I’m on a five-year plan towards actually growing enough food to cut down our grocery bill.
Two years ago, I bought a house plant. Actually, I sent Otto out to buy me a house plant, because I’m also on a five-year plan to delegate more often. “If I can keep this plant alive for a year,” I told myself, “Next summer I’ll actually try growing something edible.”
The plant is still alive. (Though—it must be noted—somewhat sickly in pallor. I don’t think it likes me.) Last year, I planted herbs, strawberries, tomatoes and some peppers on our deck. “If I can grow these things somewhat successfully,” I told myself, “Next summer I’ll expand my planting, and learn how to can.” (The fact that I now have “learn how to can” as a life goal makes me feel about 85. But as I still have a freezer full of roasted jalapenos, it seems necessary.) The herbs went wild. We had jalapenos coming out of our ears. The banana peppers had some issues, but all in all—a successful season.
This weekend we went all Garden 2.0.
Otto, it should be noted, is never sexier than when he is talking about lumber. He did a bunch of research and decided that the way to go was a few raised bed boxes, and he then surfed around to figure out what kind of wood (apparently “conventional” pressure-treated wood leaches arsenic into the soil, which seems bad, and cedar is strong and a pest repellent, but costs a billion dollars, and there’s some OTHER kind of pressure-treated wood that’s okay, or something) and such, and I was in charge of deciding what to plant.
Oh, the possibilities! I knew we wanted herbs and tomatoes, again. And banana peppers (maybe I can actually GROW them, this year) and jalapenos, though probably fewer jalapeno plants than last year. Chickadee wants cucumbers and Monkey wants spinach. Everyone wants beans. Okay, that would be a start.
Oh. AND: We’ve been talking about putting in blueberries ever since we moved into this house. Fine; we’d take care of that, as well, although we probably won’t get berries this year.
Off to the nursery on Saturday! Wow, kinda crowded. No matter. Let’s go find the veggies. Oh, look—they carry organic plants. Yes, let’s buy some of those! Well. Hrm. These are really quite a bit more expensive. Perhaps we’ll just buy a few. Like, these California Wonder Peppers! I mean, they appear to be regular bell peppers, but they have an excellent name. Great; into the cart they go. And let’s get some tomatoes. And herbs. Oh my goodness, look at all these kinds of thyme! And basil. And sage. And tarragon. I can’t decide! Otto, why are you dragging me away…?
We spent about $65 at the nursery. That included four blueberry plants—which should, theoretically, produce berries from next year until forever—though the amount we spent meant that I passed by several items of interest, like rhubarb. (I like rhubarb. Why is rhubarb so expensive?)
From there we went to Ye Olde Giant Big Box Hardware Store, where I made the mistake of letting the children loose in front of the seed display. Seeds are inexpensive, but by the time we were done there, we had packets for zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, wax beans, burgundy beans, cucumber, spinach, and midget watermelons. Then we rounded up the lumber (sexy!) for the boxes. $55 later we were on our way.
The rest of Saturday was spent tilling the land. Or, Otto spent time putting the boxes together, while I went and dug up some sort of mutant fern weeds that grow to ten feet tall by our fence. After I’d cleared them out, Chickadee helped me plant the blueberries and Monkey watered them. (With water from our rain barrel! And then we all smoked some hemp together! Or not.)
On Sunday afternoon we set to work again. The first thing I did was check on the plants we’d purchased, and I made a very interesting discovery. I now know why the organic plants cost so much more—it’s to cover the expense of ALL THE BUGS THEY COME COVERED WITH.
My California Wonder Peppers had apparently spent their overnight on our deck spontaneously generating a flock of aphids. So I got to start out MY afternoon of communing with nature by carefully swabbing a couple of plants with an alcohol-drench Q-tip, and removing three hundred bugs. AIN’T NATURE AWESOME?
We finished building the boxes and then it was time to break up the earth under them and get ready to add soil and compost. Otto headed back to Ye Olde Giant Big Box Hardware Store, and returned with a truckload of soil and other miscellaneous things, to the tune of about $70. We filled the boxes with a mixture of overturned earth, jungle mix soil from the store, and compost from our very own compost pile (everyone smoke some more hemp!). The kids and I went to work on the first box, setting the tomatoes, basil, and a variety of peppers. Once that one was done, I went out to our wood chip pile (don’t you have a wood chip pile?) and began filling a bucket with chips to mulch the top of the box. The shovel was proving sort of slow, so I started grabbing handfuls, instead.
