Planning Our Summer Garden

I am so excited to report that I am starting my work in the garden this weekend!  The snow is gone, for the most part, and I have a few remaining raised beds from last year that I can plant first.  We (meaning my husband...) have to build more beds because we moved things around last fall.  We (husband) also have agreed to build us (me) a cold frame, a small coop in the garden area, and a FENCE!!!!

I am so excited.

It's been a few years of discussion and I am told that it will finally all come together this year.  The small coop was a new "to-do" list addition because I had the (brilliant) idea of closing the coop girls in the garden area in spring and fall to allow them to clean up the beds.  (it also will work to keep them and other wildlife out during the growing season, of course) Without the fencing it's nearly impossible to keep them focused on the garden beds, so fencing and a nesting box area (as well as shade, food and water) is a necessity.

And the man with the skills (and tools) agrees.

So, with that hurdle gone, the next hurdle was purchasing seeds.  Have you attempted this yet?  My goodness, I hope so.  It's way worse then years past, which I'm not surprised by.  Unfortunately I attempted it a bit late but I found just about everything I needed to add to my seeds that I've saved.

I determined what I will plant/not plant (and quantity) based on garden space and what we eat.

  • I eat raw greens every day, usually 3 times a day.  So I purchased a LOT of seeds for greens all season and then in the cold frame.  This includes lettuces, salad greens/mesclun mix, spinach, dandelion, arugula, and baby kale.
  • We've been eating a lot of beets, so I purchased quite a few more beet seeds then we've had in the past.  I'll plant them spring and late summer.
  • Carrots and onions are great fresh but they also store well in the fall/winter, so we'll do 2 plantings of each of them.
  • We add kale to soup and stews so I'll plant enough to freeze for fall/winter use.
  • I am the only one who eats mustard, collards and swiss chard.  I add these to soups and stews, but also sauté as a side dish, and use collards as a burrito-type wrap.  I won't plant too many of these.
  • We eat and freeze a LOT of bell peppers.  We have a local pick-your-own farm that we can get these from as well, but we always try to grow enough for fresh eating and freezing (we freeze 8 gallon sized bags of sliced peppers to get us through winter).  We aren't always successful at growing that many so Labor Day weekend we can pick them locally if needed.
  • I typically plant a little bit of corn because we like to pick it fresh.  We typically, however, purchase it from a local farm in a very large quantity.  We eat it fresh and freeze enough to get us through winter and spring.
  • We absolutely love brussels sprouts, however, they take up a large amount of space so I won't be planting them this year.  Instead we'll purchase them from the farmer's market.
  • I always plant too many summer squash/zucchini (usually 8 plants, 4 of each), and will likely do so this year as well.  We love it sautéed, baked, grilled, raw in salads and used in baking, so it all works out.  I freeze just a little bit, grated, for baking.
  • We like fresh cucumbers and quick-pickled cucumbers so I usually plant about 10 plants.  I don't can or ferment pickles because they are too salty and we don't eat them. 
  • I won't have enough room to plant all of the tomatoes that we would need.  We eat them fresh quite frequently and then we plan to can tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes as well as freeze oven-roasted tomatoes.  I will also try a couple new salsa recipes for canning this year.  I will plant enough for fresh-eating and oven-roasting and we will pick, from the same farm we pick peppers at, enough for canning.
  • I have struggled with potatoes on and off.  I'll only plant 6 or 8 this year and we'll purchase the remainder from our farmer's market.
  • I have only grown sweet potatoes once before.  They were easy, but I wasn't eating them as much as I am now, so I've chosen to save garden space for other veggies in the past. This year, however, I will be planting quite a few for Oliver and myself to enjoy.
  • I have never had good luck with watermelon or cantaloupe.  It's a bummer because we eat them a lot.   I've decided to just purchase them from the farmer's market, as I inevitably have to do when the plants fail, rather than continue trying them.  Some day I'll try them again.
  • I eat broccoli every single day and Jay enjoys it as well so I will grow a lot of it for fresh eating and for freezing.  I'll do 2 large plantings of it.
  • I also eat a lot of cauliflower and Jay enjoys it from time-to-time.  I'll do 2 moderate plantings of this as well and we'll eat some fresh and freeze the remainder.
  • My fence (I'm told) won't be built until late summer/early fall, so I'm going to fence off one bed to grow cabbage in.  It seems that all of the wildlife that passes through our yard loves to feast on my cabbage, so hopefully this will allow us to harvest it before others take bites from each head.  I was not successful in getting seeds for red cabbage, so green is the only one I will be planting.
  • We really like fresh kohlrabi so I'll plant probably 8-12 plants for fresh eating.
  • I found that freezing jalapeno peppers & poblano peppers worked really well for us this year. I'll plant 5-6 jalapeno plants so we can enjoy some fresh, pickle some for canning, and then freeze both diced jalapenos and stuffed jalapenos.  For the poblanos, I'll plan on 5-6 plants so we can grill them and store in the freezer for use in soup, enchiladas, tacos or for stuffing.
  • I've had great success with tomatillos in the past so I'll plant probably 3-4 plants for fresh tomatillo sauce and salsa this summer.
  • We are growing mushrooms for the first time this year.  We bought shiitake plugs and then a boxed set for button mushrooms.  We shall see how that goes.  I'm not sure if it will be financially worth it or not.   I think if we get comfortable with it and can switch to purchasing sawdust spawn then it would be a cost savings (for the shiitake).  Not sure about the button mushrooms though.  I'll have to keep looking for better pricing to grow your own.  Comparatively, a 24 oz. package of button mushrooms are just over $4.00 at BJ's (when groceries are plentiful) so it will depend on how many this box produces.  The claim is "up to" 6 pounds.  We eat quite a lot of them so it would be nice if we can make it work.
  • We love green beans.  We eat a lot fresh but we actually don't mind them frozen.  I know a lot of people are turned off by their texture, but we still enjoy them so I usually grow a lot of these.  I'm going to try two new varieties this year as well.
  • Sugar snap peas are something we munch on all spring.  I am planting tons of these this month because I can use their space for cucumbers once they are done.  We freeze any excess (although we don't usually have much excess).  I haven't been planting shelling peas and won't be doing so this year.  I do love them in salads so maybe next year.
  • I've planted celery in the past and I have some seeds so I may plant a little bit.  I like to dice it and use it in salads and freeze it for soup.
  • We don't eat a lot of eggplant but we do enjoy a few dishes such as baba ganoush and eggplant parm in the fall so I always plant 3-4 plants and will do so this year.
  • I've started eating more radish so I'll probably increase my planting this year and do 2 plantings instead of just a spring planting.
  • We don't enjoy parsnips, turnips, fennel or okra (it's ok in soup but not my favorite) so I won't be planting these.  And leeks give Jay migraine's so we haven't had them since we figured that out about 14 years ago. 
  • We eat quite a bit of winter squash and our favorites are blue hubbard and sugar pumpkin.  They take up a lot of space so I usually plant only a couple plants of each of those and a couple each of delicata, acorn, and butternut.  If I have space I'll do that but with the increase plantings of the other veggies, I may default to the farmer's market and the pick-your-own field.
  • I adore bok choy both in stir fry and miso soup (Jay will eat it but it isn't his favorite) so I'll plant a few plants of it.
  • We have horseradish and asparagus already planted.  Best decision ever!  Our rhubarb is no longer around and I probably won't worry about that this year.  I would like to add more blueberry bushes and maybe another fruit tree to round out our fruit.  We currently have a grafted pear tree (6 varieties) and an Asian pear tree as well as a couple elderberry bushes.  We have a paw paw tree too but I keep forgetting to order another and there aren't any available locally.  It needs to cross pollinate.  Someday I will remember to do this before they are sold out.  We planted thornless blackberry two years ago so hopefully it will produce this year.  
  • I will plant herbs continuously throughout summer in containers on the deck again.  It worked really well last year.  I usually plant dill, basil, cilantro, oregano, chives, mint, thyme, sage, and parsley.  I dry what we don't use fresh for use later in the year.
  • I'm not planting shelling beans this year but would like to do so next year.

