Meet My Garden!
Meet my garden.
Having a vegetable garden is what motivated me to begin canning and preserving. I LOVE pickles, and started my preserving journey making pickles and jelly with our neighbors when we lived in CT. But then, as with most eager gardeners, I just started planting ALL THE THINGS, and most of it grew... surprisingly well! Not anticipating how much a small garden could produce, we found ourselves with more vegetables than we could possibly eat fresh by ourselves, so I learned to preserve. Now a seasoned gardener and preserver, I have tailored what I grow to specifically what I need to preserve (some years better than others), and sprinkle in some new things to try each year.
Personally, I like to focus my energy on plants that both taste great fresh from the garden and preserve well. It saves space and A LOT of effort. If it's possible, choosing varieties that are known to grow well in your local area will also help your garden be successful- some kinds are even bred to the region and would be great to source out. Zone 6 stretches across the US and the growing conditions (soil conditions, temps, water etc) here are pretty different from what you would find in say, Kansas or Nevada, which are both in zone 6. So don't be afraid to talk to gardeners in your area and ask them what varieties they have worked well for them.
Some plants (like zucchini/yellow squash and lettuce for example) are only best eaten fresh and do not preserve that well (although I do freeze grated zucchini for quick breads in the winter). But the majority of plants grown can be preserved in one fashion or another- canned, dehydrated, fermented or frozen. Some plants, like root crops, don't even need much effort to preserve. You could leave them in the ground just until the ground starts to freeze, and then store in a cool area like a basement or garage. For longer storage you could get more technical but there's room to put as little, or as much effort as you want.
Here in central Massachusetts our main growing season is just ramping up, but there are lots of things that can be planted in the very early spring months (mid-late March, sometimes even sooner in warm years), and the past few years I have expanded what I start from seed indoors to get a jumpstart out in the garden. If you're just beginning to garden, don't miss out on the early spring gardening opportunities- cold crops grow in surprisingly cool weather and it feels great to start harvesting fresh lettuce when the first warm days start to set in. So even if it still feels too cold to you during the day in March, those greens, snap peas, beets and carrots would still start growing slowly if you plant them!
(Spring 2021 Garden)
Perennial herbs will also start growing back in late March/early April. If you don't have a perennial herb garden yet, I recommend you start one now or before the end of the season and have fresh herbs from your garden all season long. Its very easy to dry them but also fun to harvest even in the snow! You can plant most things from seed now, but having some already started seedlings to plant alongside will really extend your harvest season, and for some plants like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, it's best to start with seedlings.
Most of the things I am harvesting from the garden right now are greens (lettuce, kale and spinach), radishes, and snap peas are on the horizon. I will start dehydrating greens for "Super Greens Powder" and freeze kale for future use.