Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Beginner’s Guide To Gardening: Think Outside The Garden

As your garden starts to produce, don't forget to look to the future. Saving seeds, canning, and drying flowers is a great way to enjoy the bounty all year.

jars of Strawberry Preserves

Photo: djwtwo (flickr)

It's easier than you think and many vegetables don't require an expensive pressure canner. Peppers, berries, tomatoes can all be canned using a hot water bath.

With so many things to do in the garden, it’s a wonder you can plan for tomorrow, let alone next week or month – but you should try. The payoff will be well worth it.

From fastidious pruning for an increase in yield, to prepping for vegetable storage when your harvest comes in, you’ll want to be ready for the abundance of joy you’re going to reap!

Getting The Kids’ Hands Dirty

What should you be thinking about when it comes to crafting this marvelous plan? Your kids for one!

Are they weeding? Digging? Bug dispatching? Wonderful! Reward them with some “down-time” in the garden, as in “no chores.” You do want them to come back, don’t you?

We’ve all heard about creating the classic corn husk dolls, but have you considered using those same husks to make mini baskets? Basket weaving is an excellent exercise for little fingers to practice dexterity. (It sure beats the DS and other video games.) It also produces a keepsake for their bedroom or a share for school.

Planting Your Own Seeds

But these fun-filled activities don’t have to be limited to the kids. Now that you’re growing your own fruit and vegetables, consider becoming a totally self-sustaining garden. You may even want to designate a special section to the cause, because some plants don’t produce seeds the first season (carrots and onions to name two).

Beans are easy. I love beans! Simply free them from their pods and dry them out. They’ll easily keep until your next planting season.

Tomatoes and peppers require a tad bit extra work to dry, but once you remove the “goo” they’ll keep well for you.

(You can find simple designs for making your own seed packets on my website.)

And there’s nothing more rewarding than a self-sustaining garden. The pride you derive from knowing you grew it yourself is great, but knowing you also grew the seed that produced the current harvest is double the satisfaction. Maybe even double the produce!

Preserving The Harvest

Which means you might want to take up canning.

It’s easier than you think and many vegetables don’t require an expensive pressure canner. Peppers, berries, tomatoes can all be canned using a hot water bath. Basically boiling your jars filled with goodies for the recommended time is all it takes. Next thing you know, your pantry will be stocked for the winter!

Low acid vegetables (most others) require the pressure canner method for safe preservation.

Don’t forget those flowers and herbs! These are easily dried, great for both consumption and decor purposes.

Have you ever placed a satchel of dried lavender or rosemary in your drawer? It’s a glorious waft of fragrance every time you dress – it’s especially welcome in the kids’ sock drawers!

More Than Meets The Garden

Integrating your garden with other areas of your life not only instills a connection with nature, but also rewards one with deep pleasure. Returning to the simple things in life can create a powerful feeling of inner joy. Dare I say peace? I mean, if I can lolly-gag in my garden and avoid the market altogether, I’m in! Don’t ask me twice.

How about you? Take a moment to ponder the possibilities that await you as your garden flourishes with life. Whether it be crafts or canning, perfumes or even homemade aromatherapy, there’s a wealth of enjoyment to be had. All you have to do is “think outside the garden.”

More: Next week, we tackle the unpleasant topic of plant diseases.

Dianne Venetta

Dianne is an author, entrepreneur, and mother. She writes the blog BloominThyme and volunteers as garden coordinator for her children's school garden. At the end of the day, if she can inspire someone to stop and smell the roses (or rosemary), kiss their child and husband goodnight, be kind to a neighbor and Mother Earth, then she's done all right.

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