Saturday, June 9, 2018

Five Tips For Every Vegetable Gardener

Living on a farm, we naturally grow a lot of food.  I mean, farmers feed the world, right?
We also feed ourselves (imagine that!).  But we don't eat the heads of wheat or ears of field corn (field corn is field corn, not the kind of corn you eat at a barbecue) often associated with farmers.  We grow gardens.
Of course, this is more of the ladies' project at our house while the guys work on the farming on a larger scale, but it's the produce that we eat as opposed to the stuff that comes out of a combine.
For as long as I can remember, my mom has annually grown a garden, and I've slowly begun to take over more and more in that aspect—I'd much rather be outside in the garden than cooking supper!
While I know that growing a vegetable garden is a different experience for everyone, I've got five things that everyone can practice and benefit from.
Especially people that live in 'deserts' like Kansas.

1. Water.
This is a no-brainer, I know, but keeping your garden watered is crucial to a healthy supply of produce.  "I know," you might be saying.  "That's obvious."
Actually, it's not as obvious as you think.
Unless you live in North Carolina or Ohio or some other such rainy state that requires you to water your garden just once a week or less, it's difficult to keep your garden watered.  I don't know how much produce we've lost just because we didn't realize just how much water the plants need.
Then again, if you water it too much, you can either drown the poor things or rot their roots.
Don't worry, I've never done either of those.  It's kind of hard to in Kansas.
We have two gardens—a big one and a smaller one.  While watering them both, I'll often spend four hours or more out there.
"I don't have time to water everything that much," you might say, or "it's to tedious."  Well, that's where soaker hoses and sprinklers come in.  Set them going and then go enjoy your air conditioning, congratulating yourself on the genius-ness of your watering system.
Which brings me to my next point.

2. Trenches.
So this is kinda pointless if you have a sprinkler or soaker hose, but DUDE IT'S A LIFE-SAVER.  If, for some reason, you don't have any soaker hoses or sprinklers, stick the corner of your hoe into the dirt and dig a trench directly beside the row you're wanting watered.  Or, if you're wanting to water a single plant, just dig a trench in a circle around it.  This keeps the water at the base of the plant instead of running everywhere and watering weeds instead.
In order to really soak the row (see above reason), have the water running slow.  I don't mean less-than-fire-hydrant slow.  I mean barely-above-a-trickle slow, depending on how large the plants are.  This allows the water to soak into the ground, reaching the roots of the plants.  This works especially good with corn, which needs a lot of water to produce well.
The downside to all of this, though, is that sometimes the water will find a breach in the dam and run everywhere.  Or rain will come and wash most of the trench away.
Just roll with it, you'll be fine.

3. Plant your vines in circles.
Confused?  First of all, when I say vines, I don't mean cute little sweet pea vines or any of those fancy vines climbing a trellis.
I mean any vegetable (or fruit, for that matter) that grows on a vine—cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, watermelon, cantaloupe, etc.
Because, dear peoples, not only will this cause the vines to grow outward in a circle (I don't know if that's even a legitimate reason or not but oh well), when they're big enough you can dig a hole in the middle of the circle and fill it with water, thus watering all the plants at once.  Once again, a time-saver.

4. Always carry a hoe.
I don't know how many times I've found myself in a predicament in which I needed a hoe but didn't have one closer than across the yard.  Granted, almost every time it's because water leaked out of a trench that I dug, but the principle is still there: always have a hoe nearby.  You never know when a trench needs repaired.  Or a weed needs killed.
Just be careful not to whack yourself, okay?

5. Freeze.
So, after taking all of my lovely gardening advice, you're bound to be overflowing with produce, right?  Think positive!
And what are you gonna do with all of this produce that you're overrun with?  Sure, you could sell it at your local farmer's market, or set yourself up on the tailgate of your truck on the side of the highway with a sign that says "COME GET YOUR VEGGIES."
Or, you could slave over a hot stove canning.
Orrrrr, you could freeze it all.  Honestly, I don't think I've ever canned once in my life.  We've always either eaten all the produce, or frozen it.  Not only does it keep you from heating your house about a million times warmer, but it keeps the food.  We've eaten frozen produce over a year old.
Of course, the food doesn't have the shelf life that canned food does, and takes up freezer space, but if you're anything like us, you'll be using it up pretty much as fast as you're stocking it.
One thing that has really come in handy for us is tomato juice.  Or is it sauce?  Whatever you want to call it.  Just grind your whole tomatoes up in a blender, pour it into freezer baggies (don't forget to put the year on the bag—might be kinda important), then stick it in the freezer!  We'll use this all year long for spaghetti sauce, tomato soup, enchiladas... pretty much anything that requires tomatoes.  And it's healthier than store-bought!
Onions also freeze super well.  Once again, grind them up (just don't puree them like tomatoes; that's kinda gross) and put them in the freezer, and whenever you need to cook with an onion yet don't have any fresh ones around, break off a chunk and throw it in the pot.  Works like a charm.
However, I definitely wouldn't recommend freezing green beans.  Yeah, we tried that once.

Well, have you done any of these?  Or all?  Great minds think alike!

1 comment:

  1. Slaving away in a hot kitchen to can produce is miserable enough in a rainforest like North Carolina...I can only imagine how awful that would be in the desert... *shakes head* We've also been known to make sure there's NOT a trench around the plants or ditches (y'all probably don't have those...) running into the garden, because it will flood when it rains.
    I totally get the circle thing now though. And yeah, never did it. XD


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