Gardening Products

Home Beekeeping

Few gardening-related hobbies are as fascinating and satisfying as raising honey bees. Contribute to the health of your area's honey bee population. Buy this guide to learning bee culture and start your own bee hives.

Garden Chickens

Raise adoring pets that pay you back with delicious and nutritious fresh eggs. This offer provides all the information you need to get started with your own backyard chickens. Click here today to get started in this rewarding hobby.

Kitchen Garden Store

Learn to preserve the produce you grow in your home kitchen garden. This home canning starter kit includes everything you need to can your first batch using the boiling water bath method for high-acid foods. Find it and other canning supplies at the Home Kitchen Garden Store.

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Daniel Gasteiger

Having trouble deciding what to get for a home kitchen gardener in your life? Here are a few ideas to help you along. I selected these items with people in mind who manage large-scale kitchen gardens, though some are appropriate also for people who buy produce in bulk and preserve it for later use.

If you know someone who has committed a big chunk of yard space to vegetable gardening, or whose ornamental trees are actually an orchard, or who shops at farmers’ markets and buys fruit by the bushel, you’ll find something here to please them. I’ve selected items from Amazon.com that have only the highest customer reviews.

Reduce a Home Kitchen Gardener’s Back Trouble

In a traditional farm-style home kitchen garden, a farmer uses a tractor or a horse to drag a plow through the garden plot and prepare it for planting. But some gardeners turn soil by hand. For a large garden patch, the prospect of hand-turning so much soil might end a project… and it might dissuade an avid gardener from expanding a garden; a sad outcome, indeed. Help protect your gardener’s health by giving a gas-driven auto tiller. These bad boys can cut new planting beds into a lawn, can turn over a bed’s soil—and mix in compost, and can rip out weeds during the growing season. This one is highly-rated by Amazon.com customers.

Click here to order.

A Home Kitchen Garden Garden Cart

When you tend a large home kitchen garden, you move a lot of stuff around: you move tools from storage to the garden and back, you move plant seedlings from your car or your sprouting room to your garden, you move weeds away from the garden, you move compost and fertilizer to the garden, and you move produce from the garden to your house. You might also move cold frames, fencing, row covers, and trellises about through the season. A good garden cart is essential, and this one fits the bill. My parents had a similar garden cart, and it handled every job we gave it—including hauling manure from the barn and firewood from the forest. Short of a lawn tractor with a pull-behind cart, there’s nothing better for hauling stuff around your yard and garden.

Click here to order.

A Canner for Fruits and Pickles from a Home Kitchen Garden

All kitchen gardeners are potential canners (unless they’re already canners). People who grow fruit trees are especially likely to take up canning; when a tree produces more fruit than you can eat in season, it’s very hard to watch it go to waste; canning preserves it for use till the next year’s harvest. Most people don’t can their own food because they haven’t tried. Once they see how easy it is, they’re usually hooked. Get the gardener in your life started with this highly-rated canning pot (and the starter kit below) for boiling water bath canning. (A boiling water bath can preserve fruits—including tomatoes—and pickles, but is not appropriate for canning vegetables.)

Click here to order.

Accessories for Home Canning

It’s possible to take up home canning with utensils most people already have in their kitchens. However, canning suppliers have developed several tools that make the whole canning process easier. This accessory kit includes a canning funnel, a magnetic lid lifter, a bottle lifter, and a small canning rack that might fit in a stock pot your gardening acquaintance already owns. It’s a very popular set and makes a great compliment to the canning pot described above—or to the pressure canner described below.

Click here to order.

A Pressure Canner for Vegetables from a Home Kitchen Garden

When a garden overproduces vegetables, you can freeze them, can them, dehydrate them, give them away, or toss them in the compost barrel. Canning is a very satisfying solution, but it requires equipment most kitchens lack: a pressure canner. A pressure canner heats canning jars to a very high temperature, killing any bacteria that might be in the food being canned. A pressure canner can preserve meats and prepared dishes such as soups and stews, and it can double as a pressure cooker: a stovetop cook pot that can cook foods more rapidly than a microwave oven and with better results.

Click here to order.