Until I put my hand into the part of the wood chip pile which has apparently been turned into a fire ant nest. Whoops! (I screamed REALLY LOUD, but entirely due to the shock of withdrawing an ant-swarmed hand rather than due to pain. Incredibly, I only ended up with two small bites.) I stuck to the shovel, after that.
For the second box—the one that got only a few plants, and mostly seeds—I tried to remember everything I’d crammed my brain with about intensive gardening (a fancy way of saying “planting stuff closer together than you really should, to maximize growth in a small area”), and we began sinking seeds. I already can barely remember what we planted where or how thin various plants need to be plucked down to, so THAT’s going to be an adventure. Heh.
Once that one was done, we planted the watermelons in separate containers, and then I went back up to the deck to plant the herbs.
I was so busy comparing tomato varieties and keeping the kids from picking forty varieties of seeds, I really didn’t buy enough varieties of herbs. I may have to go back and buy some more. But here you see some thyme, parsley and greek oregano. (Not pictured: Last year’s rosemary, which is about ready to go into the ground and be its own bush, or last year’s CHOCOLATE MIIIIIIIIINT which yes, Virginia, I am still growing in the container and is easy enough to pinch back before it takes over the world.) I’m thinking of going back for some tarragon. Why? I have no idea. I never cook with tarragon. But I think I like it.
Also, I forgot to mention that now that we live in 4-H country, every third grader gets sent home with a cabbage plant about this time of the year. Yes, really. (It could be worse. They could send each of ’em home with a ferret.) So we made Monkey his very own little plot square next to the boxes. The cabbage is his responsibility, and after it grows really large we’re supposed to take a picture of him with it and send it in to our local 4-H chapter. After that, I’m planning to sell him for meat. (Monkey, not the cabbage. This is not a compulsory part of the project, but I want to see the look on his face after we snap the photo. “Great job growing that cabbage, son! Now we’re going to sell you for meat now that we don’t need anyone to water this plant anymore.”)
The boxes themselves look pretty impressive, if I do say so myself.
Otto did a great job with them. And if they’re actually overflowing with produce this summer, well, so much the better!
So let’s recap: We’ve now spent nearly $200 on the garden. That’s BEFORE I spend any money on canning supplies, too. What was I smoking when I thought this was going to save money…? (Oh, right. Hemp. Damn hemp!)
Oh, well. At least the kids had fun helping, and there is nothing finer than a tomato straight from the vine. Or knowing that even if you don’t grow a single thing, there’s a turtle band at the ready to serenade your grumpiness away. Too bad they’re not edible.
Envy – ENVY I tell you. I desperately want to grow stuff – like loverly tomatoes and arugula and various other things – but my yard is forty-leventy-million degrees and it simply cannot be. However, this whole vicarious gardening where you do all the work and I just read about it isn’t too bad at all!
I’m actually sorta glad right this minute that my pecan trees provide too much shade for vegetable gardening.
Also, yay hemp!
Looks fabulous! What a wonderful family activity – enjoy it! :)
Aren’t those tomato cages upside down? ; )
Wanting to learn how to can doesn’t make you an old lady! I learned how to can last year, when I was a mere 25. You’ll love it. My mom and I canned vegetable soup, stewed tomatoes, and homemade ketchup (which kicks store bought ketchup’s butt). We also “put up” peas, corn, and okra in the freezer. Growing your own food is fun. And if you keep having trouble with the aphids, buy some ladybugs, they’ll take care of them for you.
This is what I have planned for a couple of weeks from now. We’re still about 8-10 weeks from our “last frost” date. However, I do intend to go to somewhere and buy seeds and start some seedlings in my basement.
I think we’ve decided on jalapenos, banana peppers, bell peppers, tomatoes (beefsteak AND grape AND maybe cherry), cucumbers, and maybe lettuce. Oh and carrots.
Not all of those will be started as seeds.
However, I haven’t kept a house plant alive for any number of years…and last year I had a container garden on my deck that failed to produce anything by three little banana peppers that were already on the plant when I bought it. So, we’ll see how this endeavor turns out.
For aphids…go back to the garden center and buy some ladybugs. They will take care of your problem for the season! Also, if you can get to a lumber mill (double sexy!) ask for some sawdust, and mulch the heck out of your blueberry bushes. They may even give it to you for free. Take trash bags with you and ask to shovel it yourself – this will help with the “free” aspect! Your beds look terrific…next year’s bill will be much smaller!
