My husband suggested not having a vegetable garden which I couldn’t ever do. I have to grow something. The vegetable garden provides us with a lot of organically grown vegetables and saves our family of 7 money on groceries.
How do I make the garden manageable this year while continuing to feed my family fresh wholesome vegetables?
First of all, our biggest crop is plum tomatoes. We eat a lot of pasta with tomato sauce, spaghetti and meatballs, baked ziti, and sausage ragu. I usually have about 40 plum tomato plants. What I don’t need is cherry tomatoes since we don’t do much with them, and the kids aren’t into them. I can get by with one cherry tomato plant. I also don’t need yellow tomatoes or any other fancy tomato.
Our second biggest crop is green beans. All of the family loves green beans. Beans are easy to grow, and not subject to many insects or diseases. Bush beans are the easiest to grow, and can be tucked in among the tomatoes. Beans are also easy to steam and freeze.
Next up are hot peppers. My husband is very fond of his cayenne peppers. Hot peppers are easy to grow, and produce a large crop per plant. We dehydrate ours before storing them.
In the spring, we like to grow broccoli and snap peas, both easy to grow with little work. I have had issues with bugs on the broccoli, though the bugs show up towards the end of the spring growing season. This time I will limit the snap peas to one bed since the kids aren’t into them very much.
Carrots and lettuce are great plants for tucking into spots. They are also easy to care for.
Zucchini plants take a lot of space in a raised bed garden like ours, however, they produce a lot of zucchini which I can use for quick breads and muffins. We have 2 beds by our compost pile that are perfect spots for space-hogging zucchini plants.
Not on the List
Corn – This takes up a lot of space for a small yield – one or 2 ears per plant. Despite the concept of the 3 sisters, growing vining beans with corn has not worked for us. Nor has growing a pumpkin plant underneath worked well either. Our corn patch became a huge jungle when we tried this.
Potatoes – We love our homegrown potatoes! However, the yield and space considerations make this a lower value plant for us.
Vining beans – The trellis set up we use takes over an entire bed preventing us from using the bed for late season crops or successfully companion planting other crops while the beans are growing. Snap peas could be grown on the trellis though they usually need a bit more time than the planting dates for beans allow. If we decided to add another crop to our list for this year, combining beans with snap peas would be one way to do it.
Peppers – Compact and easy to grow, we don’t use enough peppers in our recipes to justify giving these plants much space. In my experience, peppers also take a long time to produce making them a space hog until late in the summer.
Other options for fresh produce
Sales at the grocery store – Depending upon the crop, summertime is a great time for buying produce cheaply at the grocery store. I won’t need to spend time in the garden, and depending on the fruit or vegetable, I won’t need to spend much time in the kitchen freezing or canning food. As long as I stick to the Dirty Dozen list for guidance, I can pick up great deals this way.
Pick Your Own Farm – In our area, we have access to quite a few pick your own farms including ones with organic fruits and vegetables. Depending on my time during the week and available help, this can be a fun trip for our family as well as an opportunity to get local produce in season.
Local farmers market – Here I can find organic fruits and vegetables that I can’t find at the grocery store. Given sufficient notice, many local vendors are happy to bring a large order of a particular crop to a farmers market one week for a discount on the price per pound. I would need to set aside money to make the trip worthwhile.
CSA – In our area, I have quite a few options for joining a CSA. I can join one that is delivered near me on a weekly basis. Several CSAs deliver to farmers markets near me, or I can join one with weekly pickup at the farm. A CSA requires payment up front, and I am dependent upon the farmer to have a good year. I also can’t pick what types of vegetables will be in my weekly box. If I want to do a fruit share, many CSAs require being in their vegetable share program first. If I didn’t have a vegetable garden, doing a CSA share would be an okay option for us, but not as good as the other options since we have no control over what we’ll receive.
How do you ensure a good supply of fresh produce for the winter without spending every hour in the vegetable garden?
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