I would like to cut down what produce I buy from the grocery store throughout the winter.  I typically purchase mushrooms, greens, broccoli, carrots, onions, tomatoes (for salsa), potatoes, cilantro, and fruit regularly.  We always freeze enough corn, peppers (bell/jalapeno/poblano), berries, and green beans to get us to the start of summer.  I also keep winter squash in our basement as well as freeze some.  

This year I hope to grow enough greens throughout winter in the cold frame, micro greens in the basement, and find a good canned salsa recipe to cut those off of the grocery list.  Also I need to freeze enough broccoli & cauliflower (I prefer it fresh, but frozen is fine for winter), carrots, and onions to keep those off of the list as well.  This way I would only need mushrooms, potatoes and fruit in addition to pantry staples, meat and dairy.

What about you?  What will you be planting this year?


  1. I love the charred tomato salsa canning recipe from Liana Krissoff's Canning for a New Generation.

  2. Inchieh - thank you! I have her book so I will definitely give it a try!

  3. Such a detailed list Staci and knowing what you eat and how to store it either freezer or fresh goes a long way towards your planning. I was very cranky when a possum ate both my bunches of coriander [cilantro] this week when I was ready to use them so I will have to plant some more and cover it up. Lucky they don't like the basil and those two bunches seem fine. Growing more home produce in these times seems even more important than ever. Have a good week. Kathy, Brisbane, Australia

  4. Kathy - thank you. Well I would be cranky about the cilantro too. I didn't realize possums like it. So far they haven't touched mine. Hopefully my luck continues!

  5. I love your website and all of the wonderful information found here. Have you ever tried Abe Lincoln tomatoes? I got seed from the Ohio Heirloom company. They are the most delicious tasting tomato I have ever tasted. How do dry your herbs to save for use later? I am sorry if this question is answered on here somewhere and I just didn't see it.
    Thanks so much!

  6. Thank you so much! I have not tried those tomatoes so I will note them for next year's tomato bed. Thank you for the suggestion! With the herbs, some I hang upside down in our basement and others I dry in our dehydrator. We have a huge dehydrator that we run when we have enough to almost fill it. :)


Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on this post!