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Grow It, Can It, Eat It by Rae’s Creations
Rather than a certain number of requirements needing to be done, each person is encouraged to do all of the requirements, with older persons suggested to start with the simple recipes listed here and go beyond and find more advanced recipes to try.
Maybe the best reason for starting your own seedlings is the feeling of accomplishment. This will give you a good lesson in plant germination, growth and the care and feeding of vegetables. You may find them to be more interesting at the dinner table if you feel like you planted them yourself.
1. Let’s start our container garden!
1. Decide what you want to plant.
Nurseries and garden centers all have stocks of seeds you can choose from, but before you buy the rack, look at your garden space. You need to think about how much space a mature vegetable needs and plan accordingly.
Plants that are too tightly clustered together will compete for water, nutrients and sunlight.
2. Decide where you are going to put your planters.
All gardens come in a certain size. Some are large, and some are small.
A window sill, a patio, a balcony, or a well-lit area of the house are all well-suited areas for container gardening.
3. Know your plants.
Some vegetables do better in the shade — cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale and broccoli.
Other plants get along well when they’re planted next to each other.
A classic combination for companion planting are onion sets planted between rows of tomatoes. The two plants seem to thrive next to each other; this allows you to squeeze a little more space out of your garden.
Other vegetables enjoy sun and a lot of space. All varieties of squash fall into this category, especially zucchini, tomatoes and peppers.
4. Start saving those egg cartons.
There’s a certain kind of egg carton you need to buy and save. They’re the egg cartons made from a pressed cardboard. These cartons allow water to soak up into the soil through the carton when placed into a pan of water.
5. Learn a potting soil recipe.
The first thing you’ll need is a good soil or growing medium. You can buy your own potting soil at a garden center or you can make your own by blending 1/3 part dirt, 1/3 part peat moss and 1/3 part sand.
This will create a moist environment for the seeds, and the sand will help with drainage, so the soil doesn’t become water logged.
6. Consider a self-watering system.
This is quite simple. You place your egg cartons into a pan filled with about a half inch of water. You then stretch plastic wrap over the top of the egg carton and move the pan with the egg cartons to a sunny spot in your house. What you’ve essentially created is a greenhouse environment. The plastic wrap keeps the soil from drying out in the sun. But check your water level daily to make sure everything is moist.
7. Tend to the first spouts.
As your vegetables sprout, you’ll want to “tent” the plastic wrap. This is easy to do with sticks stuck into the egg cartons to keep the wrap above the tender leaves. You’ll eventually remove this tent as more leaves emerge and the plants grow.
8. Harden off your sprouts.
You don’t want to plant your sprouts directly into the garden. You’ll want to harden them off to acclimate them to the outdoors. This is as simple as placing the plants outdoors during the day. If you have a picnic table or other raised surface, put the plants on top to keep the pesky rabbits and rodents away. Also, keep an eye on the temperature to avoid an early morning or late evening frost. After about a week of hardening-off, you’re ready to plant your garden. Keep an eye on your spacing so you don’t over-crowd.
9. Don’t start just anything indoors.
The best plants for sprouting indoors are plants that bear fruit or vegetables on the vine or stalk. This includes tomatoes, peppers and squash in all varieties — in addition to broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and cabbages.
Herbs also take well to sprouting.
Vegetables that don’t tolerate sprouting include many root vegetables. Root vegetables also tend to be fast to germinate and grow.
We’ve all probably admired radishes popping up so soon in the garden. One root vegetable exception are onions. The small, grass-like sprouts are easily planted and very resilient.
While it is certainly great to enjoy your garden’s bounty fresh every day, it can also be nice to enjoy a lot of those same vegetables when they are not in season. Preserving your garden’s bounty can help ensure that your pantry and freezer are well stocked and you are never short on nutritious options.
Some things can be raw packed, with just boiling water poured on top of them, while other vegetables are better first being blanched before they are canned.