Not that you asked… :)
That is the most entertaining thing I’ve read in quite a while. And…been there!
We just built a square foot garden box this weekend and bought all the seeds too. Crazy insane how much we spent on it all. It is still too cold here to plan anything but at least I have plans in my head. Very expensive plans in my head.
Sure it costs this year, but next year, you already have the raised beds.
Put off buying ‘canning equipment’ & just freeze things this year. For that, you only need a large pot & colander, and freezer bags.
Next year, when you have blueberries, you’ll be more than justified spending money on ‘canning equipment’. Though truly, except for the jars & lids, I’m not sure what you mean by this phrase? Jars can be found used. Lids are cheap & must be new. If you have a big pot for boiling them, you are set. If you are thinking of pressure canning, then a plain pressure cooker will do the job. But freezing is much, much easier. That is, IF you have a generator in case the power goes out. A whole freezerful of thawed vegetables is no good to anyone. The only solution is lots of vegetable soup. (Which, you can freeze! When the power has come back on.)
We grew our tomatoes last year in rised beds. It really works well and so easy to keep weeded. You have me wanting to try an herb garden now. I never even thought about it but I bet cooking with fresh herbs is better than the dried up bottled kind. Ok, you talked me into it, I’m gonna try it. Enjoy the day–rain is on it’s way. YUCK!
Happy Gardening! You’re inspiring me to get started on ours soon. Maybe next month. (We’re a few states north.)
I have Garden Envy.
I am jealous. I have sort of a brown thumb, which I’m working on; but no yard at present, just a little patio. I successfully (for a while, at least) grew basil last year. I’m contemplating expanding that a bit, but I need to decide soon. I have to find out what (if any) veggies will do well in a pot…
Well done! Very clever storytelling of a wonderful process. Good luck with all of that. You are certainly well on your way! I want to do raised beds this year, too. (Lucky with an Otto!) Thanks for the reminder that some woods are dangerous. Sigh… :)
Keep your eye out for canning equipment at garage sales. Up here, those are the first things to go when they’re advertised. My mom had people lined up before we opened wanting to get at the canning supplies (jars mostly).
I wanted to do a garden this summer but seeing as we’re planning to move mid-summer and nothing can be harvested until late July in MN, I decided to shelve that idea until next year.
Wow, that looks heavenly. We still have snow that can be measured in feet, and we won’t be planting anything outside until after Memorial Day. They say the snow will be gone by then. I’m not so sure.
P.S. It’s 20 degrees today.
I sure hope your “mutant fern weeds” weren’t asparagus. Unless you don’t like asparagus. A real shame, either way, though.
My fiance informed that we’re not planting a garden this year, mostly because my gardening skills tend more to the hypothetical than the actual. I love the THOUGHT of gardening, but lose enthusiasm when it comes to the planting, watering, and harvesting. (Yes, despite my worst effort, we managed to grow some vegetables which we mostly ignored.)
Awesome: “…apparently â€œconventionalâ€ pressure-treated wood leaches arsenic into the soil, which seems bad…”
I planted a few meager containers of house plants and herb seeds over the weekend. Inspired by your garden last year, my plan is to try for some tomatoes and herbs this year. Looks like we have one more cold snap headed our way this week, so I’m planning that for next weekend. I just hope I don’t kill everything.
Also, when you mentioned the wood chip pile, I was *certain* you were going to say spiders. Because that’s what happened to me. I get the willies just thinking about it.
Nice garden, Mir. Impressive boxes, and the turtle band ROCKS!
Maybe I should try growing some plants out on my patio…it’s certainly big enough for something.
I love gardening…vicariously, through your blog. :) For I, sadly, am a killer of plants. I keep thinking I’ve reformed…and then reality sets in that, really, I am not a gardener. Let’s hope I fare better with the children!
Congratulations on a realistic plan – 5 years! lol!
Have you used the smoking hemp jokes before? Don’t work for me.
Also kuddos for the rain barrel. VERY eco-nomical. I posted a page on our in-home water credit program this weekend, and linked-into it your recent post on making deals. Not as funny as you, but I do the best I can.
I think even where it’s hot and under pecan trees you can grow stuff. We do. If you have never read Pioneer Woman – she gives great gardening and cooking advice.
If you are a very detailed record keeper consider starting a spreadsheet for costs and produce – you know, just to drive yourself to further smoking. Or not. Don’t forget to include the cost of water if your rain barrel goes dry.
