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Updated: Jul 22, 2021

Do you make this mistake when planning your garden?

I know I did!

I've been gardening now for 15 plus years. (I can't believe I'm turning 40 this year) but, it wasn't until about six years ago that I realized I was not planning for the most important part of a garden, the Harvest.

I would plan out my start and planting dates but only vaguely keep track of the harvest dates. There were many times that I would not harvest my crops at their peak. I would usually be too early or too late.

Has this ever happened to you?

But that was only a fraction of the problem, compared to what I have learned is our greatest mistake!

Here it is.

Our greatest mistake when it comes to planning our garden.

Drum roll please!

We do not make a plan for after the Harvest!

We do not plan for what we are going to do with all this beautiful homegrown goodness!

Sadly, most of our hard achieved Harvest goes to waste!

“The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.” Psalm 85:12

I can vividly remember a time when I had an amazing green bean crop. I had green beans coming out of every drawer in my fridge and even every bowl I could find was full. But I'm going to tell you right now, with a heavy heart, that three-quarters of those beans went to the chickens.

I was new to preserving food, so while those beans sat in my fridge, I was researching how to preserve them. I wasn’t sure if I should freeze or pressure-can them. On top of that I had to make a trip to the store and search for supplies once I figured out my preserving method. I had chosen to freeze them because, I will admit it, I was scared of my pressure cooker back then. So, I rushed off to the store to get freezer bags, while my beans continued to sit in the fridge.

Guess what I found out at the grocery store, like two boxes of the pint freezer bags I needed and a bunch of gallon bags that were too big. I traveled to several stores and let me tell you I was lucky to find the two I did. (Hint: I was not the only Gardner out looking for bags last minute. Plus everyone was getting ready for school to start on top of that) So, I returned home with my two boxes and got about half of them in the freezer that night. The next day I worked on the rest. However, because I had waited so long in getting this done the first two bags I picked weeks ago went directly to the chickens covered in mold.

But that is not even the worst of it!

The beans that were stored in the wrong size freezer bag burnt quickly and had to be thrown away within 3 months. After tasting freezer burnt beans, I was weary of using them at all.

Well, that brings me to the next point and why more of these beans sadly went to the chickens.

I didn't know how to use frozen green beans in my recipes. I had many recipes that use canned green beans but not frozen. I knew I needed to find some new recipes or experiment with them. But, when was I going to fit that into my already busy schedule. When I made supper I had just enough time to get it on the table and then run off to the next event. Raising three boys is time consuming with all the running from here to there.

The truth is, all of this could have been solved by simply planning for the harvest and beyond, when I did have time. Like the hot summer afternoons when I couldn't work in the garden anyways.

How to Plan for the Harvest!

I've been adding these steps to my garden plan for the past few years. Let me tell you, the chickens don't get my harvest any more!

Step 1: Schedule Your Harvest Dates

Every seed packet has a date to harvest written on the back. To get your harvest date, you take your plant date and add the number of harvest days.This will give you your estimated harvest date. It's only an estimate because it will depend on the weather. But, this date written in your schedule will get you observing your crops so you can pick at the perfect time.

For example: If I plant the Olympia Spinach in the picture on April 15th, 2020. I would count on from that date 45 days because that is the matures in amount, which gives me May 30, 2020. This is the date I would add to my schedule and on that date I would begin to observe for harvest.

Step 2: Research Preserving

Every veggie and fruit, (don’t forget those!) has different specifications for preserving. Some do best frozen and others canned. If you choose to can them, you know you will have to see which is the best process: pressure canning or water bath. It will depend on the acidity of your veggies. It is very important to stick with your canning guide book. If you don't have one now is when you should get one, not when the produce is sitting in the fridge, like I did.

Step 3: Find Recipes

Now is the time to find a few recipes that will take your produce off the shelf, out of the freezer, and onto your plate!

I love the sight of a beautiful stocked root cellar. But, they don't help my family just sitting on the shelf.

I have learned this the hard way. Now you won't have to!

Step 4: Make a Menu

Now that you have a few recipes, organize them into a menu plan. When you're busy and all you have to do at 5:30 to make supper is look at your menu, grab your preserved produce, and cook. You'll be more likely to use it!

Nurturing and caring for your garden from start to harvest is hard work. It is going to take sweat, blood, and maybe some tears. (The year the hail storm took out everything.)

Planning a garden is the easy part. Next time, you're planning your dream garden, remember to plan for the finish line and beyond.

Over the next few months I'm going to be helping you out with step 3 and 4 in my new blog series, farm-to-fork.

For each veggie I grow, I will describe what are the best ways to preserve them and even help you out with a few recipes from my menu.

Till next time,

Pray, Just Plant!

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