A Home Kitchen Garden Dehydrator

You don’t need to have a home kitchen garden to enjoy a food dehydrator. A gardener might use one to preserve home grown vegetables and fruit. But anyone can use a dehydrator to make fruit rollups and meat jerky. When you consider the cost of commercially-available dried apricots, dried apples, and dried tomatoes, a food dehydrator can pay for itself in one or two uses. The Nesco Gardenmaster is one of the highest-rated dehydrators available, and will preserve fruits, vegetables, and meats for many years.

Click here to order.

A Dehydrator for a Modest Budget

If you’re excited about giving your gardening acquaintance a dehydrator, but you have a limited budget, give the Nesco FD-75PR. This is one of the most popular items sold in Amazon.com’s Kitchen and Dining category… and in their Home & Garden category! A terrific product at a great price.

Click here to order.

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A platter of crackers and cream cheese topped with a half cup of red pepper relish makes an attractive presentation on an hors d’oeuvres table.

If you grow bell peppers in your home kitchen garden, please try this; it’s astonishingly simple, and crazy delicious: Make and preserve red pepper relish to serve as an hors d’oeuvre at dinners throughout the coming year.

My garden is long abed, but I scored some inexpensive red peppers at the local Mennonite grocery store, so I just made up a batch of red pepper relish. While it takes about six hours from start to finish, your actual involvement will be closer to one hour: 30 minutes to prepare the peppers and start them cooking, and 30 minutes to prepare canning jars and can the finished relish.

Red Peppers in a Home Kitchen Garden

From what you see in a grocery store, you’d think there are bell peppers, and red bell peppers: two varieties. Truth is, a bell pepper is a bell pepper, and red ones have simply remained on the plant longer than the green ones have. If your growing season doesn’t provide three and a half months of consecutive warm days, start plants indoors and transplant them when your garden’s soil warms up past 65 degrees… green bell peppers want to be red, but they need a lot of time to get there.

Ingredients for red pepper relish are few: 12 large red peppers (I used 14 cuz mine were small), a tablespoon of salt, 3 cups of sugar, and a pint of cider vinegar.

A Bit More About the Relish

Red pepper relish is a mash of ground-up, sweet, sticky, pickled red peppers. The uninitiated may wonder: how can that be tasty? If you’re skeptical, please take my word for it and make one batch. When you decide you don’t like it, send me your spare inventory and I’ll reimburse you for the shipping cost. Better still, serve it at a dinner party, watch who hangs around the relish tray, and give a jar to that person as a house gift the next time you visit them.

My mother-in-law introduced me to this delicacy, and the recipe I’m sharing here is the one she gave me; I don’t know where she got it, but I’m glad she did. Here’s how to use your red pepper relish:

You’ll need 4oz canning jars… 8-to-12 of them along with canning lids and the screw-on rings that hold the lids on. You can’t be certain how much relish your peppers will produce, so have extra jars on hand.

You’ll need an 8oz block of cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese and a box of savory crackers such as Ritz, Club Crackers, Triscuit, or something hoity-toity (involving crackers, I’m a simple man). An hour or so before you plan to serve hors d’oeuvres, set the block of cream cheese on a serving plate large enough that you can later surround the cheese with a ring or two of crackers. Open a four-ounce jar of red pepper relish, and scoop its contents onto the cream cheese, distributing it evenly on the top. Some relish may drip down the sides of the cheese onto the plate.

When your guests arrive, surround the cream cheese and relish with crackers, add a table knife or a butter knife, and set the plate out with your other hors d’oeuvres. A guest can cut off a chunk of cream cheese with its associated patch of relish, and scrape it off the knife onto a cracker.

Wash the peppers, remove their stems and seeds, and cut them into 2-inch pieces.

Chop the peppers up fine—each piece should be roughly the size of a thick piece of dry oatmeal. You can use a knife to do the chopping, but it goes a lot faster if you use a food processor. Mine held half the peppers. I used 2-second pulses totaling 20 seconds of run-time, scraped down the sides of the bowl, and then did 20 more seconds of 2-second pulses.

In a cooking pot, mix one tablespoon of salt through the ground peppers and let them sit for two hours. Then put a strainer over a pot or bowl, and dump the ground up peppers into the strainer. Let them sit for at least a half hour… more then three cups of liquid will drain out of them. (My mother-in-law tosses the liquid; I’m going to use it to make jelly… I’ll let you know how that works out.)

