Written by Becky Glaser
It’s days like these in the middle of winter that get me thinking about spring. The best part of spring for me is gardening.
I’ve planted a vegetable garden every year since I’ve been married. When there’s snow on the ground and the days are short, it’s encouraging to look through the seed catalogs and plan what should go into next springs garden. Everything looks good and I want to try new things, but then I have to remind myself that what’s fun to plant in the spring isn’t always fun to tend to in the heat of summer when battling the bugs and weeds, so I usually settle into planting the basics.
I have a few flowers in the front yard and added a small herb garden as well. Having fresh cilantro and chives is a treat and fresh mint for those summer mojitos is the best, but for the most part my gardening revolves around vegetables. Tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, carrots, peppers, green beans, peas and sweet corn are the main focus. Every year I try and add something a little different like parsnips or brussel sprouts. One year I decided to plant turnips. They produced well, but I discovered my family and I don’t really like turnips.
Growing a garden is a lot of work and is always dependent on the weather cooperating. The hard work is rewarding when you can simply pick a fresh vegetable to have for dinner or a healthy snack. My now adult children recently told me that they would go to the garden and eat raw vegetables when they were young when I told them they couldn’t have a snack before dinner. I guess looking back, that wasn’t such a bad thing. They each have their own garden now and are teaching my grandchildren the art of growing their own vegetables.
I learned about the next part of gardening from my mom. With nine people at the dinner table, she needed to plant and maintain a big garden. Sometimes I thought she used gardening as an escape from us kids. Regardless of the therapy gardening provided her, she needed to preserve the excess county. She canned or froze a lot of vegetables to last us through the winter. I continue to use what she taught me and have also done canning over the years. I bought and learned how to use a pressure canner many years ago. We love carrots, green beans and beets preserved that way. I found that this is the best way to put up a lot of vegetables into one batch. I can fit twenty pint jars in the canner at a time and about two hours later, they’re sealed and will keep well for about a year. Minus one incident when I exploded a whole canner full of hot carrots…but I still have good results.
Along with cucumbers, I’ve experimented pickling a variety of vegetables, from broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, asparagus and green beans, which all seem to work well. The only one I’ve tried that doesn’t pickle well is potatoes. As for the rest of the vegetables, I blanch them and put them in the freezer. The main one is freezing sweet corn. My husband plants a big patch with the corn planter making a day of freezing and storing corn to share with family and friends. The kids come home and we pick and blanch a big batch so there’s usually enough for them to take home for their freezer.
Writing about gardening makes me anxious for spring to arrive. I think I’ll get my seed catalog out tonight and start planning for this years garden. Hurry up spring!