Has Spring come to your part of the world yet? Wichita (and the midwest in general) has some funky weather patterns, so one day it feels like spring and the next it's snowing. Nevertheless, the gardening season has begun!
There's a lot of gardening talk at our dinner table because Josh and our cousin Lauren work for Legacy Ministries' awesome program called GardenWorks. They employ at risk youth to prepare the soil, plant and tend vegetables, herbs, and even some fruit. The goal is to give these teenagers job experience while providing healthy, locally grown food to the community. It's an awesome program and I could probably tell you more about it, but I really want to talk about my garden.
I should call it our garden because Josh and I are working on it together. Since we will be able to buy fresh produce from GardenWorks all summer long, I thought it would be fun and fruitful to plant a garden that we could eat from throughout the rest of the year. After some dinner table discussion, Josh and I decided to plant a canning garden. I have never canned a single tomato, so I have lots to learn.
We started from scratch on this garden. Our first step was to dig up a ton of bermuda grass. About a month ago we spent about 16 hours digging and pulling out those wretched bermuda grass roots. We were lucky that the start of my spring break coincided with 70 degree weather, so we could dig in the warm sun.Our little triangle shaped plot, located in a nice sunny spot across the street, measures 19' 9" x 17' 9" x 15' 5". We first planted onion sets and then three varieties of beets from seed (colorful beets, candy stripe beets, and bulls blood beets). It's so fun to watch the little leaves of our beets coming up! In addition to beets and onions, our plan is to plant tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, and maybe some basil. The latest additions to our garden are a wood chip path, a barrier of buckwheat around the edge of the path (to discourage bermuda grass from taking root), and a rock wall. We've also mixed in some horse manure with our soil. Since we've never canned before we're starting small with salsa, tomato sauce, and beets (in what form, we're not sure yet). My mind is spinning with possibilities, though! I picked up some books from the library on canning and keeping a root cellar. Now I'm wondering if our little basement could be a root cellar and what foods we'd want to store down there.
I love both the solitude and the community I find in this space. Our garden is close to the house of some neighbors who have befriended us. Their three little kids love to come over and talk with us while gardening. They are talkers! We show them earthworms and they try to help pull out the bermuda grass roots. I also love the time spent with Josh in the garden. It’s special for us to have a common project and it’s a good space for conversation. However, some days I find myself alone in the garden and the time to lose myself in the soil is also valuable. Watering, digging, weeding- they're all monotonous tasks, but I find joy in doing them and in letting my mind wonder or rest.
So this is the start of our canning garden. We hope our plants grow well! If you have any great recipes or tips for canning, please leave a comment.