Raised bed gardening
Preserving your own food brings lots of benefits: eating
locally-grown foods all year long, saving money, and knowing
what is in the food you are preparing for your family. While I
preserve for all of those reasons, I especially enjoy preserving
delicious and sometimes unique foods that can’t be found in a
What to preserve depends on the answer to the question, “What do
you like and want to eat?” Growing and preserving your own food
requires planning and a commitment to caring for the plants
throughout the growing season. In choosing which plants to grow
and which to purchase, consider factors such as space
limitations, timing, expense, availability, quantity, and
- My kitchen potager consists of six 5’ x 5’ raised beds –
only 150 square feet of growing space. I use it wisely,
following intensive planting methods like the square foot
gardening system, interplanting, and succession planting.
Still, there is never enough space for all that I would like
to grow for eating fresh and preserving. I choose to grow
the more expensive or unique items. To find more space, I
grow things vertically, in containers, and also incorporate
edibles – herbs, fruit, vegetables, and edible flowers -
into my ornamental beds. Rhubarb and kale add beauty to a
perennial border. Alpine strawberries can be tucked here and
there in beds and containers. Golden oregano is a wonderful
bright spiller in an ornamental container.
- Check the ripening date and be sure that you’ll be able to
make use of the harvest. For example, I make dilly beans
(pickled green beans) every year. I delay planting the bush
bean Phaseolus vulgaris ‘Tavera’ until almost mid-June.
This haricot verts (French green bean) ripens in 54 days,
perfectly timed for harvesting after my summer vacation.
Home Food Preservation
Penn State Extension
- Some fruits and vegetables demand a premium price at the
market. It just makes sense to grow your own. Rhubarb can
be $5 per pound at the store. As a perennial it costs less
than $10. Within two years that plant will return your
initial $10 investment every year, forever. Raspberries’
price reflects their fragility in harvesting and storing,
making them costly to transport. Why not pop them directly
into your mouth from your own bushes on a hot summer day?
Savor the ability to choose from myriad edibles, with their
great range of flavor, size, color, nutritional value, and
fragrance. If you want to preserve, seek out varieties best
suited to drying, freezing, or canning. I generally choose
heirloom varieties and grow them organically. One advantage
to choosing hybrids is that many have been bred for disease
resistance. If you prefer heirloom varieties keep in mind
that some extra effort may be required to keep the plants
pest and disease free. Keep weeds at bay by hand picking or
hoeing. Apply 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch, being careful
to hold the mulch a couple inches away from the stems of the
plant. Water the soil (and not the foliage) either early in
the day or in the early evening, allowing time for the
foliage to dry before the sun sets. Keep a garden plan and
rotate crop families. Clean the garden well in the fall. Get
a soil test every 3 to 5 years and follow the
recommendations for nitrogen and adjusting pH values. If
problems arise, tend to them immediately.
If your goal is to preserve do your homework as to which varieties
of a fruit or vegetable lend themselves best to the task. For
example, bush beans and determinate tomatoes tend to ripen at
the same time, making it easier to get a canner load. A canner
load is the capacity of your home canning equipment, either a
boiling water or pressure canner.
- You can adjust the quantity and variety of plants that you
grow based on the how you plan to use the harvest as well as
the specific needs of your family. This year I will grow a
selection of flavorful, colorful, heirloom, indeterminate
tomatoes to use fresh and in recipes I’ve chosen for
relishes, chutney, and preserves. But, I will purchase a
bushel of readily sourced paste tomatoes from a local grower
for canning whole tomatoes, tomato sauce and pasta sauce.
Space constraints in the garden may determine such choices.
- The nutritional properties in fruits and vegetables begin
to decline after harvest. Properly frozen foods retrieved
from your freezer in February can be more nutritious than
fresh foods found the same day at your local market.
Superior preserved foods come from high quality fruits,
vegetables and herbs harvested at peak ripeness. You can
accomplish that goal by stepping into your own garden and
gathering delicious produce you’ve grown on your own. The
optimal time to pick ripe vegetables is in the morning-
after the dew has dried but before the heat of the day has
warmed the herbs, fruits, or vegetables in your garden.
the idea of preserving the bounty of your home garden appeals to
you, now is the time to select the varieties that answer the
question posed above: “What do you like and want to eat?” While
your vegetables and fruits are doing their job of growing and
bearing fruit, be sure to investigate the proper techniques for
canning and preserving the harvest. Long after our growing
season is over you will be rewarded with the flavors of summer
preserved from your own garden’s bounty.
Grapevine Soil Preparation