What if I told you, you could save hundreds of dollars just by planning your garden in a way that can replace items on your grocery list?
Crazy right? How do you do it?! Well in this post, I’m going to walk you through how we plan our own canning garden and how you can plan a canning garden for yourself to preserve your own food and reduce grocery bills.
Find out how we reduced our monthly grocery bill by $1200!
With lots of practice, patience, and skills, you can work your way to growing and preserving enough food for a year’s worth of meals for your family!
What makes a canning garden different than a regular backyard vegetable garden? It’s all about the way you plan it. A canning garden focuses on foods that can be preserved for long-term storage through canning, dehydrating, freezing, and even cold storage.
We grow vegetables such as green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, celery, carrots, etc. with the purpose of preserving them for use in the winter months. Our garden plan is solely dedicated to the foods we eat in fresh and preserved form.
Want to learn how to can? Check out my Complete Guide To Water Bath Canning At Home!
There are so many reasons to plan a canning garden, but the main reason I encourage you to turn your backyard garden into a canning garden is for health, to save money and most things homemade are better tasting! Take a look at your grocery store list, what ingredients can you grow yourself and make from scratch to preserve?
A great example is pasta sauce, you can grow a few tomato plants and make your own sauce from scratch! If you aren’t comfortable with canning just yet, you can freeze it in batches to use year-round! Tomato seeds cost around $2.00 for 50 seeds, even if you factor in store-bought soil, fertilizer, and compost (if you don’t make your own), it is cheaper than purchasing a ready-made jar at the grocery store, plus it doesn’t have all the additives!
The first step to planning a canning garden is to figure out what you need to plant! A great way to decide what to plant is to look at your pantry and grocery list. What canned goods do you buy that you can make yourself? What ingredients are in it? Write those down.
Take a look in your freezer. What foods do you buy in the frozen food section? Add those to your list.
Here is an example of what your list may look like:
A mistake that many home growers make when planning a canning garden is growing too much in the first year. If this is your first time growing your own harvest for preserving, a good way to start is to pick one or two types of fresh vegetables to focus on growing and master the skills of preserving them.
If you take a look at the list above, a common ingredient in the pantry portion of the list is tomatoes. Next would be peppers since they can be preserved in the freezer as well as an added ingredient to spaghetti sauce, and salsa.
So in this case growing peppers and fresh tomatoes in your garden space would be a good choice. Your list may look a little different, you may include a few pie-filling options, hot peppers, or herbs!
Unless you are allergic to tomatoes or dislike them more than most people, I think that everyone should have tomatoes in their home garden for preservation. They are amongst the most popular vegetables, the easiest vegetable to grow for beginners, provide the best yield per square feet, and can provide you with pounds of tomatoes for a variety of foods from just a couple of plants!
Tomatoes are one of the most commonly canned items and they also fit in the category of high-acid foods which is perfect for water bath canning. Unlike low-acid foods such as corn, carrots, and beans that require pressure canning.
The best tomato varieties to grow for preserving are meatier varieties. Slicers such as beef stakes, are great for fresh eating, but contain more water and will produce less for canning, basically, you will need a lot more of them to make say, a tomato sauce.
The best variety to grow in your canning garden are varieties such as:
There are many other varieties to choose from but these are excellent choices for disease-resistant varieties which provide meatier flesh, fewer seeds, and thicker skin which is perfect for canning.
Once you have figured out the best vegetables for your small garden, it’s time to plan things out. By creating a blueprint you can plan your crop rotation, succession planting, pest control, fertilizer schedule, and plant varieties. It’s also a great way to keep track of each growing season, allowing you to look back at last year’s plot and see what worked and what didn’t.
Learn how to make your own compost from banana peels!
Next is the fun part! Draw a rough sketch of your garden space and figure out how much room you have to grow your garden produce. Measure the length and the width of your garden, use a square foot calculator such as this one, to figure out the square footage of your garden.
Spacing: Check the back of your seed packet to see what the recommended spacing is for your variety to determine how much space you need for each plant within your garden. Planting too close can reduce your harvest yield.
Timing: Depending on what zone you are located in, you may want to consider starting your seeds indoors ahead of time if you live in a cooler climate with a shorter growing season. I have a step-by-step guide on how to successfully start your seeds indoors on a budget.
Variety: For better disease control, consider planting a few different varieties of each plant. For example, plant Roma VF and Amish Paste varieties to have better harvest success. Different varieties react differently to the elements of the growing season.
So you’ve planted your garden, now what? Other than caring for and maintaining your garden, you should start purchasing things you need for home food preservation!
Do you plan on growing lots of strawberries? Check out my easy strawberry jam canning recipe which is perfect for beginner canners!
Freezing is an easy method to preserve your harvest. It is a good idea to invest in a good Food Saver to vacuum seal your vegetables to avoid freezer burn.
Our favorite water bath canning kit for beginner and advanced canners!
Dehydrating is a great way to preserve herbs and vegetables such as hot peppers for spices and seasonings. You can dehydrate them in your oven, or purchase this dehydrator for a no-fuss dehydration process.
Check out my favorite preserving items!
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