Screen phone calls today – for CPS calling to confirm that you are selling your son online.
lol. Or not.
I love canning. More than I love candy making (and you know I love candy making). It’s not as hard or as time consuming as it seems!
I can’t grow things other than children, though. So my husband is in charge of the garden, I just harvest and process…
In my garden in DC, I planted oregano and thyme, and they turned out to be perennial. Who knew? The oregano, in particular, spread out enormously, almost as ravenously as mint. Sage was also perennial – small plants grew into bushes 3′ high.
I say skip the tarragon and get some Thai basil. It’s heavenly stuff fresh… perhaps that’s why they call it holy basil.
I started canning when I was pregnant with my first baby, now four. Not a lot of people can and I’ve learned everything the hard way. My best recommendation? Canning and Preserving for Dummies. Seriously. ;o) It’s simple enough for even me to get it! You’ll do great! And if you get everything at a yard sale it won’t cost much.
My husband plants, I water all spring and summer with our rain barrel, and I can when it is harvested. We have 2 raised beds, and I end up canning quite a bit! My husband (Mr. Math) does keep a spreadsheet,and we do end up saving in the end. It is always hard to believe in the beginning, though!
Oh, I am so jealous! Here in Minnesota, we have at least six more weeks before we can even think about planting anything outside. However, I may start some herbs indoors so that they are ready to move out to my windowbox at that time.
So jealous of all of you who have the weather that permits the planting of a garden in March. Not so much because I want to plant the garden, actually, but because it means your weather is warmer than it is here in Ohio (where we’ve got at least another six weeks before it’s even REMOTELY warm enough for that kind of stuff). My husband & I plant a garden full of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, pumpkins (for the kiddos, of course), and enough herbs to make Martha Stewart jealous. Somehow, though, I ALWAYS end up being the designated waterer/weeder/harvester, which wouldn’t be so bad if I actually ATE what comes out of the garden. Sadly, though, I HATE vegetables (aside from the ones that really shouldn’t even be considered veggies – like corn & carrots). Why can’t they all be chocolate-flavored?
Canning is not so hard. The initial cost can be a little scary, but you don’t need the fancy pressure pot unless you plan to can meat. You can get by with a very large pot, big enough to cover upright jars with water. Do however get the fancy canning tongs so you can avoid the 3rd degree burns when you can’t get the darn jars out of the water. I used a small metal cooling rack in the bottom of my big pot to keep the jars away from the burner heat until I got fancy and got the actual tool for it. You can get a kit for 10$-ish that comes with the tongs, measuring stick thingy and the dipping rack for a pot! LUCK!
Gorgeous raised beds. Congrats on the garden. I am planning a container garden this year at our new house. It really is important to start small. Thanks for the inspiration.
Hey, I’m around your age and have been canning for a couple of years. Mostly jellies and pickles, but you gotta start somewhere, right? I’ll email you a few of my favorite recipes. I remember my grandmother canning most everything and us always having quart jars of tomatoes in the house. We always took the empty jars and rings back to exchange for more. Same with coffee cans of walnuts! I’ve heard second-hand stores are good for canning supplies, though I haven’t made it to one for my own yet. We planed our small garden two weekends ago – tomatoes, spinach, zuccini, peppers, herbs. Good luck with yours!
I’m so jealous. We can’t grow much in our shady Seattle backyard. Except blueberries! We do have those. And they are succulent.
The first things I bought for my husband to plant this year were potatoes and onions. Last year we didn’t plant potatoes and I really missed not having them in the garden. I found I used the onions and potatoes a lot and you don’t have to can them or freeze them since they will store nicely. Also, we have garlic which comes in really handy. In the northwest, garlic needs to be planted in the fall for some reason.
Hereâ€™s a link to instructions for building your own earth boxes for cheap:
Hey, YOU’RE the one I got that link from! But maybe your readers would like to check it out.
I don’t see any other commenters professing their mutual love of rhubarb. Let me be the first.
The best way to get yourself some rhubarb is to find someone who has some and ask them if they would divide the plant for you. The stuff grows like a weed. I was given some and had great intentions for planting it lovingly. After too much neglect, my husband turfed the cardboard boxes that were holding said plants behind the garage, near the outdoor toy box. I gave them up for lost. Lo and behold, the glorious weeds took root and flourished in what little they were given, just like any good weed will do. Now I am afraid to transplant them, for fear of killing them.
I, too, am more of a theoretical gardener than a real one. Sigh.
