Ah, summertime, when all the literal fruits of your gardening efforts come to maturity. When your plants are bursting with bumper crops of zucchini, yellow squash, and tomatoes. When you’re up to your ears in all that fresh-produce goodness. When you suddenly realize that you’re going to have to do something with all these veggies so they don’t go bad!
Here are a few tips I learned last summer- the year that I had a beautiful garden (mostly cared for by my husband up to this point), a newborn baby girl, and a healthy (read: energetic) almost 3 year old boy.
1) Harvest Regularly. Go out for 10 minutes each morning and collect your fresh crops. This way it will never take you too long on any one day. You will also ensure that the produce makes it into your kitchen instead of rotting on the ground or being eaten up by neighborhood bunnies.
2) Multi-task Weeding. This may not apply to everyone, but I often try to weed here and there for 5 minutes while I give my kids outdoor play time. It’s never perfect in any of my beds, but I manage to keep the overgrowth down while supervising my little man.
3) Keep an Eye on What’s Coming. Watch to see what will be ripe over the next few days. This will help you to plan when you will have to preserve or cook your crops. It will minimize waste and maximize your time management.
4) Plan Your Meals Plan a few days in advance to use your freshest crops. There’s something extremely satisfying about running out for that bell pepper you need to dress your steak. In the summertime, I often do my meal planning while collecting from the garden, rather than looking through store ads.
5) Don’t Wait to Preserve
I know that if I don’t purposefully schedule in my canning & freezing, I’ll keep procrastinating until I end up having to scramble at the last minute to prevent spoilage. This negates one of the main reasons for growing your own food: eating it in the wintertime! If you collect a big batch of radishes one day, plan on whipping up a batch of radish butter that evening. If you have 3 grocery bags full of tomatoes sitting in your refrigerator right now (nope, I’ve never done that, nuh-uh…), get yourself in gear and can them tomorrow morning!
Since I have young kids in the picture I often have to enlist the help of my mother or friends to make this possible without too many interruptions. Don’t let your crops pile up on you, because then it will be even harder to get it all done and you’ll be tempted to give up and let some go to compost. Fear not! Take an hour here and there and get it done!
“Little bits at a time” is my motto right now for a lot of different chores, and the garden is no different. Once my kiddos are bigger you better believe I’ll be enlisting their help- but until then, it’s up to us to get the job done. 10 minutes when I’m able can make the task a lot more manageable. (I’m preaching this to myself right now too!) Are you with me? Go get harvesting!