Preparing for the Upcoming Season. . .

For me, 2011 was an eventful year, and I don’t mean in a good way.    My father-in-law suffered a back-breaking fall in February 2011, and subsequently suffered both a heart attack and a stroke.  This resulted in his removal from his home of 50 years and his placement in a nursing home.  Needless to say, my husband (who is an only child) and I were extremely busy with handling Dad’s affairs, including the cleanout and sale of his home, which is located in Ontario Canada.  Then, my mother, who is in a nursing home with Alzheimer Disease, suffered a physical setback.  We thought that we were going to lose her, but she slowly recovered.  The Alzheimer’s is still there, though.  The final and most bitter blow occurred in June 2011, when my dear sister lost her fight with Breast Cancer.  But even more had to happen.  After all of that rain and flooding in September 2011, we found some mold on the wall in our family room, and we had to tear all of the drywall out.  My husband insists on doing all of the work himself and the job still isn’t complete.  Then, my old car died and we had to buy a new one.  Oh well.  Once the gardening season starts, I’ll be washing the garden dust offa that 2012 Camry daily.  2011 was an “Annus Horribilis.”  Needless to say, all of this turmoil took me away from this blog, but now I am back.

I was going to give some tips for garden cleanup, but I will save them for later.  Anyone who drove through the gardens at the end of the season saw that my plot was completely cleaned of weeds, rototilled and planted over in cereal rye.  There is a really good reason for that, but I’ll talk about it later. The holidays are over, winter is in full swing, and most of us are sitting in our nice cozy homes pouring over the seed catalogs again.  I am looking forward to a great gardening year, and I know that you are too.  Now is the time for planning the upcoming gardening season.

Back in October,  I received the results of the soil analysis from Penn State.  I am SURE you will be interested in hearing about that.  And that has everything to do with how you get your garden ready for planting this spring.

But first, here are some canning recipes that I promised.  As you will see, none of them are pickles or canned fruits.  In order for canning to be a good method of preserving and putting food by, one needs to know how to can all sorts of foods; and, in particular, foods that can be used in recipe preparation or foods that can be eaten plain. Also, I have left out canned meat recipes.  I will post some of those later. . .

Canning Recipes—


As I mentioned in my previous posting, not all vegetables from the garden need to be processed as pickles.  IF YOU ARE USING A PRESSURE CANNER, they can simply be processed as canned goods and consumed as regular vegetables.  I realize that the official canning season is over, but some of these recipes will help you to preserve the bounty that is now showing up in many farmers’ markets, especially if you don’t own a freezer. Besides.  you can still use these recipes when the canning season for 2012 starts in about six months.

Canned Pumpkin and Winter Squash

Why did I show this link?  Because improperly canned pumpkin can be dangerous. I didn’t think you’d believe me, so there it is, the RIGHT way to can pumpkin, straight from the horse’s mouth. There is no other safe method.



Canned White Potatoes

If your garden produced a lot of potatoes, and you are now having trouble keeping them from rotting or spoiling, you can CAN them.  Here is a simple recipe from the Ball Book:

2-3 Pounds White Potatoes per Quart

Salt (optional)


Wash and peel potatoes. Wash them again.  Leave small potatoes whole but cut the larger ones into chunks. Put the potato chunks in a large pot and cover with water. Boil 10 minutes. Drain.  Pack the hot potatoes into hot jars, adding water from the cooking pot to cover within 1 inch of the top of the jar.  Add ½ teaspoon salt to each jar if you wish. Remove air bubbles and cover with two-piece canning caps.  Process pints 35 minutes, quarts 40 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner.

These canned potatoes are GREAT for making hash browns or mashed potatoes!


Canned Sweet Potatoes

2 to 3 pounds Sweet Potatoes per Quart


Wash sweet potatoes. Peel and cut into chunks.  Wash again. Boil chunks 10minutes.  Pack hot potatoes into hot jars.  Cover with boiling water to within 1 inch of the top of jar. Remove air bubbles and cover with two-piece canning caps. Process pints 1 hour and 5 minutes; process quarts 1 hour and 30 minutes, at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner.

These can be used for any recipe, from soups to sweet potato pie.




A lot of people asked for this recipe because many think that the only way to preserve okra is as pickles.  Not so. . .

2 pounds Okra per quart



Wash and drain okra. Remove stem and blossom end. Either leave whole or cut into slices. Put okra into a large pot and cover with water.  Boil 2 minutes. Pack okra into hot jars, and add 1 teaspoon salt if you wish. Fill jars with boiling water to within 1 inch of the top of the jar. Remove air bubbles; cover with two-piece canning caps.  Process pints, 25 minutes; quarts 40 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner.

Great for use in soups, stews or gumbos. . .

Okra also freezes beautifully.  Simply wash,  remove the stem and blossom end,  and blanch in boiling water for about five minutes.  Remove the okra from the boiling water and plunge immediately into cold water to stop the cooking process.  Drain thoroughly and place in labeled  plastic freezer bags. Frozen okra will keep nicely for about 6 months.