Return the ground up peppers to the cooking pot, add 2 cups of cider vinegar and 3 cups of sugar, and stir it together. Simmer the mixture uncovered for three hours, stirring periodically. For the first 2.5 hours, you don’t need to stir often, but in the last half hour, make sure the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot (also, heat your canning jars—see below). I start my relish on high heat for about seven minutes, and then set the temperature to low for the remainder of the cooking time.

The cooked relish is thick, sticky, dark, and delicious.

With a half hour of cooking to go, make sure the canning jars are clean and put them in a large pot (a canning pot, if you have one) to heat on the stove. I used a 4-gallon stock pot with enough water that the tops of the jars would be two inches beneath the surface. I put two cloth napkins in the pot, and placed the canning jars bottoms down on the napkins… the water is going to boil, and the napkins protect the jars from jostling against the metal (you can use a dish towel instead of napkins). Also, put the canning lids in a sauce pot of water and set it on low heat; the water should get very hot without boiling. When the relish is ready, fill jars as follows:

  • Remove one from the boiling water (I use tongs for this) and empty the water back into the canning pot.
  • Spoon relish into the jar, leaving a half inch of clearance from the top of the relish to the top of the jar.
  • If you’ve splashed relish on the threads or top of the jar, wipe with a damp cloth.
  • Fish a canning lid from the hot water and place it on the jar.

  • Screw a band snuggly onto the jar. Don’t bust your gut tightening it, but neither should you be gentle.
  • Lower the jar back into the canning pot, making sure it comes to rest lid-side-up on the cloth napkin or towel.

Boil the jars for fifteen minutes, take the jars out of the canning pot, and set them on a dry dish towel to cool. My batch produced exactly 10 jars of relish.

Red Pepper Relish Recipe:

12 large red peppers

1 TBS salt

1 pint cider vinegar

3 Cups sugar

Core, de-seed, and chop up peppers into meal-sized pieces

Stir in salt and let stand for 2 hours

Strain off liquid for about a half hour

Put peppers in sauce pot along with vinegar and sugar; simmer for 3 hours.

Spoon into hot canning jars leaving a half inch of head space. Process jars in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Yield: 5-6 Cups (10-12 half-cup jars)

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If you want to attract a bunch of gardeners to a seminar, promise to send each of them home with a free rain barrel.

Every home kitchen garden with room enough should have a rain barrel. Minimally, a rain barrel catches water as it falls from the sky. More typically, a rain barrel sits under a downspout from your house’s rain gutter system, and runoff from your house fills the barrel.

For seven or so years, I’ve figured to build a large water tank against the side of my house. Of course, each year has passed with no cistern, and every time I’ve run the hose to water the garden I’ve cursed my own sloth. How much water could I save if I collect the runoff from my house?

Happily, I got the answer to that question and more just a few weeks ago when I attended a seminar presented by the local Cooperative Extension office. Newspaper advertisements alerted me to this seminar and promised a take-home rain barrel to the first 25 people to register. The free seminar alone would have been two well-spent hours.

Home Kitchen Garden Bonanza

If you’re new to gardening, or you’re struggling with unsolvable problems, or you simply want some fresh perspectives, find a Cooperative Extension office in your neighborhood. These state-run offices are very much about agriculture… as is a home kitchen garden. Cooperative Extension offices may offer information about lawn care; pest control; vegetable, fruit, nut, flower, and decorative gardening; house plants; and composting. Cooperative Extension offices may sell (or give away) soil-testing services to help solve your growing problems. They may offer free individual consultations. They may offer seminars about useful gardening topics. They may even offer speakers willing to present at your garden club events. Chances are, you can sign up with Cooperative Extension to become a certified master gardener.

Don’t overlook this resource. Every owner of a home kitchen garden can get something useful from Cooperative Extension. Here’s a link to help you locate a Cooperative Extension office in your area.

The Rain Barrel Seminar

I heard some cool stuff at the seminar… but only captured some of it.

