April 23, 2010

Planting & Harvesting For Food Storage: How Much?

I mentioned in my last post, that one of our goals, is to grow and preserve as much of our own food as possible. Obviously some planning is needed here. How much will we need? How much do I need to plant? How much will I need to preserve and store? How big does the garden need to be? Where will I store it?

My approach to all of this is not very profound. Common sense, mostly. I consider how much of a particular item or food group we eat each week, and then figure out how much of it we will need until next year's harvest comes in.

For example, if we want to eat a quart of green beans each week (two meals for the two of us), then obviously I'll need 52 quarts, whether fresh or preserved. If I can manage seven canner loads (7 quarts a load), then those 49 quarts will serve both our weekly needs when I can't get fresh, as well as having extra for company or other occasions.

Or fruit for breakfast. This year we should be able to eat fresh melon, strawberries, and figs from our garden in season. Blueberries too perhaps, although I didn't find the rabbiteyes particularly good for fresh eating (better for pancakes, muffins, or pie). In the next several years we can add raspberries and peaches to that. And pears, although I'll prefer those fresh pears and apples for snacks. When fresh fruit isn't in season, I need to consider how much to preserve. I am still in the discovery phase regarding how long I can count on fresh homegrown fruit, but for the sake of planning, I may want to assume I'll need eight months worth of preserved fruit, once all my fruit comes to bear. That means (!mental math calculations ahead!) if we want to eat a serving of fruit with breakfast, and we can get two breakfast's from a pint of canned fruit, I need 3 and 1/2 pints per week, or about 136 pints for the year. Or 68 quarts. I can further ask myself, do I want to supplement with something I can only purchase at the grocery, like grapefruit? If so, I need to put up less. Or I still may want the extra just in case.

Key to this is knowing how much to plant, which includes calculations for possible losses from to insects, birds, plant disease, or some other disastor. It's not an exact science and for this location I don't have that figured out yet. I do know from last summer's garden, that one green pepper plant isn't enough for a year's worth of peppers (frozen). Nor is a 75 foot row of green beans adequate for that one quart a week we'd like to eat. I know that four hills of cucumbers is just adequate for a year's worth of fresh cukes and pickles, but I have to consider that I'm down to my last jar of picckle relish and will need to make more this summer.

Where to store it all is another matter, and we're working on that too.

The challenge this year is that I still have a number of unknowns. I'm still learning about my soil, growing season, and garden yield for my little corner of the world. Then there's unexpected things, like the fact that only one pea in the row decided to grow this spring. Or things like never having planted potatoes before, I'm not entirely certain of what to expect. Nor what our need will be, especially if we switch our staple dinner starch to potatoes rather than brown rice.

In the end, this year will be one of experimentation. And I'm okay with that. I'm just happy to be doing it.


Theresa said...

I'm speechless..almost. It all gives me a headache just thinking about it and my hats off to you for planning it.
I rarely know what I'm going to eat for dinner two hours before time let alone planning a gardens worth of veggies and fruit to last a year.

LivingOurWay said...

This is great! I am always thinking about this. I do need to learn how to pressure can first! I'm going to make that a priority this summer.

Renee Nefe said...

I'm in the camp of it doesn't hurt to have too much...you can always share or sell the excess. but alas crop loss due to critters or hail is a major concern here. My non-veggie hubby isn't concerned with my garden, but I really want my own veggies this summer since I got hailed out last year.

Leigh said...

Theresa, I have to confess that I'm the same way when it gets down to the daily meal planning. But with a fully stocked pantry, I have more to choose from!

LivingOurWay you will enjoy being able to pressure can! There are so many wonderful things you can can, including your own convenience foods like soups and stews!

Renee, me too. It never hurts to have excess. I figure these are my bare minimums. I do hope you have a better summer for growing this year. All that hail last summer was a real bummer.

Michelle said...

Do you follow Miss Effie's Dairy blog? She is a canning queen, and teaching classes on canning and preserving and all that good stuff. Might be a good resource.

Woolly Bits said...

stupid question maybe - but you did plant your raspberries, didn't you? so why shouldn't you get any this year?
what strikes me is that I usually end up having heaps of stuff, where I need only very little (mugwort or lovage come to mind:)) - and end up with little or none, where I could use a lot (basil is my constant worry!). I think somewhere somebody called "murphy" is laughing his head off at me:)) and why do they sell one pack of lovage seeds with endless seeds in it (where 1 or 2 plants should be more than anyone can reasonably use) - whereas there tends to be very little in packets, where you can use a good lot? the wonders of gardening.....

The Bulk Wheat Lady said...

Canning gives me the creeps, but I love to store fresh and frozen stuff from my garden. How can you be sure canned veggies won't be bad when you use them?

Leigh said...

Michelle, no, I'm not familiar with Miss Effie's Diary. Until now. I love finding new resources and new blogs of those with similar interests. Thanks for the suggestion!

Bettina, I planted 3 raspberry canes, about a foot tall each. They were bare root and dormant when I got them. They've just started to put out leaves, so I'm assuming they'll just grow quite a bit this year, and flower and fruit next year. Time will tell.

I've puzzled over the very thing you talk about, especially with herb seeds. What am I going to do with 100 seeds when I only need 3 plants??? I had quite a debate with myself when I was planning my seed order: seeds or plants. I reason that if I can find and buy the plants, I can just get what I want. But that costs so much more, so if I get seeds, I can get a bigger varitey. Dilemma! I just planted most of this year's herbs and flower seeds (for dye plants.) I've just been waiting on rain to sprout them. After that I'll be holding my breath until I know what's come up!

Bulk Wheat Lady, thank you for visiting and commenting! True, there is a concern with canned veggies and spoilage. With proper canning techniques however, this is minimal. I periodically check the vacuum in my jars by giving the lids a sharp tap. Loose lids mean no vacuum and that jar is dumped out. Anything that looks or smells funny is thrown out, but usually the problem is a lid that's popped loose.

Canning is more work intensive up front, but oh so convenient and things keep for ages. I bought a freezer last summer, and am excited about that, but am concerned about our ice storms and loss of power, which is not uncommon around here. I especially like to store grains in the freezer, meat, and things like chopped onions and peppers. I like storing fresh too, and my newest skill is lacto-fermenting!