Hear me when I tell you gardening is easy! You may think that the goal is to grow food, but there is an even greater goal. Think past the growing of vegetables and flowers and focus on your game plan for using the veggies and making flower arrangements. You can make a harvest calendar and I’m going to share with you how I do ahead of the gardening season.
I can tell you that you will most likely be able to grow peppers this summer, but only if you plant peppers. And you will probably have heaps of potatoes if you plant potatoes in your garden. Hooray, that is good news from a beginner gardener (me) to you!
Now take a deep breathe and imagine for a moment that you did grow those peppers and you have a basket full of potatoes. Now what?
Are you ready for harvest?
That brings me to the main point: Are you ready for your harvest?!
If you are not, it’s time to think about it right now. How do I unleash the best harvest this year?
I use a word document. I create a format this way:
- List the crops
- Note average days to maturity in brackets
- Record start date and end date
- Add a second planting range (if applicable)
First, I type a list of all the foods I will be growing, adding a mix of herbs and flowers later in the document.
Next, I note in brackets the average days the crop will grow to maturity. If you don’t know how long a crop will take too mature, do a simple google search like: “(crop name) days to maturity”.
Finally, record the start date based on your area (learn how to determine the start dates here) and then count on my calendar when the crops should be ready for harvest.
Turnips (40-55 days)
March 30 – May 9+
September 1 – October 11+
Plan approximate maturity dates to harvest
When I have a start date and know the average days to maturity, I use my calendar to count to date the crops could be mature. Of course, this is only an average date. It will largely depend on the seasons climate, the health of the seedlings, the germination rate of the seeds, rainfall, etc.
Despite this only being an average date, I can use it to determine the bigger picture. For example, how many crops will be mature around the same time will depict how much of a crop I plant at once.
Make a harvest calendar
With the approximate maturity dates noted for each of my crops, I create a harvest calendar. On the calendar, I note the crop name by the date that I can expect it to be mature (or getting close).
When I have plotted my entire crop list onto the calendar, I have a holistic picture of my harvest. This allows me to strategize ahead of time how I can best use my time and resources to preserve and use my garden’s food.
Get recipes ready for harvest
One way I strategize is to gather my recipes ahead of time. I’m a fairly new gardener and homemaker, so I’m still learning about good cooking from scratch and how to preserve food through canning, fermentation, etc.
Having this time ahead of the season for planning, I’ve begun researching recipes and preservation methods for the food that I will be growing in my garden. Especially the vegetables that are newer to me like turnips and kohlrabi’s. These cool loving crops are so exciting because not a lot of food can grow in the cooler temperatures of spring. That is why it is so important to me that I know of ways to prepare, let’s say, a radish with a dinner, so that I can make the best of the early garden season.
Do you know that feeling when you have no idea what to do, so you just leave it? That is the danger for me now knowing how to prepare a vegetables ahead of time. I know myself, I may just keep putting it off and putting it off, and then leave it all together.
I also don’t want to forget making delicious food that I may otherwise skip when things get busy. Like a grand carrot cake when the carrots are first mature in the summer. Or making pesto with my basil before the fall chill arrives.
Therefore, instead of waiting until my crops are mature and ready for harvest, I plan recipes and a food making/preserving strategy ahead of time. I suggest you do the same.
Benefits of a harvest calendar
I find it truly helpful to know the expected dates for the crops to be ready and to map them out on a harvest calendar. This may be unnecessary for a seasoned gardener who has much experience with growing vegetables and the timeline for putting the food up in clever ways. However, for a beginner gardener like me, the benefits of a harvest calendar is:
- a holistic picture of all the maturity dates,
- knowing which crops will be ready at the same time,
- planning how much of a crop to plant at once,
- the ability to make schedule for preserving and cooking,
- preparing recipes ahead of time that match the season and holidays,
- time to think of additional storage solutions.
The best example of this is thanksgiving. I know that around the beginning of the fall season we will be baking pie after pie (I can’t wait). We may also use a few pumpkins for decorations. Planning my harvest calendar, I can know when to expect my sugar and decoration pumpkins. This ensures I plant them early enough and that I plant enough crops for the harvest I expect. I can also prepare additional preservation and storage ideas for the rest of my harvest.
Basically, a harvest calendar forces me (in a good way) to think about the food I will be bringing into the kitchen and how I will use it up. Whether it be cooking, baking, storing, fermented, or which ever. Instead of trying to come up with a solution on the fly in the busy garden season, I will then already know what I can do with it all.