  • Of all the water from Pennsylvania that flows into the Chesapeake Bay, 93% of it comes from the Susquehanna river (which runs through Lewisburg, PA where I live).
  • The Susquehanna River delivers 50% of the fresh water that flows into the Chesapeake Bay.
  • If a sewage-treatment plant can’t handle the volume of sewage running into the plant, the overflow goes directly into our waterways (a situation that arises during heavy rains—especially where people’s downspouts feed into the sewers).
  • One inch of rain falling on a 1,000 square foot house equals about 600 gallons of water.
  • 40% of the water that people use through the spring, summer, and fall goes into such outdoor applications as washing cars and watering lawns and gardens.

There were many other fascinating statistics, but the ones I’ve mentioned paint the picture so clearly: You can save a lot of money and help preserve your area waterways by installing a rain barrel and using the water it collects to maintain your home kitchen garden.

A downspout adapter sits on top of the rain barrel (left). The overflow port on the side of the barrel (right) accepts a standard garden hose to redirect runoff away from your house. Any of my downspouts would deliver a higher inflow than this overflow port could handle; I’ll need to modify the rain barrel when I install it.

The Attendance Bonus

The typical rain barrel has a few limitations. For example, a barrel might hold 60 to 100 gallons. This means one inch of rain falling on a 1,000 square foot roof will produce at least five times more water than a barrel can hold. The typical rain barrel allows for this by including an overflow port near the top of the barrel. If you have space, you can run the overflow into a second rain barrel, and from there to a third, and so on. If you don’t want to manage so many barrels, you run the overflow out to your garden, or well away from your house, or back into the downspout that you redirected into the rain barrel in the first place.

A faucet mounted near the bottom of the rain barrel accepts a standard garden hose. To provide adequate pressure for typical gardening applications, I’ll need to place the barrel on a stand several feet above the ground. Once it’s elevated, I’ll also want to strap it to the side of my house so it doesn’t fall over at an inopportune moment.

The seminar explained how to install a rain barrel, and the presenters assembled a rain barrel so we could see how to make our own. Amazingly, despite having about 90 attendees, the Cooperative Extension speakers had made enough rain barrels for each of us to take one home. A small grant had paid for the materials, and for the Extension-workers’ time.

In future posts, I’ll show how I install my rain barrel (won’t happen until spring), and I’ll explain how you can make your own. If you don’t want to build your own, jump out to the Home Kitchen Garden Store, and order one now so you can reduce your water bills and grow a greener garden in the spring. By all means, get a water barrel and install it.

 

Here are more articles about rain barrels. Please enjoy:

  • Use a Rain Barrel for Easy Greywater Diversion Systems « People … – Oh and…remember if you live up north, your rain barrel parts could freeze (just like hoses) in winter so that is something to consider when designing your greywater system. Southern climates…well lucky you! …

  • Rainy Review of Rain Barrels at Jackie Koerner – You can also build your own rain barrel with instructions from the Maryland Environmental Design Program’s website. Some municipalities sell rain barrels at a discount to assist with the reduction of rain water runoff. …

  • Time to Winterize Your Rain Barrel – Move your rain barrel into a garage or storage shed if you have one. If you do not have the storage space, turn the barrel upside down to prevent water from entering. Cover the spigot opening to prevent water from collecting there as …

  • Head Spring Farm Blogs » Blog Archive » Reclaimed Whiskey Rain … – The rain barrel concept has been around for a very long time and I recall we had a cistern at the farm house where I grew up. Rain water stored in a barrel or cistern is not quite ready for drinking water unless treated, …

  • Back Porch Rain Barrel – This summer we finally constructed a rain barrel. We’ve had a 55-gallon drum sitting in our yard for several years. We finally made the commitment to convert it into a rain collection barrel. It was so simple, I wish we would have done …

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In various seasons, I’ve gathered peas, beans, tomato seeds, dill seeds, and corriander to plant in the succeeding season. This can be a mistake: Often, a commercial variety of vegetable produces seeds whose resulting plants are nothing like the originals… and usually not nearly as appealing.

In my last post, I shared some videos of a home kitchen gardener who used a six foot space along the windows in her sun room to grow salad greens and herbs during the winter. If you’re in a temperate hardiness zone 8, 7, 6, 5, or 4 and you have a sun room to spare, you can have at least a modest kitchen garden all year.

