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I know as I have grown over the years on my growing journey I have found my garden plan wanting. I started probably just like you with just a simple drawing. But if my goal as a grower was to grow food for my family and to not just grow a hobby garden I need to make a change.


I needed a garden plan that gave me more!


Is that you?


Well, if it is, you are at the right stop. Today in the above episode and in this blog post I am going to share how I researched, learned, and developed my simple garden plan into not a complicated one. But one that would help me with everything I need to do as a grower!


Growing a garden is about growing, yes!


But it should also be about the planting, the weeding, the harvesting, the eating, the preserving and more. I think the best way that I can share with you how garden plan can evolve I need to tell you a little story.


When I first started developing my simple garden plan into one that was more like a market gardener. I realized something, market gardeners have a plan for their harvest. They have a goal of how much they are going to produce so that they know how much they can sell and make a profit. They know when their carrots are going to be ready so that they create a buzz with their customers.


If you would like to hear the full story of how and why I have transformed my garden plan to be more like a market gardener’s, you can listen to or check out the show notes for, Garden Planning | How Your Simple Garden Plan May Be Holding You Back.


A market gardener has an end game. They know exactly when their produce is going to be ready and what they are going to do with it to market to their customers. They have also over their many years of bringing high quality vegetables to their farm stand, learned when is the perfect time to pick their produce so it is at its peak for their customer. Their business is dependent on the quality of their produce.


So when I was looking to improve my garden plan I didn’t find any information about including a plan for my harvest in my garden plan. But isn’t that our goal in growing a garden to produce a harvest?


The bible even says,


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


Yes, our goal as gardeners is to produce a harvest. We work hard all through our growing season so that we can see the fruits of our labor, OUR HARVEST!


So why don’t we plan for it?


This was quite a few years ago, but I remember it like yesterday.


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 or when I was making my garden plan in February!



Now I am going to give you the nuts and bolts but first I want to share with you how having a plan beyond the harvest has changed my life and how it can change yours too.


Having a plan for beyond the harvest has been a game changer. Knowing when my produce needs to be picked and how to pick it at its peak has been amazing. There is nothing like tasting summer in the middle of January. My Fall schedule is now very planned out which is helpful because fall is a very busy season for us. We start back at school, it is goat breeding season, and it is also when I do all my preserving for the winter. And now that I have added a Fall Garden it is even busier. And to top it all off my chicken doesn't get my harvest any more!!


Step 1: Add Harvest Dates

Your harvest dates are an estimated time of when your produce is going to be ready. It is not the exact date but it gets you close so you can start looking for the signs of when you should pick your produce at its peak. This is an estimate because every one growing season is different but also every year is different.


To calculate your harvest days you just need to find the number of days to maturity on the back of your seed packet and then count forward from the day you started your seeds.


And knowing when to pick each kind of vegetable you are going to need to research. This may take time now but when you are out in the garden knowing the facts will help you not jump the gun when picking.


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 product is sitting in the fridge, like I did.


For example: Green Beans can be pressure canned, frozen or pickled. I have also learned that potatoes can also be canned. And guess what they taste amazing.


And also get everything ready. Get your supplies now and not when everyone else is looking for supplies.


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!


And while you are looking up recipes that you like, make a book of them. Keeping all your recipes in one spot will help you when you are standing in your kitchen at 5:30 and wonder what to make you? Or is that just me??



Step 4: Make a Meal Plan


Better yet put all of those recipes on a calendar or in a planner so you can make sure you will remember to cook them. Meal Planning can seem like a daunting task. I now I have felt that way in the past. But here is what you don’t want: all of that delicious food you work hard to grow and preserve never being put on your family’s plates to enjoy.



To help you out with your journey of planning beyond the finish line, I have been writing a blog series called Planning Beyond the Harvest with ???. So far I have a written out plan for snow peas, kale, potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers. In each of these blog posts I walk you through the steps and do the research for you. Just follow the link to, Planning Beyond the Harvest with Snow Peas, and you will find the rest as they are linked together.


Just remember your garden’s goal is to give you a harvest and it is yours to plan for it.


Have a blessed day,


Crystal


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