Canning is highly overrated. Freezing is MUCH less time consuming and much less work.
Rhubarb grows like a weed where we live, although that will be after the snow finally melts.People are usually begging us to take some, so I never actually have to grow my own. And Mmmmmmm, chocolate mint, I grow it every year, delicious!
My mom always let us kids have one row of her garden bed to plant whatever we wanted. I always chose cucumbers and radishes. Radishes, because they grew fast and were hard to kill, and cucumbers because my mom also always let me have an old pickle jar to place around one baby cucumber, which would then continue growing inside the jar, eventually becoming so big that it would no longer fit through the jar’s opening! Much hilarity would ensue! I would proudly display my Miracle Cucumber In A Jar to anyone who had the misfortune of visiting (or perhaps merely walking by) our house each summer. Good times.
If Monkey or Chickadee grows cucumbers this year, perhaps they too would like to try the Miracle Cucumber. And if they do, I would appreciate a picture. Thank you.
My three-year old spent an HOUR out on our deck yesterday trying to figure out what I had done with her tomato plants. Apparently if you teach a kid to just go outside and feed herself when you’re too lazy to find her a snack, she’ll remember that forever. Then she’ll make you feel terribly guilty for not being able to conquer the below freezing temps so she can have her damn tomatoes. RIGHT NOW.
Guess I’ll be doing some planting, too. In about a month.
Hey! I want to know more about the type of wood Otto used and how he joined the corners…can we get a bit of a “how to” from the box builder please?
My dh wants to do the raised beds this year instead of the lame rock laden attempt at a garden we had last year.
Go back and get the rhubarb. It will last until shortly before the Apocalypse. We have one. Roger the Wonder Shrub Hell-Bent on World Domination is already budding and soon will offer himself up for pie/crumbles/jam. And all will be right with the world. Get the rhubarb, the expense is MUCH cheaper than buying it from the store.
We talked about doing a garden this year but then the laziness took over and now I think the time has passed. Not to mention that historically I have a black thumb of doom. Hmmm, maybe I should try that container thing on our patio first.
I want so much to have a vegetable garden in my backyard someday. Yours is gorgeous!
We live a bit south of you and were told it is too warm here for rhubarb, so you might check on that. My DH would LOVE to have some rhubarb! The paper keeps saying it is too early to plant much so I am impatiently waiting til spring break. But I already have lettuce, onions, peas, parsley, cilantro, brussel sprouts and swiss chard it the ground. I can’t wait! And maybe my mom will teach me to can a few things this summer – like tomatoes if we get a bumper crop (I hope!)
niiice. how did otto make the boxes?
Like some of the others, I too have garden-
envy. Looks wonderful.
Mama Bird and I tried our hands at canning last year. Tomatoes. And pickles. We got the raw materials at the farmers market because no plant should be subjected to our care. We made two jars of pickles (one each) and roughly 12 jars of tomatoes. I used my last jar about two months ago. I HIGHLY recommend canning tomatoes. It’s really easy, the jars are cheap and reusable, and OH MY GOD do they taste better than the cans at the store! We make a lot of chili and pastas at my place so lots of jars was a good thing. I wish we had made more! I look forward to canning again this year, maybe we’ll add something else to our repertoire! Good luck!
I would also be interested in hearing more about how Otto created the boxes. This is something I’d like to try!
If you have a large drop-off recycling center near you, this is a good place to look for canning jars. Get friendly with the workers and they may just set aside any that come in for you.:)
Also, if you are going to start canning, get the Ball Blue Book. You can sometimes get it near the canning supplies at the hardware store, but you can also get it online straight from Ball. It is cheap and it will have anything you need to know about canning, with great recipes and helpful pictures.
A little mild dish soap mixed in water will get rid of aphids. Just put it in a spray bottle and spray your plants (upside down, if possible…they like to hang out on the underside of leaves) Easy and cheap.
Also? Estate auctions are a great place to pick up canning paraphernalia (ha!…the hemp jokes tickle me!) at lovely prices. There are lots of good online resources and it’s really not that hard. I’ve been canning since I was old enough to stand on a stool and stuff jars. I’d be happy to help if you want to email me.
Please send sunshine. It’s still snowing here and I am ready to garden. Your beds look fab!!
So, will Otto be coming to New England in a couple weeks? I’d like him to pop by and build me some of those raised beds! ;-D
Of course, with my black thumb and about 20 square feet of property that actually gets sunshine, it may not help.