But if you have garden space in your yard, don’t squander all your indoor growing space to produce off-season salad greens. Do some planning now, order up some unusual seeds, and jumpstart next spring’s home kitchen garden inside.

Seeds and Flats

If you’re a novice gardener, your life will be easiest if you take the obvious path: shop locally for seeds and flats (sets of young plants started for you at a nursery) as they become available in the spring. Why flats? Once reason: some seeds are a bit finicky and a nursery might have more luck starting them than you will… by the time they’re on sale in flats, you know they’ve sprout and are healthy.

But there’s another reason that may be more compelling: starting seeds indoors and transplanting them to your home kitchen garden in the spring stretches out your growing season. Plant lettuce seeds in late March, and you may be eating lettuce by early May. But if you plant baby lettuce plants in March, you could have a robust lettuce garden in April.

If you plan to grow cillantro, buy enough seeds to plant every three or four weeks through the season. Unless you’re addicted, only a half dozen plants will supply plenty of seasoning. Seeds you plant in the spring can mature and re-seed themselves by mid-season, and plants that haven’t gone to seed might winter over, depending on how low the temperature goes.

There are plants that might require more than a hundred days to produce their first fruits, but would continue fruiting for another hundred if given the opportunity. At the same time, some plants mature very quickly, and if given a head start they can feed you well and then get out of the way for a second, and even a third planting.

Variety in a Home Kitchen Garden

So, if you buy locally and plant according to directions on the seed packets and the information tabs sticking in the soil of your flats, you should do fine. In fact, if you follow this path for all your years of gardening, you’ll enjoy a lot of great fresh produce with little hassle.

Here’s the rub: most gardening stores and nurseries have somewhat limited offerings. At my local garden store, for example, I find several beefsteak varieties of tomatoes, an Italian plum tomato, a few early varieties, and two or three off-color varieties. When I tour gardening-related web sites, I see dozens of varieties of tomatoes I’d never have guessed existed.

You can do this too. Get your hands on a seed catalogue or two or three and visit some on-line seed suppliers. It’s amazing how desperate you can become to grow something different from the local offerings.

If you’re going to diversify your home kitchen garden, you will quite likely need to start seeds indoors before the growing season begins. The three videos I’ve included with this post provide encouragement and insights that can help you develop a plant nursery in your home. In most cases, you start seeds from three to six weeks before you’ll be able to plant them outside. So, if you live in zones 5 and 6, you need to be ready to plant indoors by late February and into March. You may not be able to order seeds yet—or you might not see them until later if you do order—but if you need to move furniture and build shelves before you can plant indoors, get a little head start in the cold winter months.

Please enjoy the videos:

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Oregano peeks out from under the first significant snow of autumn. When growing things outdoors is no longer an option, it can be very satisfying to plant an in-home kitchen garden.

Snow fell heavy on my home kitchen garden last night. This morning, every vaguely horizontal surface held an inch or more of light powder. I’m glad I’d already put my garden to bed, and that I’d finished a few related projects. Just last weekend, I planted two pear trees, a sour cherry tree, and two pecan trees and documented step-by-step how to plant trees in a blog post titled New Pear Trees in my Small Kitchen Garden. Now I’m kind of depressed.

Depressed? That might be overstating things. But the passing of fresh produce season is a bummer. Sure, I’ll still be able to buy stuff flown in from Peru, California, and other warmer regions, but none will compare to the produce that grows during spring, summer, and early autumn within a few miles of my house in Central Pennsylvania.

What’s a Home Kitchen Gardener to do?

So, I’m turning my attention inside. Depending on your determination and on the space you have available, you too can get gardening inside this winter. To provide encouragement, I’ve dug up some videos that show how one gardening enthusiast used her sun room in the off season to keep the produce going. I’ve included the first two in a series of five videos she produced on the project.

Please appreciate that this woman is very ambitious with her gardening. You don’t need to commit an entire room to your own in-home kitchen garden. What’s more, fancy storage containers, label makers, and other dedicated indoor gardening supplies aren’t necessary to succeed with winter produce.

