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There’s no doubt about it, some years on the homestead are so intense that you need to cut back in certain areas to get through it all. Perhaps you’re learning a new skill that takes up your time. Maybe finances, weather, or family circumstances keep you from your full homesteading capacity. Whatever your reasoning, changing your regular garden plans to a focused garden plan is going to make that one area more manageable.
In my book, Raising Young Children On The Homestead, I talk about the basic principles of a focused garden, and how it will get you through your intense homestead years (such as when you have a newborn). It discusses how to plan a unique focused garden that will meet the needs of an individual family.
I also tell you how and when I started doing my own focused gardens to meet the consumption needs of my own family.
This year is one of those years—an intense homestead year in which I have to cut back in some areas. Gardening is one of those areas, and I’m falling back to the focused garden plan we’ve used in the past.
Here is the focused garden plan that works best for our family during the intense years.
Focusing On The Most Versatile Crops For Our Family
We have found the most versatile crops for our family to be tomatoes, onions, and peppers. All three of these crops are used fresh in season, and are also preserved in many different ways.
- Tomatoes can be frozen, dehydrated, powdered, canned, juiced, and stored green in the root cellar if needed.
- Onions can be frozen, dehydrated, powdered, braided, pickled, and stored in the root cellar.
- Peppers can be frozen, dehydrated, powdered, and pickled. They may also be stored in the root cellar for short periods of time.
The combination of tomatoes, onions, and peppers can be preserved together in numerous different canning combinations that our family will use on a consistent basis, making them the most versatile crops we grow.
Focusing On The Most Easily Stored Crops For Our Family
How and where you store your harvest is going to vary widely. For our family, storage by root cellar is by far the easiest method we have. It’s not always as convenient as storage by freezing or canning, as crops must be harvested very carefully at just the right time, but it definitely saves a lot of time.
The other half of our focused garden will be planted in carrots, beets, and cabbage for this reason. All of these are easily stored in the root cellar and keep for a long time when picked carefully. When time later permits, I can get them out of the cellar and preserve them in a variety of other ways.
- Carrots can be frozen, canned, juiced, dehydrated, and pickled. I’ll also be able to make pesto with their tops if I have time.
- Beets can be frozen, canned, juiced, dehydrated, and pickled. The greens from the tops are also good for salads and frying.
- Cabbage can be canned.
The Food Plan For Our Focused Garden Year
These six crops (tomatoes, onions, peppers, carrots, beets, and cabbage) will be eaten fresh as soon as they are ready, giving us soups, salads, pizzas, casseroles, slaws, chips, bread, baby food and sauces.
All of them will initially be stored in the root cellar, and then as time permits, I can preserve them in a variety of ways:
- tomatoes, onions, peppers, carrots, beets, carrot top pesto
- stewed tomatoes, pasta sauce, tomato paste, tomato juice, ketchup, whole tomatoes, marinara sauce, pizza sauce, peppers, pickled peppers, pickled onions, mixed pickled vegetables, carrots, carrot juice, beets, pickled beets, slaws, meat dish toppings.
Our menu will be a bit more bland for the next year, but it will be plenty for our family when you consider the other ways we will supplement our diet without hitting the grocery stores. (For more information on how we will supplement this diet without shopping trips, as well as why we aren’t growing what some people would consider “staples,” see section 5 of Raising Young Children On The Homestead.
Are you planning a focused garden this year? I’d love to hear what your 6 crops will be in the comments below.