubby as we work away in the kitchen. He helps with all the fruit canning and if he is home while I make the broth he helps me fill the jars. I love canning so much we have made it a tradition with our oldest that that is what he takes into his teachers at school as Christmas presents.
So with the bounty of cucumbers I also started testing pickle recipes. I am lucky to be the youngest of five. It means I have a lot of people to test recipes on. We found one recipe we like better than the other but I’m still not sold. I hope to find one this year that we all really love.
As for the fruit canning I do. I purchase the fruit from small farms. The blueberries are from Michigan. We purchase them by the 10-pound box full. Those are the only blueberries a couple of our young family members, our kids and niece and nephew, will eat. According to those sweet young hearts Michigan blueberries have the best flavor.
For peaches we found an amazing farm between Delta and Swanton. By the way do you know big a bushel is? I did not know. I asked my husband if we should get a bushel or half bushel. He said “go all out and get a bushel.” Oh My Goodness. That is a LOT of peaches. But I am happy he made me go full force that way I won’t be scared of it this year when we do pears as well.
Raspberries we pick our own. Yep me down in the dirty out in the sun early in the morning at a small farm picking box after box of raspberries. Apples we go to a local farm and pick to our hearts content. We get as many kinds as we can so that the apple pie filling, apple sauce, and apple butter and great texture and taste. Like I said I love canning. The action of it with my husband, seeing jar after jar filled on our shelves, then seeing the empty jars coming out of the dishwasher. I love it all.