Ahh….spring time is finally arriving. It’s the perfect time to start making fun summer plans, to plant flowers, to start spending more time outdoors, and to begin your garden (which just happens to be #7 on the list of 25 ways to be more self reliant).
Yes, spring is good.
Anyone who is looking to live a more self-reliant lifestyle is probably pretty dern’ familiar with gardening. I’ve had a garden for years, but honestly, I kinda suck at it (it hurts to admit it, but there ya go). I mean, I grow my peas, tomatoes, and zucchini, but there are certain things I just can’t seem to grow (well) for the life of me!!
Fortunately, spring is also about new beginnings. New hopes, new dreams…at least to me. I will try once again to grow a large garden and to get a ton of produce that I can, well, CAN, and I’m just as excited this year as every year.
Do you garden? If so, what do you grow? This year I’m growing:
- Peas – already in the ground ready to go. Our kids are SO eager to harvest these babies! We grow a lot, but never enough to freeze or can. But that’s okay, we don’t really like them when they’re not fresh anyway. We like to plant these a couple weeks apart so that we can have a continuous harvest for awhile…in fact, I think I’m due to plant a few more today. The varieties we’re growing this year are Alaska and Sugar.
- Spinach – this is my first year growing spinach, and I don’t really know what I’m doing. I do lettuce probably every other year or so, just because it’s not something I feel overly enthusiastic about. But spinach? See, I recently discovered those spinach smoothies, and of course the spinach guacamole, and I can see myself eating a lot more of it this year, particularly if I can grab it from my yard. I followed the packet directions, so we’ll see what happens!
- Lettuce – although it’s not the most exciting thing for me to grow, it’s definitely useful, and man, lettuce feels fail-proof! Every time I grow it I end up with more than I can use, and I think that’s a good thing! Last year Munchkin’s friends loved coming over and eating it. They’d bring little ziploc bags and take some home with them, and it was adorable! I’ll be growing what’s called “Salad Bowl” lettuce, since those are the seeds I have on hand.:-)
- Zucchini Squash – The first two years I grew this, I had terrible luck. I didn’t understand those people who had zucchini coming out of their ears. I don’t think I did anything different, but somehow the 3rd year was the charm, and I’ve had MORE THAN enough zucchini since! Love it, and I love that it makes me feel like I know how to garden, because not everything I plant makes me feel that way. Speaking of….
- Pumpkins – I’ve never had luck with my pumpkin patches. I suppose it’s okay, because I grow them mostly for the decorative value come Halloween, but man, I don’t think I’ve ever grown more than 2 pumpkins in a year! I have no clue what the heck I’m doing wrong! This year I’m growing Connecticut Field pumpkins.
- Sweet Corn – This is another one that I don’t get great yields with. I’ve only tried for 2 seasons, but never had a ton of luck. I don’t have a ton of space, and I think that may have something to do with it. I guess we’ll see what happens, right? I’ll be growing Sugar Dots.
- Cucumbers – My problem with these is that they end up bitter. I heard it could be a watering thing, so we’ll attempt again with more water this year. If they end up bitter, does anyone know if I can still pickle them?
- Tomatoes – I love me some fresh tomatoes. I think we’ve had decent luck with our tomatoes, and we always harvest more than we can eat right away. My goal this year is to have so many dang tomatoes that by the time the harvest ends I’m sick of them. I want to can tomatoes, salsa, spaghetti sauce, etc. I want to eat a BLT with fresh tomatoes from my garden. I want to can tomato soup and maybe a batch or two of ketchup. I want to go crazy with the tomatoes. This year we’re trying some new varieties: Abe Lincoln Heirloom, Box Car Willie Heirloom. We’re also going with a few known varieties, the Better Boys, Roma and Cherry tomatoes.
- Yellow squash – I love me some fresh squash, but I’m not big into canning or freezing it, so I’m hoping to get some, but I’m not too stressed about getting a ton. If we get more than we can eat, I know I have family/friends that would love to take some off my hands!
- Peppers (Bell and Jalepeno) – I cannot grow peppers well, particularly Bell peppers. Not sure why! I’m gonna try giving them a little more shade this year, as I heard that can help.
- Carrots – I love my carrots, and we get a decent size crop, but man, my carrots are always short and stubby! I’m gonna try again this year though, and I’d love to can some carrots for the first time!
- Potatoes – We may or may not do potatoes…and I know I need to decide soon! My favorite thing about home-grown is picking them when they’re still small and making Potatoes and Cream.
- Cilantro – because I simply love it!
- Mint – I’ve heard this stuff goes crazy, and I’m excited to find out. This’ll be my first year growing mint.
- Rosemary – this is a maybe. I’m not sure yet if I’ll grow it but I think it’d be fun to try.
- Peaches – Our 2-year old peach tree has 2 blossoms on it! I’m very excited to eat 2 fresh peaches from my baby tree this year.:-)
- Pears – Our pear trees are fairly young as well. Last year was the first we got a harvest, and we enjoyed 3 pears: 2 Bartlett and 1 Asian. Our trees are full of blossoms this year, so we’re hopeful.
- Raspberries – Every morning during raspberry season, my husband and I take our kids outside and eat breakfast. Those kids love raspberries more than almost anything in this world. We’re able to get a few handfuls for each of them every day. My husband went crazy last year and planted half a dozen new plants of different varieties (including white and black raspberries), so we’re excited to see if we get any yields from them.
- Apples – We have 2 dwarf apple trees, and they don’t always get a ton of fruit, but enough for me to make a few pints of applesauce in the fall.
- Grapes – We have purple Welch’s grapes that are delicious, but they have seeds, so we only use them for fruit. This year we have a couple of new varieties…a Candice and another that I can’t remember. The new ones are seedless, which will be nice.
- Bush Cherries – This is what I’m most excited for. We planted some bushes the fall before last, and this will be the first year to get a harvest. I LOVE bush cherries, I think they make the best jam and Homemade Nutrigrain bars EVER!:-)
So…that’s our plan for the year. I’ll update throughout the season and share my successes, and yes, the inevitable failures as well.
I am convinced that gardening is a good thing for so many incredible reasons. It can save you money. You know where your crops are coming from, and you can prevent pesticides and other chemicals on them if you choose. Fresh garden treats always taste better. Having a garden tends to increase the amount of fruits/veggies you get in your diet, because it’s right there, begging to be eaten. Gardening can be extremely therapeutic. There is something satisfying about putting your hands into the earth, feeling the soil, and appreciating the land you live on. There is also an immense thrill when harvest time comes. Expert gardener or not, I will enjoy gardening the rest of my days.:-)