Originally published in Smoky Mountain Living Magazine, Gardener’s Corner (a Q&A series for gardeners by Chris Smith).
When I go to the store I can buy just what I need to eat, when I need it! I like the idea of growing my own food, but one month of eating zucchini for three meals a day and then no zucchini until next year doesn’t appeal. How do people eat like this?
Zucchini’s are a common criminal for overwhelming the budding gardener! There are two parts to the answer for this question. One part is garden planning and the other part is planning to eat.
It’s a perfectly normal gardening affliction to plant too much stuff; it’s just too easy and fun to get carried away. I’m not foolish enough to try and persuade you to plant less stuff, but I would encourage you to plant in stages! Most vegetable crops will have ‘peak-production’ times or relatively narrow harvest windows. If you are able to stagger your planting times then:
- You’ll spread out the peak production and have a more continual harvest, hopefully avoiding being overwhelmed by food, and
- You’ll extend your overall harvest because as your first crop is dying off, your second, then third crop will be coming in! We call this succession planting and it makes a lot of sense.
In practice this simply means not planting a whole bed of lettuce, just plant one row and then 10 days later plant another row and another 10 days after that. This theory works with a lot of crops. Plant one zucchini, two weeks later another etc. You can also get cunning with this idea and increase overall production by using succession planting with different crops. You can plant a row of radish between two rows of carrots. The radish will leaf out and be ready to harvest just as the slower growing carrots are beginning to fill the space. Plant some kale under your beans as they are nearing the end of production so that once you cut the bean vines down the kale is ready to go!
Planning to Eat:
The abundance of a garden can be a blessing and a curse! It is great to eat fresh vegetables throughout the growing season but, as the original questioner stated, things can get a little out of hand… This is where processing and storing comes into play. You can dehydrate, freeze, can, root-cellar, pickle, ferment and process your excess produce so that you can continue to enjoy your harvest well into the winter and with any luck all the way through to the first ripe tomato of the following season. Yes, it’s a fair amount of upfront work, but eating homegrown pickled cucumbers, your home ground garlic powder and home-canned salsa in the middle of winter is a real delight that makes it all worthwhile (I’m still enjoying my tumeric-pickled sliced zucchini from last year’s abundance!).