What Do I Do With My Crops?

Zeedman

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Well, there's an old saying:
"We eat what we can... and what we can't, we can." :D (darn, that made me sound old :old)
Freezing is an easy alternative to canning, and a good way to spread the veggies out over the cold months. Small chest freezers are fairly inexpensive.

Or give some away to family & friends, and then make new friends. Fresh veggies are a nice way to break the ice & say "Hi neighbor!".

Or - and this would be my #1 recommendation - start small. When gardening for the first time, you won't know how much work it involves, how much you will get from various vegetables, and how the time & effort required will fit into your lifestyle. Start slowly, and as you learn more, expand the garden to match your interests. Observe your climate, get a feel for the best veggies to plant when, and improve your garden planning. If large-scale gardening is your goal, you will probably want to acquire some equipment to make that easier. Some people give up gardening after a year or two, because they over-extended themselves & became frustrated. Keep it manageable, and never lose sight of the fact that gardening should be fun.
 
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digitS'

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As big as a kitchen, DogAndCat36?

I'd like to point out that my modest size kitchen is 12 by 13 ;).

My very modest size, little house is just short of 900 square feet. Advice for the "average" home garden from Cooperative Extension agencies is usually for "family" gardens of 800 to 1000 square feet.

Garden planning should probably first start with cooking plans, diet information, meal ideas ...

Steve
 

Ridgerunner

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I also suggest starting small. You might be surprised at how much you can produce in a fairly small area. I remember when one of our regular members first planted cabbage. When they told us how many they planted I was thinking they planted enough to feed the 2nd Infantry Division. Grow something before you splurge big time. It may not take very much to fulfill your needs. If your family doesn't eat it fresh they are not that likely to eat it frozen or canned.

Gardening can take a lot of time. You don't just prepare the ground, plant, and sit back and harvest. You need to maintain it. Weeds are a big time commitment, your stuff won't produce very well if weeds take over. Most of us have direct experience with that. You may need to water or fight pests. When many crops are ready to harvest they need to be harvested. Some things will wait for you but some will not.

Gardening can be work. There are several different styles, anything from the "traditional" garden where you clear the land and plant in rows, containers, or raised beds. You are often moving heavy things, like a lot of dirt even if it is one shovelful at a time. You can get dirty, some people don't like that. It's not just vegetables either, we talk a lot about flowers and trees.

If it's this bad why do we do it? While there is nothing to compare to truly ripe and fresh when you are eating something straight from the garden I think most of us just like to grow things. I get a lot of satisfaction from that. Dirt therapy can help a lot, even if it is hard work. Don't burn yourself out by biting off a huge chunk to start with.

Something the size of your kitchen might not be a bad idea to start with. You'll still need to prepare the ground right but find out what you want to grow and what is involved before you invest a lot of money and make permanent changes to your land. If you find that you enjoy it you can always expand later. Your ultimate goal may be something large, my main garden in Arkansas was 50' x 75' which was enough. I was able to grow enough that we ate fresh in season and I canned or froze enough that we never had to buy most veggies. I was retired by the way and had time to spend. Here in Louisiana I have eight different raised beds, each 4' x 8'. I don't can or freeze nearly as much but I don't have much land either.

I suggest you contact your county extension office and see if they have a planting calendar. Most states do. That tells you what will grow there and when you should plant it. I find that really valuable.

What can you do with the excess? Freezing of canning are options. You can give it away to family or friends. In Arkansas I'd give excess eggs from the chickens, excess fruit, and excess veggies to a food bank. Not all food banks will take your stuff, there can be legal liabilities the big ones are worried about. A good source to find out who can use your excess might be a minister, they should do more than just preach. People in need are often asking them for help, the good ones know a lot about who can offer that help.

I also believe anyone that has any size of garden needs to make compost. That stuff is black gold when it comes to growing things but it also gives you a place to put any excess you just can't get rid of, any defective stuff you don't want to use (you will have that), and a place to put the growth when the season is over and you are cleaning up to get ready for next year. If you have animals many will eat your excess or defective stuff too.

Good luck. It can be a great journey.
 

DogAndCat36

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My garden is 40’X80’ and is not large by garden standards. We have extra but not as much as you might think. We usually keep some widows in produce with extras.

If you have never canned, find people that do. Learn from experienced people. Incorrectly canned food is the same as poison.
My brother cans, I might ask him.
 

seedcorn

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My brother cans, I might ask him.
Great idea. I’m sure one of his suggestions will be grow enough to make canning worth it. An example would be canning tomato’s. When you can, want enough to do at least a canner full to make it worth the effort. That will require more than 3-6 plants-especially if you want to give some away, continue eating them, etc...

I am in no way trying to discourage you from gardening. It’s a hobby you will either love or detest.
 

digitS'

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I'm not a canner as the only things that I have canned were jams. Fruits suitable for preserves are nearly all perennials. That's one type of gardening.

Persevering fruits with sugar is a fairly safe way to can. However, all of them can be made and then frozen. Containers can be as simple as zip-lock bags.

With a small garden, a very specific orientation might be taken guided by the preferences of the household. A simple one might be a love of salads. Timing of plantings is important because you don't want it all to come and go in a week or two when a growing season lasts for a half a year or longer ;).

A very specific orientation is the herb garden and seldom are seasonings needed by a family in large amounts. Drying is a common way of preserving. Some, like cilantro, are wanted fresh. And, gardeners can really become fussy about protected growing for extending their growing seasons. It's best to keep that on a small scale, also.

Steve
interesting that @Dirtmechanic uses the term courgette. i am not even sure how to pronounce it. i bet @Marie2020 knows. and yet ;), @Trish Stretton calls them marrow ...
 

flowerbug

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we only can acidic things here (mostly tomatoes) from our gardens, but we have many years of canning experience. you can search the forums here and SS too for plenty of good information and recipes if you need them, but also the USDA or some other web sites have a lot of information since they don't want people to get sick. :)
 

Pulsegleaner

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building on what @Ridgerunner said another big thing you will have to do is protect what you are growing from critters. Squirrels, Chipmunks, Racoons, Voles, Rats, Mice, Deer, Rabbits all of those and more can, and will descend on your plantings and devour them. And that's not including all of the insect pests and birds. Keeping even a tiny garden safe can be a year long struggle. (I have only about 150 sq. feet including pots and I usually lose totally)

A few herbs are not a bad idea (they are usually one of the few things animals* won't touch as most dislike the strong smells.) But as noted, you don't need a lot unless you USE a lot.

* This doesn't apply to insects, many of whom will happily eat herbs.
 
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