Why Do It and How to Get a Head Start for Spring

My husband and I garden. We call it our “therapy”. There is nothing like working the soil, planting your plants, pulling weeds, and watching your garden yield fresh, colorful produce all summer long!

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It truly is therapeutic to grow your own food. And oh, what a feeling of comfort and satisfaction when the first flakes start to fly, knowing you have a freezer and cupboards full of preserved vegetables.

There is no feeling like it in the world! We all hear about the rising costs of just about everything, due to the cost of gasoline. The produce in stores has been no exception. With these high food costs, gardening can save bundles of money each year. Take bell peppers for example. In my state, green bell peppers in the grocery store can run up to $4.99 per plant, and that’s non-organic peppers!

If I buy a packet of green bell pepper seeds from Burpee for $4.65, which contains between 20 and 30 seeds, I can get enough peppers to last my family and me all summer long, even if we eat them every day.

Not only that, I can freeze enough chopped peppers to last us the entire winter to be used in soups and casseroles. Let’s just say, for sake of argument, that I bought 2 lbs of bell peppers a month. That’s $10. If I spend $10 a month for twelve months on bell peppers, I have spent a total of $120 for the year.

On the other hand, if I buy one packet of bell pepper seeds every year, I have spent $5.00 total.

So, I can spend $120 per year or I can spend $5.00 per year. I choose $5.00 a year!

Now take that same difference and apply it to green beans, yellow beans, tomatoes, onions, corn… do you see where this is going? The amount of money saved in a year from growing and preserving your own vegetables is enormous!

There is a start up cost in the beginning, but that will more than pay for itself as your gardening season progresses.

Although the garden season is actually wrapping up, there are things that can be done now in preparation for the spring garden season. Doing these things now will help make gardening in the spring so much easier!

To get a head start on your garden now do the following this Fall:

~ While the leaves are still on the trees, observe your lawn on a sunny day, all day long. Notice which area gets the most sunlight. Ideal is sun all day long. However, if you have to choose between morning sun and afternoon sun, the best scenario is a great deal of morning and early afternoon sun, with shade in the later/hotter hours of the day.

~ Choose your garden spot and map it out.

~ Begin working your ground now. This will give you a great head start, especially if you are turning lawn into garden space. The deeper the grass roots are, the harder that grass is to fight off in the first year of gardening.

Rototill the ground. If you can, go over it twice, really breaking up the clumps of sod. That same day, or at least, during the same week, as much as you can, rake up the clumps of grass and remove them from the garden plot.

Grass is hardy and will quickly re-root itself into freshly broken up soil. Working the ground like this takes alot of hard work. We’ve had to do it at all three houses we’ve lived in – – turn lawn into garden.

If you can get this done in the Fall, you can get most of the hard work out of the way, so you can focus on planting in the spring. Planting is the fun part!

~ If you live in an area that is populated by deer, rabbits, and other cute, furry creatures, Fall is also the time to focus on getting your fence up. An ideal fence is approximately five feet in height, and is also sunk into the ground approximately one-quarter to half a foot. Installing the fence in the ground keeps the smaller animals from digging under it.

~ Once your soil is worked and your fence is up, Fall is the time to plant garlic and strawberries if you want them for the following season. Some sites also tell you to plant asparagus and potatoes now, but that depends on what zone you live in (zone being the area of the United States and it’s climate conditions). Google this information for your state, and plant accordingly.

~ If you want to try your hand at gardening now, because you are just so excited about doing this, it is possible to plant a fall garden. Fall gardens usually involve root vegetables such as turnips and beets, as well as greens that can withstand colder temps and frosts. These greens include kale, bok choy, swisschard, and mustard greens. Again, you can google “Fall gardens” and follow through with what comes up.

~ Observe through the fall and winter what vegetables your family consumes. Begin planning what you will put in your garden. Think through whether you want just fresh vegetables or if you are going to want to can and freeze as well. The following is a list of vegetables and how they are best used:

Best as Fresh only
Lettuce
Greens
Herbs
Squash
Carrots
Beets
Potatoes
Turnips

Canned
Beans (plain or pickled)
Cucumbers (pickled)
Tomatoes (as tomato sauce, salsa, etc.)
Garlic

Frozen
Onions
Bell Peppers
Beans
Snap Peas
Sweet Corn

~ Once you have gotten an idea of what you will want, begin your list of seed packets to buy. To give you an idea of how many you will need to buy come spring, 1-2 seed packets will usually feed my husband and me fresh vegetables all summer long. Those same seed packets also give us enough to freeze and can to eat all winter long. It depends on what vegetable it is.

One seed packet of summer squash is more than enough for one garden season. Two seed packets of peas are sufficient for us, but for corn and beans, we usually want three packets.

The first year, I would suggest planning on buying 2 or 3 packets of everything. What you don’t use can be saved for the following year; seeds keep well.

~ Most seeds can be bought at your local Wal-Mart or Lowe’s, but some prefer to buy through companies like Burpee. If you are going to go through a catalog, have the company start sending them to you now.

~ Start thinking of, and preparing, a spot in your house for your spring planting. The cheapest way to garden is to start your own plants indoors instead of buying the plants come spring. Vegetables that need to be started in the garden as plants, not as seeds, include tomatoes and peppers. Carrots, lettuces, and peas/beans can also be started indoors, but it isn’t necessary.

Do the necessary plants first, and then, if you have room, do the others. For starting plants indoors, you will need a warm, sunny spot. Be thinking all winter long what this place might be, and begin seeing it as the garden spot, even now.

~ This is a good time of year to buy left over bags of garden soil and small pots and planters. These things will be more expensive come spring and you will need them to begin your indoor plants.

So if possible, buy them now and store them for when you will need them. The same goes for freezer containers, canning jars, and preserving accessories, such as canners, jar lids, and canning spices.

~ Finally, get into gardener mode now. Browse magazines, prepare a cupboard or two for all those cans you are going to put up, and daydream about your garden. Adopt the mindset that you are going to garden come spring, not that you hope to.

Gardening is a ton of work. Gardening is also one of the most satisfying and money saving things a person can do for their family.
Getting started now just makes it go even smoother come spring and summer!

Come spring, we’ll talk about getting our seeds planted and our plants growing!

Pic of the Day: Cabbage Sauteed with Chicken

Cabbage Sauteed with Chicken