Tomatoes are best stored in the freezer if they have already been processed. This means that your fresh whole tomatoes might just simply succumb to freezer burn, but your pasta sauces, purees, and pastes should store just fine in the freezer for up to six months. It is often easier to freeze your sauces, purees, and your pastes in ice trays first. Once the blocks have been frozen solid, you can pop them out and store them in the already dated and labeled freezer bags. This will let you simply pop out the exact amount that you need when you are cooking. This method is also useful for freezing eggs and things like vegetable stock or sauces.
1. Check each jar for any breaks, cracks or nicks. Check the bands and lids. The band shouldn’t have dents, and the rubber gasket on the lid should intact. It’s always best to use new lids.
Wash your jars with hot soapy water, or, run them through the dishwasher. Process & sterilize your jars and lids. Make sure your workspace is clean.
2. Be sure to give your fruit and vegetables a good cleaning. Always buy fresh foods and use what you can from your own garden.
3. Fill your processed jars with the food. Don’t poor hot food into cool jars, and don’t process cooled jars in hot water. They will crack. Because food will expand during the canning process, leave appropriate headspace so you don’t have a huge mess on your hands. Follow the headspace recommendations of the recipe. Check for air bubbles by using a spatula. Push the food down and run the spatula along the inside of the jar. Clean the rim of your jars before you process them. Food on the rims can prevent a good seal.
4. Find out what tools you will need to can your vegetables.
1. Find out what tools that you will need on hand prior to freezing your food.
The majority of your frozen vegetables should do just fine in airtight freezer bags, especially if they have first been blanched before you froze them. Blanching is the process of scalding the vegetables in steam or boiling water. It stops the natural enzymes in the vegetables from losing flavor and color, which can happen rapidly once the vegetables have been picked.
Fill your processed jars with the food. Don’t poor hot food into cool jars, and don’t process cooled jars in hot water. They will crack. Food will expand during the canning process, leave appropriate headspace so you don’t have a huge mess on your hands. Follow the headspace recommendations of your recipes. Check for air bubbles by using a spatula. Push the food down and run the spatula along the inside of the jar. Clean the rim of your jars before you process them. Food on the rims can keep you from getting a good seal.
3. There are a few resources online with step-by-step instructions for canning but it is best to learn from a friend or relative who has canned before. They can show you all the details that you might see as minor but can make a big impact on your final product. Now that you have learned some of the basics of preparing your own canned foods, and you are anxious to get started – and not wait for the cucumbers to grow. Remember you need to use the freshest produce you can get, like from your garden. A Farmer’s Market is the next best thing. Here are 2 quick and easy canning recipes for you to try for your first time.
oLD FASHIONED STRAWBERRY JAM
2 Quarts Strawberries
5 Cups Heaping Sugar
½ Cup Lemon Juice
Jars and Lids
1. Wash strawberries and remove the stems.
2. Chop, mash or puree strawberries and stir in the sugar. Let sit for 2 hours.
3. Add strawberry mixture to a large pot and cook slow over medium heat until it boils, stirring often. Turn up the heat to med-high and boil fast for 5 more minutes or until candy thermometer says 220 degrees F.
4. Add in lemon juice and stir. Boil 5 minutes longer.
5. Pour jam into clean jars and add lids. Place in a hot water bath canner and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from water and let cool to room temperature. Store in a cool dry place for up to 1 year.
EASY REFRIDGERATOR PICKLES
6 Cups Thinly Sliced Cucumbers
2 Cups Thinly Sliced Onions
1½ Cups Sugar
1½ Cups Cider Vinegar
½ Teaspoon Salt
½ Teaspoon Mustard Seed
½ Teaspoon Celery Seed
½ Teaspoon Ground Turmeric
½ Teaspoon Ground Cloves
You can use this tasty brine to quick-pickle other vegetables such as summer squash and green beans.
You are almost done. You will need to create and design your jar labels. Come up with fun & crazy names for the food (i.e. Goofy Mary’s Strawberries, Pucker Power Pickles).
Finally, you are the official taster of your hard work.