Friday, May 20, 2011

How does your garden grow?

Spring is here!  That means it is time to plant the garden!

This year, a dear friend asked to join us, so we are expanding our usual family garden.  Nothing major, but we have a nice crop of fresh tomatoes, hot peppers, herbs, okra, peas, squash, and whatever else was sewn.

My husband plans and executes the garden.  He has a wonderful, yet elaborate, plan which involves tilling compost, laying drip irrigation, installing landscape fabric, and "rabbit proofing" the peas. (I love my composter.  It was my Christmas present several years ago.)

I grew up gardening.  My family grew and stored vegetables and fruit each summer to use for the entire year.  We didn't waste anything.  If you have never canned or frozen your own food, contact your local cooperative extension department and they will be more than happy to help you get rolling.  It isn't hard.  I was a certified Master Food Preserver by the time I was 13 years old.  You can find some great resources here.
Perennial herbs

I love returning to this process (albeit on a much smaller scale) and introducing the offspring to it.  Food does not "come from the grocery store" and all children should have the opportunity to learn how food is grown and prepared.

One of my other favorite things about gardening is cooking with fresh herbs.  I plant seasonal herbs in the garden.  We go through tons of fresh basil.  I also prepare pesto base all summer and freeze it in ice cube trays for use throughout the fall and winter.  Last spring, I started several pots of perennial herbs.  The results have been bountiful.  The investment:production ratio has been great!  I moved the allspice tree and bay bush inside for the winter with fabulous results.

The thymes and oreganos came back like game busters, so I gave them huge haircuts and dried the results.  I have almost 1 1/2 cups of dried oregano from this picture.  I also dried approximately 1 cup of thyme.  (If you live in the area, let me know if you need any fresh or dried oregano and thyme.)  The drying process was incredibly easy.  I spread the cut limbs on cooling racks (keeping varietals separate).  It took approximately a week, living on top of the dryer in the laundry room.

As for composting, it just makes sense.  Period.  Why waste the fabulous fruit, vegetable, and grain scraps from the kitchen when you can recycle them into your garden?  After a couple of cycles, I have determined that grass clipping from the yard, kitchen scraps, and once a week watering and turning produce GREAT compost.  Over the winter, I throw a container of fishing worms in for additional breakdown during the cold months.  A key point for this particular composter is to place it in the sun so it can absorb heat.  I use a spading fork to turn my compost.  Give composting a whirl at your house.  You don't have to buy a big, fancy composter to get results.

Happy gardening!  I'll keep you updated as the summer progresses.  (Now, if only I could convince my husband we need an asparagus bed.....)

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