On the other hand, for most of us, it’s impossible to over-emphasize two fundamental challenges of growing produce while the snow alls:

1. Winter sunlight may not be enough to feed vegetable and fruit plants

2. Many vegetables and fruits grow best in relatively hot weather

Lighting an in-Home Kitchen Garden

Will you need supplemental lighting to grow vegetables in the winter? Even if you have south-facing windows (for those in the northern hemisphere), your vegetable plants may not draw enough energy from the winter sun to plump up tomatoes, peas, beans, or whatever other items you grow. Generally, garden plants thrive when they get six hours of full sunlight each day.

South-facing windows in my basement have an extra-wide sill which is perfect for flower pots. However, the basement is cool, and winter sun isn’t bright enough for plants to produce lots of sugar and starch; I couldn’t grow beans and tomatoes here without supplemental lighting and heat.

Winter sunlight is weaker than summer sunlight. Only plants centered in unobstructed south-facing windows will get the dose they crave. If you add full-spectrum fluorescent lighting, and turn it on from mid-morning to late afternoon, you’ll have much better results than if you rely solely on natural sunlight.

Heat an in-Home Kitchen Garden

Plant biology slows down as the temperature drops. Some plants simply won’t sprout if the soil isn’t warm enough, and having sprouted, they grow very slowly unless the air is warm. Plants growing indoors in the winter may face two temperature challenges: First, we’ve all become very conservation-oriented, so we keep our living spaces in the sixties (Fahrenheit). Second, when we set up a home kitchen garden in front of windows, we expose them to the least cold-proof places in our homes; it might be ten to twenty degrees colder near a window than it is three or four feet away from the window.

You Know the Challenges…

To succeed with an indoor produce garden, provide adequate supplemental lighting and at least some localized heat near your plants. This may mean keeping a single room warmer than the rest of your home, or placing a space heater or several incandescent lights near your in-home kitchen garden.

The first video is three minutes, 20 seconds long. The second video is two minutes 41 seconds. Please enjoy them!

 

Here are links to other articles about growing vegetables indoors:

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While it can seem challenging to create a home kitchen garden, the basic principles of gardening are very simple. Consider: whole prairies, forests, and jungles, manage to maintain themselves without human intervention. They follow a natural cycle:

  • Seeds fall on soil
  • Moisture triggers germination
  • Plants grow and produce fruit/seeds
  • Seeds disperse and some fall on soil
  • Plants die, eventually decomposing into soil

The challenge in growing a home kitchen garden is that you’re often trying to get plants to grow in soil or climate that doesn’t appeal to them… or that gives plant-eating insects and other pests an overwhelming advantage.

The Successful Home Kitchen Gardener

The simple secret for success with a home kitchen garden is in a single word: knowledge. The more you know about gardening, the more, better produce you can coax out of any garden. Fortunately, with almost no gardening knowledge or experience, a first-time grower can be satisfyingly successful. But any newcomer to gardening wanting to improve their results should embark on an adventure of discovery: find opportunities to learn, and take the knowledge with you into your garden.

Home Kitchen Garden Sites

Kitchen Gardeners International

Granny Miller (sadly, Granny Miller is closing down her blog, but it’s full of great stuff)

My Folia (not a blog, a community of gardeners)

In My Kitchen Garden

Here are some suggestions for where to get started:

Get a mentor—I can’t emphasize this enough. Hang out in a home kitchen garden with someone who’s maintained one for ten or so years, and you’ll become savvy very quickly.

Contact your local Cooperative Extension office—Sounds a little stiff, but these folks live to promote agriculture and gardening (among other things). Many extension offices offer free seminars on planting, composting, and more. There’s a clickable map at their web site to help you find local extension offices and programs.

Read some good books—This is a very low-impact way to become an expert. There are hundreds of books about gardening, some even entertaining to read. Ideally, find books that are written specifically about the region where you’re growing a home kitchen garden. This book store offers many regionally-focused titles.

Home Kitchen Garden Forums

You many need to register and get approved by a forum moderator before you can post questions, but most forums let you do topic searches and read messages even if you haven’t joined.

Yahoo’s Veggie Patch

Craig’s List Gardening Forum

Garden Banter Look for the Edible Gardening forum.

Peruse at least one seed/nursery catalogThese provide massive inspiration: I always want to expand my garden when I read catalogs. Also, most catalogs are goldmines of information about plants, planting, plant care, crop yields… nearly everything you need to be successful. If you don’t have a printed catalog, check out the Johnny’s Seeds catalog on line.

