By Sherri Lyons
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So you want to grow your own fruits and vegetables. Terrific! Where do you start? First, you have to figure out what you like to eat. If you grow something you don’t like, you won’t eat it. It will just take up space in the garden that could have been used for produce that you do like. It’s okay to experiment with different foods, but if you’re just starting out, stay with the main foods that you know you like. Then, as you become accustomed to how much space your vegetables will take up, you can add on.
Pick a few main plants that appeal to you. The items that we primarily grow here on our homestead are tomatoes, beans, corn, and potatoes. If we have extra room, we add beets, onions, melons, and peppers. Then we have an area in our garden that we set up just for experimenting. This is where I plant the seeds of the vegetables that I’m not sure if I like, but I want to try them anyway.
Once you know what vegetables you are going to plant, you need to do your research and see what type or variety does best in your climate zone. A tomato that does great in Georgia may not do well in Wisconsin. Check out if it is disease resistant, if it’s draught resistant, or if it needs a certain type of soil. Also check and see how long it takes to mature. Some places don’t have a long growing season.
After choosing your vegetables, you need to figure out how many plants to put in your garden. You can do this by finding out how much you and your family eat and how much each plant yields. If I were to fix green beans once a week, I would need at least 52 quarts of green beans canned for the year. Then, since I’ve already done my homework on how much certain bean plants yield, I can figure out how much to plant. When it comes to beans, there is a 2 (pounds) to 1 (quart) ratio. If I need 52 quarts of beans, I will need 104 pounds of beans. A bushel of beans weighs around 30 pounds. Therefore, I will need around 3 1/2 bushels of beans to make 52 quarts.
This is not an exact science. It can be a little different each year. Also, if you want to give any away or sell or trade for something you didn’t grow, you’ll need to plant more.
Now when it comes to tomatoes, we have to consider all of the different types of food that we use tomatoes in, things like tomato juice or catsup. Keep in mind that more tomatoes go into making these than what it would be to just have sliced tomatoes for dinner. We can plenty of tomato juice in the summer and use it for soups in the fall and winter. So we make sure we plant plenty of tomatoes.
You may not be interested in canning your food just yet. That’s fine also. Just eat what’s in season and share with those around you or freeze some items.
Once you have all of this is figured out, nothing is holding you back—other than possibly the weather. Start planting.
Sherri lives with her husband on a farm in the Appalachian foothills. They grow a garden and preserve the bounty from it. They also have cattle, horses, rabbits, and chickens. They grow what they eat, and eat what they grow. You can follow their adventures on her blog at www.smallfarmgirl.blogspot.com.