Next year the big investment will be a netting cage around the blueberry bushes, to keep them away from the birds and squirrels!
If those turtles ever disappear, just know that they’re at my house and they’re well taken care of.
I want one! (A raised bed garden, not an Otto – got one of those already. Except he hasn’t made a raised garden for me, so maybe I DO want an Otto). Where was I? Oh yeah. Beautiful! I am so jealous.
Right now I am (still) waiting (it’s been a month) for the yard guy to come take out two bushes so I will have room to plant some vegies. Hope he comes before Spring break!
Of course, since I coulnd’t understand a word he said (my French is all about pointing and saying “sil vous plait,”) there is a very good chance he is never coming back.
I want tomatos! And peas! And, and, and…
I was following you until the smoking hemp sentence, then I sort of wandered off, things got complicated and I got hungry and I started thinking about how much more food you could buy if instead of trying to grow peppers you grew the mother hemp plant of all time. Then I went to watch me some Cheech.
oh it’s all just so pretty! It’s wonderful.
LOVE the turtles.
I’ve decided to plant only one thing this year. Mint. ;)
If you drink coffee, put the grounds on your blueberries. Ours bear wonderfully and that’s the only fertilizer I use. We have 10 bushes and drink about a pot and a half of coffee per day. I store it up in a gallon container and when that’s full I take it out and spread it directly around the blueberries. They like an acid soil and the grounds also provide nitrogen.
Enjoy the garden. I used to garden in North Carolina and grew good hot peppers and melons and tomatoes. I also recommend planting lettuce and greens in September and growing them into the winter. Now I live in Washington state and can grow greens in the summer, but forget tomatoes, melons and peppers. Eat some for me.
didn’t read all the comments so sorry if repeat here. soapy water in a spray bottle will get rid of your aphids. Ladybugs are awesome, but release them on a side of the yard away from the plant so they can fly to them, otherwise you neighbors will reap the benefit more than you will.
Beans are great for providing nitrogen to your soil.
that is all for now. ;-)
As my master gardener mother’s garden-minion for roughly 18 years, there is an easier way to get rid of aphids. Use a mix of water and dish soap. There is a recipe/how to here: http://www.thriftyfun.com/tf732331.tip.html. I’m not sure how organic it is, but it works. Especially when you have about 20 rose bushes to spray down.
Also, release the ladybugs in the dark. They’re more likely to settle close by.
We just bought most of the supplies for our first garden this week, too. I fretted over buying treated wood, but the garden guy at the big box store told me that their landscape timbers were no longer treated with arsenic, so they were fine for vegetable gardening. Whew.
I’m hoping to grow spinach, broccoli, cucumbers, peppers, green beans and maybe carrots. Plus basil and cilantro for herbs. I have no idea if any of it will grow. It’ll be like a reality show for plants – Survivor: Christina’s garden.
Can’t wait to see how your garden does.
you should totally go out and get a tarragon plant. because: 1) very tasty herb 2) v. expensive dried – I have a wonderful cream of cauliflower soup recipe that uses tarragon, also use it in my meatloaf and on my baked chicken. It just makes everything taste better
also watch out for the cucumber plants they will take over if you let them
Very cool that you’re growing some food for yourself. Gardening certainly isn’t free, especially when you’re starting up, but you’ll reduce costs if you try to get perennials like rhubarb from other kindly gardeners whenever you can. Is there a local perennial society you could join that might do a plant swap/sale?
I second the advice about not leaping into canning straight away–I would focus on the garden this year and freeze instead. You need a lot of time and energy just to deal with harvesting and preserving in the autumn. Just concentrate on keeping the garden alive and healthy, eat whatever you can when it’s fresh, get your herbs dried for the winter, and freeze anything that’s left over. You could always make some freezer jam from the strawberries; it’s quick and easy, only takes 4 cups of berries, and you’ll get about 5 jars. It’s a nice easy way to start off with preserving, the kids can help, and tastes sooo much better than store-bought.
Have fun putting in the garden! (she says, as she stares outside at the snow up here in Zone 2b and hunkers down for another 2 months).
I too would love to hear more about how Otto figured out how to create your raised beds and which kind of wood he ended up using. We have been planning to build some for a while, but I’m due with our second baby mid-May and don’t know how much I can accomplish before sending myself into labor… Oh, and then gardening with a newborn and toddler. Hadn’t gotten around to thinking about that part yet. Hmmm…
Go to goodwill for canning jars. Lids are cheap.