End of the Garden Mixed Vegetables

6 cups of sliced carrots

4 cups peas

4 cups cut green beans

3 cups of peeled and cubed potatoes

2 cups of quartered onions

2 cups sliced celery

2 cups chopped sweet bell pepper

¼ cup chopped parsley

2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon pepper

3 quarts of chicken stock or chicken broth

Combine all ingredients in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Ladle into hot jars, filling to within 1 inch of top of jars. Remove air bubbles and apply two-piece caps.  Process quarts 40 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner.

This makes a wonderful quick soup starter or it can simply be buttered and served with dinner as mixed vegetables.


Green Peppers

Just before cleaning up the garden for the last time, I harvested an abundance of green peppers.  This is what you do with them if your freezer is full and you don’t want them pickled. . .

1 pound green peppers per pint




Wash green peppers, removing stem and seeds.  Cut in quarters. Blanch 3 minutes, drain. Pack peppers into hot jars, leaving 1 inch headspace. Add ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ tablespoon vinegar to each jar.  Cover with boiling water to within 1 inch of the top of jar.  Remove air bubbles and apply two-piece canning caps.  Process half-pints or pints 35 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner.

Peppers also freeze nicely.  Simply wash green peppers, removing stem and seeds.  Cut in quarters. Blanch 3 minutes, plunge into cold water to stop the cooking process and drain.  Pack peppers intolabeled plastic bags and freeze.  Lasts about 6 months in the freezer.

These peppers can be added to any recipe that calls for green or bell peppers and they will not add any pickly or sour taste s they are processed plain.

Over the next several weeks, I will post even some more canning, preserving and freezing recipes so that you will have them early in the canning season this year.  I also certainly hope that readers will share any recipes that they have.


In the fall of 2010, as everyone knows, an abundance of leaves were dumped in the gardens.  Unfortunately, these leaves were deposited in several massive heaps at the “State Farm Drive” end, with nothing at all being placed at the other end.  The dumping of the leaves caused numerous complaints because they were never properly raked over all of the garden plots and tilled in. Instead, they were improperly left in ungainly heaps everywhere and they became somewhat of a problem.   Unfortunately, many people complained about the dumping of the leaves as if the leaves themselves were garbage, and so the County did not have any leaves placed in the Gardens this year.  This is very unfortunate for those of us who did not get any leaves placed in our gardens at all.  What this really means is that only half of the garden plots received the necessary supplement of organic materials to enrich the soil.  The people fortunate enough to have all of that nice humus-rich soil at the one end now have far better growing conditions than people like me who are located at the opposite end.   At the other end, we have to deal with the dust, erosion and other problems that poor soil brings. My husband and I decided to invest $30 in having a soil test conducted at Penn State.  Our worst fears were realized.

I wanted to post the actual copy of the test results here, but the computer that I scanned the result report to is currently disabled as it awaits the completion of repairs to my family room.  However, I can TELL you what it said.

Where the leaves WERE NOT PLACED, the soil of the Community Gardens is terribly depleted.  It is so depleted in every single necessary mineral and nutrient that it is actually dangerous to all types of plants except weeds.  Also, the tightly packed nature of the clay-soil over there is such that it resists penetration by moisture.  Gardeners who got the leaves will have far better moisture retention.  In other words, at the leafless end water tends to run off, not sink in, no matter how much you water.  This explains poor results with many types of vegetable plants; thin harvests, pests, and diseases.  Penn State recommended that at least 40 pounds of garden lime be spread on each 30×30 plot and tilled in.  They also recommended that 40 pounds of organic 10-10-10 fertilizer be added to each plot along with all of the compost, composted cow manure or composted leaf litter you can add.

Last fall, when we prepared our garden for closing, we followed those  recommendations.  We also oversowed the garden with Cereal Rye (which fights weeds) and I added about 10 million beneficial nematodes to kill and destroy the Colorado Potato Beetle, Hornworms, and Squash Beetles that are wintering underground.  I also hope the nematodes kill off as many Stink Bugs as possible.   As soon as the gardens open up in spring, we will add even more organic material (composted leaves), and I will treat again with nematodes to get the bugs under control.   The Penn State recommendations pretty much follow the advice given in the article ” How to Build Topsoil, ” found here:

As I mentioned in a previous article, the answer is NOT to add the famous “Blue Stuff” to your water and feed that to the plants.  If the soil is bad, it will not be improved by this method.  Furthermore, you will be FEEDING THE WEEDS that thrive in poor soils, and causing a bad soil condition called “salting.”  Using organics to improve the soil will result in a permanent improvement that you will appreciate as you see better results and harvests, and fewer bugs and weeds.

Next time, I will discuss garden planning and how you can get the most out of your plot.  Also, I will talk a bit about how to grow plants from seed.


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