Follow some gardening blogs—With many blogs and gardening web sites from which to choose, you’ll find some whose approaches and instruction perfectly suit your sensibilities. When you find a blog you like, participate! Leave encouraging comments, ask questions, and buy stuff from advertisements on the pages; a gardener who’s blogging about it will be thrilled to help solve your gardening challenges. I’ve listed a few compelling sites you can explore in the box, Home Kitchen Garden Sites… and if you haven’t yet, hop over to this blog’s sister: Your Small Kitchen Garden.

Participate in gardening forums—Gardening forums abound on the internet, and some specifically focus on kitchen gardening. I’ve joined more than I’ve been able to keep up with, but there’s good information on all of them. Floating a question on a gardening forum quickly teaches you that there are no uniquely correct answers. Answering a question on such a forum can draw ire and admiration. In any case, you’ll learn. The box titled Home Kitchen Garden Forums lists several that I’ve joined. I’m most active in Yahoo’s Veggie Patch. Beware, I’ve seen unfathomably rude behavior on some forums.

 

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I was astonished—and annoyed—to find ripe-and-ready woodland strawberries among the weeds in my home kitchen garden. The woodland strawberries around here are flavorless and dry which makes these volunteers “invasive weeds.” Ripe strawberries in November? Not in central Pennsylvania… until this year.

I planted a salad mix of lettuce seeds in September. Despite several frosts and one or two freezes, there are some beautiful leaves ready to harvest.

My home kitchen garden has seen a particularly mild autumn. We’ve had only ten nights with frost, and none colder than 26F. While the few cold nights killed off my tomato and basil plants, the dill weed still paints a wall of deep, frilly green at one end of my planting bed, and a small lettuce patch planted in late summer is calling me to harvest.

 

No surprise: There is still oregano. I added one plant about four years ago. Now there’s a five-foot diameter circle of oregano from which I use a few dozen sprigs each year.

For at least two weeks, I’ve intended to put the garden to bed. The last thing I figure to do each season is toss fallen leaves from my lawn onto the planting bed. When my wife put the kids on alert that this weekend they’d rake the yard, I knew I had to end my procrastination. The few things I did:

  • Cut the ties that supported my dead tomato stalks against the tomato stakes
  • Pulled the dead tomato plants and tossed them on the compost heap
  • Pulled the tomato stakes and leaned them against the side of the house (they may make it into the shed before snow falls)
  • A few tomatoes are trying to escape the garden. They lay waiting under cover of dandelions, hoping I’ll get careless and leave the rodent fence down.

  • Pulled the stakes that supported the last pea trellis; I’d left one of three pea trellises standing to support a late planting—too late a planting: the young peas froze though some of the plants continued to grow
  • Dug out a few of the largest, hairiest weeds… mostly so I could see what types of roots they had
  • Inspected the awesome dandelion crop and surveyed the undergrowth for anything unusual
  • Collected gardening tools I’d conveniently stored in the garden through the season and leaned them against the house
  • Opened several panels in the rodent fence so it’d be easy to rake leaves into the garden

Free Mulch for my Home Kitchen Garden

After lunch today, the kids raked the leaves and moved all of them into the garden. They spread the leaves over all the weeds, right up to—but not covering—the perennials I want to preserve. They also left the lettuce poking through. Most obviously: they didn’t cover the dill; they didn’t have enough leaves to cover the dill.

There is still coriander; I’d hoped it would re-seed itself, but this year it didn’t. Hours after I took this picture, I saw two juncos plucking the seeds off the dried plants.

So, the garden is in bed for the winter. Snuggled under about a foot of dead leaves, the dandelion greens may rot a little, or they may go dormant and enjoy the soft cover. Whatever the verdict in the spring, I know I’ll be digging deep to pull weeds as I prepare to plant my home kitchen garden.

I was surprised even more than by the strawberries to find this critter on one of my tomato stakes. I thought these things flew south for the winter; this one must be waiting for cheap fares.

