Home Gardening for Local Foods

“Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.”

–Laura Ingalls Wilder

How true this is… and it seems nothing tastes as good as when you’ve grown it yourself.  While fall is not an ideal time to start a garden, it certainly is a good time to plan for one.  Fall can be a great time to take care of some pesky weeds growing up around the edges of a garden space or to clear out ground that may be used to start a garden next year.  Of course, you don’t need to have a huge and fancy garden in order to reap the benefits of fresh produce.  You can create your own family garden in a simple kiddie wading pool.

What should I plant?

Start with the things your family uses and enjoys most.  Maybe its green beans, maybe it is freshly dug potatoes, perhaps you enjoy spicy tomato salsa, or fresh strawberries.  If you have never grown your own plants before, start small.  You can always grow into a bigger space over time.  If your backyard is not fit for creating a garden, Dubuque has several community gardens that take volunteers or give residents their own plot.  Check out the Dubuque Community Garden Coalition website to find a garden in your neighborhood.  If you have a garden, and want to scale up your hobby, the Sinsinawa Mound Collaborative Farm is a great place to start growing your garden into a full-fledged business.  2018 applications will be coming out soon, so stay posted!

Of course, if you already have a garden, fall is a great time to re-evaluate.  Which crops did well and which ones did not?  Which varieties would you like to try, and which ones will you pass on next year?  Spend your winter scouring seed catalogs and start your own seeds in the winter when the weather outside isn’t very nice.  Seeing that new life inside, when there is a foot of snow outside, always makes me feel like spring is soon to arrive.

Canning, freezing, and storing

One of the benefits of growing your own produce is that, at some point, you will have more than your family can eat.  While some can be given away to family and friends, or donated to your local food pantry, storing, canning, and freezing fruits and vegetables is also a great way to preserve that taste of summer.  Plus, if you don’t factor in your time, you can save about half the cost of commercially produced canned goods by canning your own.

However, when canning, food safety needs to be the number one priority.  Having the right equipment, and following time and temperature guidelines, can lead to a bountiful pantry in those dreary winter months. If you’re looking to try your hand at canning, freezing, or storing this summer’s produce, check out our food preservation resource center.

There are many ways to enjoy local produce, buying it from the farmers market, looking for the local tags in the grocery store, or growing your own fruits and veggies. How ever you decide to enjoy that fresh, locally grown food, let us know by sharing your adventures with #eatdubuque on Facebook and Instagram.

Happy eating!

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