Having a successful garden has kept our grocery budget low throughout the summer. With the produce that we’ve canned, frozen, and dehydrated, we should be eating nice organic fruits and veggies into the winter as well. We are so thankful for our garden.
A garden is one of the great benefits of living in my in-laws basement (you know, besides free rent, utilities, and babysitting). My in-laws are serious gardeners, in fact I will just call them “the Gardeners” here on out. Even though it was just the two of them living here (before our family of 5 moved in), their garden is a whopping 75 by 100 feet. They grow lots of their own food to eat fresh, can, freeze, dehydrate, and share. They have been homesteading for nearly 30 years. They are amazing.
Mr. SixFiguresUnder and I have also had a garden everywhere we have lived, but living with the Gardeners takes it to another level. We were very spoiled to have a prepared garden with rich fertile soil and a drip system already in place (and even someone who turns the water on every other day). We surely would not have been as successful without this set-up. We did lots of hard work, but we definitely cannot take credit for all of our success.
The Gardeners were kind enough to give us several rows of their garden to do whatever we wanted with. They also gave us two rows of strawberries and a row of raspberries (which are perennials) to take care of and harvest. They planted some things they planned to share with us: corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, asparagus, grapes, blackberries, onions, and garlic.
Our 2013 Garden Harvest Report
- Spinach— We planted lots of spinach, both in our cool weather rows and in the shade among our sunny crops as they were growing. We wash and freeze spinach to eat in green smoothies throughout the year and eat it fresh in salads.
- Lettuce— We had about 8 heads of black-seeded simpson lettuce. We picked the outside leaves as needed for salad, which encourages the plants to keep producing (rather than picking the whole head at once). We had plenty of lettuce for salads until it got hot and the lettuce became bitter and bolted.
- Cabbage— We probably had 6-8 good cabbages, but didn’t really use them, so the aphids got them and we gave them to the chickens. I’m not sure why we planted cabbage in the first place since I don’t really like it and don’t know what to do with it besides make egg rolls.
- Carrots— We harvested probably 20 pounds of carrots. The kids had a blast digging them up and finding all the interesting ones with 3 legs. We use them mostly in soups and stews, but I also shredded and froze some for muffins.
- Onions— This was our first time trying onions. We planted them a little late, so we only got one onion. Thankfully the Gardeners had a great onion harvest, so they have plenty to share.
- Kale— This was also a new vegetable for us. In February, we started drinking green smoothies (the easiest way to get veggies into our kiddos) and found that kale is a great green to put in them. We planted lots so we could freeze it for smoothies through the winter. We never thinned it so it got a little out of control and had tons of aphids. We froze several bags, then ended up pulling it out and replanting because washing the aphids off is such a chore!
- Chard— Chard is about the easiest and hardiest plant ever and it makes the perfect base for our green smoothies. It lasts long past the frost and it’s very easy to wash (unlike kale). We wash and freeze lots of chard for smoothies (it’s still growing fine even now in the frost).
- Peas— We at most of the sugar snap peas raw. They are an easy thing to throw in Mr. SixFiguresUnder’s lunches. I did freeze a few bags of them to throw into soups.
- Watermelon— Some pesky gophers got several of our beautiful watermelons. You could not tell, until you went to pick (or thump) the watermelon. Then you saw that it was hollow with a gopher hole in the bottom. It was very sad. Still we got 6-7 good watermelons.
- Cantaloupe— We didn’t have a very good crop this year. We had a couple pathetic-looking cantaloupes.
- Cucumbers— Our cucumbers also failed this year. I’m not a fan of cucumbers (or pickles), so I honestly didn’t mind.
- Armenian cucumbers— Armenian cucumbers are technically in the melon family. They are Mr. SixFiguresUnder’s favorite. I just stick the whole cucumber in his lunch. It’s so easy and he loves them!
- Zucchini— We planted 4 hills to start, and then our 5-year-old wanted to plant her own hill too, so we had 5 hills of zucchini. If you know anything about zucchini, then you know we had zucchini coming out our ears! We ate cheesy squash (steamed zucchini with salt and cheese melted on top) often. We also made lots of zucchini bread, zucchini brownies, and zucchini muffins. We froze about 30 cups of shredded zucchini in 3-cup increments to bake with through the winter. I also dehydrated shredded zucchini to thicken soups and stews with in the winter (a little something I learned from the Gardeners).
- Tomatoes— Mr. SixFiguresUnder and our 5-year-old love home-grown tomatoes. Fresh-picked cherry tomatoes are the easiest treat to put in their lunches. We planted 2 roma, 5 cherry (but they were big cherries), 4 brandywine, and 3 better boy plants. In addition to enjoying hundreds of pounds of fresh tomatoes, We canned about 21 quarts of tomato puree which we use to make tomato sauce. Tomato puree is by far the easiest way to can tomatoes. We also gave my sister-in-law 21 quarts-worth of tomatoes to can herself. I have many more gallon ziploc bags of tomatoes in the freezer that I will puree and can as soon as life calms down a bit. When the hard frost hit, we also picked several boxes of green tomatoes that will ripen indoors in the coming weeks.
- Pumpkins— We planted 3 different kinds of pumpkins. Several of them were giant (over 70lbs). Mr. SixFiguresUnder donated one of the 70-pounders to a fundraising auction and it sold for $70! We carved three pumpkins for Halloween and cooked the seeds (which all the kids liked). The rest of the 20 or so pumpkins we’ll cook, puree, and freeze to use in place of canned pumpkin. We will freeze enough for pies, muffins, breads, custards, and cookies for the next year.
- Green Beans— Green beans aren’t my favorite to eat, pick, or preserve, so I am not very diligent when it comes to green beans. Sadly, many of the bags of green beans that I did pick sat in the fridge and went moldy before I had a chance to tip them and freeze or can them. I didn’t can any green beans this year, but we still have some from last year.
- Strawberries and Raspberries— We made some jam, but mostly we froze the berries to use in smoothies. They make our green smoothies taste yummy!
Our garden truly was full of blessings this year, both for our budget and our bodies! There is no denying that it is a lot of work (even when you have a super sweet set-up), but it was well worth it.
What is your favorite thing to eat fresh from the garden? If you could only plant one thing, what would it be?