I’ll never forget the look on my friend Carol’s face when I brought her some fresh tomatoes from my grandpa’s garden one hot afternoon the summer between sophomore and junior year in high school.
She was ecstatic! Personally, I was yet not a tomato lover and was happy to unload the unwelcome balls of red mush on someone else. But I was totally unprepared for how delighted she was.
Grandpa lived in Breckenridge, Texas and always grew tons more in his garden than he and Mimi could eat. So he was always sharing beans or squash or tomatoes or something.
I had been down for a visit and he loaded me up with a big box of ripe goodies from his garden. He told me to share it with anyone I wanted to. Carol was very glad I ran into her on that summer afternoon.
Gardening + Sharing = Happiness
There’s something about gardening that makes you want to share.
Pat of it is the pride you take in growing delicious food and giving of your rich overflow.
Part of it is the gratitude and appreciation people express when you give them something fresh out of your garden.
And in a way, I think it connects us all to our roots as members of the same tribe: the family of man.
So let’s fast-forward from my high school days to about 20 years ago.
We had lived in our new Connecticut home for about a year. I’d finally been able to start a full-fledged garden.
Let me tell you, I went hog wild.
I was so excited to get my hands in the dirt after living in New York City for two and a half years.
I created several garden beds in a sunny stretch of the side lawn. You should have seen all the rocks I sifted out of the soil (I call them Connecticut potatoes).
Early in January, I had planned my seed order for weeks, and when the time was right started them in numerous trays in the basement under grow lights.
Just in the tomato category, I grew six varieties. I grew things I didn’t even know what they were. But the catalogues made them sound so indispensable to the complete gardening experience.
You know, like kale. I thought kale was just an ornamental for the fall flowerbeds or for salad bar decorations. But the catalogues said you could actually eat the stuff. Who knew? Of course, now we love fresh kale.
Anyway, that summer was a gardening heaven for me. Everything grew prolifically.
And here’s where all my careful planning failed me.
I had so much produce—especially tomatoes—there was no way my wife and I, along with our 18-month-old daughter, could even begin to eat all that was ripening in the garden.
I didn’t really know how to preserve food at that point so I did the only thing I could think of: share the extra food with everyone I knew.
We took big baskets of produce to hand out after church several Sundays and somehow did not let anything go to waste.
But I learned my lesson to plan for the harvest and not just the springtime planting.
So here’s my OG 365 Timeless Gardening Tip 20: Grow more food than you can eat fresh out of the garden and plan in advance what to do with your harvest.
If you are a more experienced gardener and can handle a larger garden space and bigger harvests, make sure you have plans for all your produce.
If you are a new-ish gardener, make sure you plant more than you can eat as it ripens.
Here are some reasons why and ideas to try:
- Grow extra food to preserve enough for use during the winter months and/or to give as gifts. I love it when someone gives me homemade jelly. And I love to share my chow-chow.
- Share your harvest with friends. Have a gourmet or plain-and-simple cooking evening and invite folks over for a delicious meal.
- Plant extra crops and give a portion of your harvest to a local food bank. Make arrangements with them before you plant to make sure they can use it and to see what they would like to have.
- Sell some of your produce to local restaurants or at farmers’ markets.
- Think about starting your own mini CSA (Community Shared Agriculture).
You hear of communities having zucchini festivals where they “dispose” of extra squash in throwing contests, etc. I think that can be a lot of fun in some ways, but it is terribly wasteful of food that a local food bank might really appreciate.
And for heaven’s sake, don’t plant so many zucchini vines in the first place. I know…that’s easy to say. We’ve all made that mistake.
So, I hope you’ll grow some extra food in your garden.
Whether you will be preserving it for your family during those cold winter months, sharing with friends or selling some of your harvest to make a little extra cash, it will make your gardening much more enjoyable.
I’d love to hear how you have used extra produce from your garden. Please share your experiences and ideas in the comment section below.
Here’s to all your extra produce,James Early Organic Gardening 365 Helping you get the most out of your organic garden all year long P. S. For the complete series of OG 365 Timeless Gardening Tips, click here.
To sign up for my blog (and receive a free gift), just click here.