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8oz jelly jars and standard canning lids and bands infiltrate every counter and cabinet in my kitchen. For me, jelly and jam canning season starts with strawberries in the spring and continues with sour cherries, raspberries, peaches, and pears. I use larger jars to can tomatoe sauce and appplesauce. I may try pressure canning next season though I’d more likely can stews and soups than I would plain vegetables.

Are you still looking at a pile of produce from your prolific home kitchen garden? Home canning may be the best way to deal with it. My past several posts have presented videos detailing home canning. We’ve introduced canning terms and equipment, and we’ve discussed both boiling-water-bath and pressure canning.

This post completes the series about how to can. There are two videos embedded at the end of the post that together make up the fifth lesson on canning: Pressure Canning Basics. Equipment for pressure canning tends to be more expensive than that for boiling water bath canning. In fact, you may already have a pot or two you can use for boiling water bath canning. However, if you want to preserve vegetables in canning jars, you must use a pressure canner.

These videos clearly explain the procedures and encourage you not to fear poisoning yourself. If you follow instructions, you’ll find it’s easy to preserve just about any produce through till the next harvest.

Quick Home Kitchen Garden Cooking

Also note: a pressure canner is a pressure cooker. Most of us have never experimented with cooking foods under pressure. Once you have a pressure canner, there’s no barrier to tray pressure cooking. Just about anything you cook in a pot on the stove will cook much more quickly under pressure; you can produce one-pot meals in fractions of the time it takes to cook them without a pressure cooker.

To get started, watch the videos below. Then hop over to the Home Kitchen Garden Store to find a pressure canner suited to your canning needs.

Please enjoy the videos:


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I have only a boiling water bath canner. Posing for this photo are apple sauce, black raspberry jelly and syrup, chili sauce, red pepper rellish, tomato sauce, sour cherry jam, peach jelly, and pickled vegetables. Many other jellies and jams, as well as chutneys and apple butter chose to remain in the pantry during the photo session.

If your home kitchen garden produces more than you can eat in a season, then home canning may be for you. My last two posts have been about preserving produce from your home kitchen garden, and have presented videos that clearly explain the two types of canning, and that introduce the terms, equipment, and methodology of home canning.

If you’re new to canning, please read those earlier posts and watch the videos embedded in them. Then come back here and watch this video specifically about the boiling water bath method of canning used for high-acid produce.

When you see how easy it is to can fruits and vegetables, you might want to do your own. Visit the Home Kitchen Garden Store to buy everything you need to get started. There, you can find pots for both boiling-water-bath- and pressure- canning. You’ll also find sets of accessories, lids, pectin (for making jellies and jams), and books with detailed instructions and recipes for home canning.

Please read the item descriptions and user reviews thoroughly before you buy! Boiling-water-bath canners may hold five, seven, nine, or more quart jars at a time. A 21-quart canning pot, for example, can usually hold seven quart-sized canning jars. Pressure canners, while considerably more expensive, hold far smaller loads for the money… but many of them can double as boiling-water-bath canners. I’ve tried to include only products with good customer reviews.

Please leave a comment to share your experiences with home canning, or to point out omissions from the canning pages of the Home Kitchen Garden Store. Also, if you have questions about canning that you’d like to see addressed on this site, feel free to ask in a comment—or use the Contact Us link.

Please enjoy the video:

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When it comes to preserving produce from my home kitchen garden, I choose canning for fruits (including tomatoes). I especially enjoy making jelly: it’s incredibly easy to do, it usually tastes better than commercial jelly, it costs less than commercial jelly, and for some reason people who receive a gift of homemade jelly act impressed that a human might actually have made it himself.

Does your home kitchen garden produce more fruits and vegetables than you eat in a season? My last post provided an overview of food-preservation strategies you can use to benefit from the excess. Embedded at the end of that post was a YouTube video introducing key concepts about home canning: storing foods in vacuum-sealed jars.

That video was one in a series about home canning. And, though those videos have some of the most stilted narration ever written, they are well-produced and terrifically informative.

So, please continue your exploration of food-preservation by reviewing the next videos in the series. These explain more about the differences in equipment necessary for boiling water bath and pressure-canning methods of canning. The videos define more terms that are helpful to know when you talk about canning, and they demonstrate the steps necessary to process foods—whether with the boiling water bath or the pressure-canning methods:

 

 

 

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