48 SQ FT = A Whole Lot of Goodness

Except for a few eggplants and a handful of peppers that will be ready this week, our garden is done for the year. I can tell you all about the things we did wrong – from harvesting a watermelon too early to planting squash too close to our other plants – but I have no explanation for the many, many things that went better than expected this year. Was it our compost? Was it the watering system we rigged up? The trellises? Or was it the seeds themselves? I have no clue, but I do know that we had a super harvest this year, from just 48 square feet of scattered garden space.

Angie and her baby – an 8 pound sugar baby, to be exact!

We garden in my mom’s yard – the front yard, the side yard, and the backyard. This year, we had 5 beds, the largest measuring just 3′ x 5′, and we grew watermelons, yellow squash, eggplants, cow peas, okra, green peppers, radishes, red onions, and 3 kinds of tomatoes. The onions didn’t do so well and the watermelons got off to a rocky start, but the rest grew like gangbusters.

I wish I had started weighing our produce from the start so I could give you a better idea of the yield you can get from 48 square feet, but I didn’t. I can honestly say, we were not expecting things to go as well as they did. So the best I can give you is this –

Cherry tomato, anyone?

We ate 2 quarts of peas and put 9 pints in the freezer. We breaded a gallon of okra and put it in the freezer, along with 3 cups of cut okra for soups, and we dehydrated about 2 pounds to make okra chips (which are so delicious!). We have had 6 eggplants so far, 3 more will be ready this week. I think we’ll have about 3 gallons of green peppers when they finish up. We harvested 3 watermelons (albeit one too soon) and there’s a renegade cantaloupe still growing by the blackberry brambles.

The real winner though, was our tomatoes. We had Beefsteak, Cherokee Purple, and Cherry. As I type this right now, I’m looking over the top of my computer to see about 4 pounds of tomatoes on the table in front of me. They will be made into spaghetti sauce later today. And in the closet, we have these, just waiting to turn.

I dare say, we had somewhere between 40-50 pounds of tomatoes throughout the season. We made them into salsa.

We made them into ketchup (aka tomato relish).

We even made 9 pints of tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, and diced tomatoes with peppers and onions for chili. Oh, and we’ve eaten them twice a day for the past month on salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and occasionally in scrambled eggs.

With the fruits and veggies we bought at the Farmer’s Market to put in the freezer, I feel pretty confident that we won’t have to buy much in the way of produce at the grocery store this winter, which is really awesome now that we’re on a tighter budget.

Along with our gardening chores this week, Angie and I decided to go foraging for black walnuts (and hickory nuts). We came home with this-

Being our first time to process black walnuts, we watched a few YouTube videos on best practices. And we put on our best, most water resistant gardening gloves. Yeah, that didn’t work out so well. We took the gloves off to find that we looked like this –

If you’ve ever tried to remove this stain, you know that it does not come off. Forget lemon juice or whatever other home remedy is recommended by Google. We tried them all and though we are a lighter shade today, I’m still typing this with walnut stained hands. But the story doesn’t end there. After all our hard work, we went to move our nuts to the shed to cure yesterday and found that despite covering them with wire mesh and scrap lumber, squirrels had carted off about half of them. We may have enough now for one pound of black walnut fudge for the holidays.

I would say that I was going to miss prepping food for the freezer or canning, but I have a feeling that though our garden is done, we aren’t. Dumpster season is starting to ramp up. If you are new here, let me explain. We rescue food from the neighboring grocery store – about 750 pounds over the past 2 1/2 years. Some of it we use, some we donate to others in need, and some of it we compost. Whatever we can do to keep good food out of landfills, we try to do…including making jelly. But I’ll save that story for a special post on Friday 🙂

Did you have a garden this year? How did it do? What was your best producer? Your favorite thing to grow? We’d love to hear your gardening stories!