Vegetable Gardening Basics

Vegetable Gardening Basics

As I’m sure you already know, I love planting a vegetable garden! My husband and I both grew up in gardening families and it just runs through our veins! I hope to pass on my love for gardening to our children someday too. Sometimes, I get so excited about talking about all of our homesteading plans that I forget that some of you may have never planted a garden before. So, today I’m sharing how we do it at our house! I’m going to break it down to the basics and if there is anything that I miss or don’t cover, let me know! I’d love to hear from you and know what you’d like to hear more about!

Seeds

Gardening is not for the faint of heart friends! It takes a commitment, not only of the time and money that you initially put into it. But an ongoing commitment of time and effort throughout the summer months. You must spend time pulling weeds, dealing with pests, and of course, keeping up with harvesting your fruits and vegetables as they ripen. That is of course my favorite part! Then, harvesting your crops isn’t even the end of it. Finally you must decide how to use your bountiful harvest. Whether you are serving up your veggies raw or cooked, canning or dehydrating, the important part is having a plan! It would be a shame to get to the end of the growing season, have a pile of tomatoes, and nothing to do with them! I would hate to see my own vegetables go to waste, so that’s why I plan, plan, PLAN!!

2 Tomato

One of the most basic things you need to decide is what you’re going to plant in your vegetable garden. Choose a variety of vegetables that your family enjoys eating or that you can make into something that your family likes (like salsa, tomato soup, pickles, etc). Once you decide what vegetables you are going to plant, you have to decide “how” you’re going to plant them. Are you going to plant seeds or plants?

I don’t know why, but we have always struggled with starting seeds indoors prior to garden season beginning. This is just not a talent I have acquired yet. So typically we like to stick with buying plants at a local greenhouse for a few vegetables and the rest we sow directly into the garden.

Brocolli

Veggies we plant as seeds:

Carrots
Beets
Beans
Peas
Squash
Pumpkins
Lettuce
Spinach
Radishes
Cantelope

Veggies we plant as plants:

Tomatoes
Peppers
Kale
Broccoli
Herbs

Here are a few other things to consider…

Soil Quality: In our past gardening, we never paid much attention to soil quality. We had raised bed gardens and when we first made our garden, we got a load of top-soil when we first began our garden. Every few years we would add peat moss and manure to enrich the soil. Now that we are setting up a bigger garden, we plan to pay more attention to the quality of the soil. We bought some soil testing kits that we will use to see what we need to do to get the best results out of our garden. I know that our soil has some clay in it, but we also have a good layer of topsoil over it. Once we test our soil and see what the different levels come back at, then I plan on researching what I should add to the soil to make it more fertile.

Composting: We haven’t started composting yet, but I plan to over the summer this year. Composting has many benefits. First of all, it is a great way to put your scraps to use. I always like to make the most out of everything we have . So, putting an additional use to something that would otherwise be getting thrown in the garbage is definitely a huge plus! Another wonderful benefit is that it adds a variety of nutrients to your soil which in turn feeds your plants! It also continues to slowly release nutrients as the materials continue to break down and decompose.

Beets

This really is just scratching the surface of gardening! I could go on and on for days! But this is just a little food for thought for those of you thinking about taking the leap into vegetable gardening. In the coming weeks I will be sharing our step by step process of getting our new vegetable garden set up. From building our fence to preparing the soil, planning the layout of vegetables and actually getting everything planted. I will be sharing it all! So make sure you stop by the blog often to check on my updates!

Happy Gardening!!

My Monthly Meal Plan-May 2016 Edition

My Monthly Meal Plan-May 2016

Hey Friends! I know that I am always talking about meal planning. So, I thought it may be helpful to you all if I shared what my family’s meal plan looks like month by month! It may give you ideas for your own meal plan and I will also be sharing more recipes every month. That way you’ll be able to test out some of the recipes that I’m using! I hope that you find this inspirational and helpful in your own meal planning adventures!

If you haven’t already, check out my methods and tips for meal-planning here!
What’s for Dinner? The Reason I started Meal Planning
Tips for Successful Meal Planning

Week 1
Sunday: Breakfast Bowls
Monday: BBQ Kielbasa
Tuesday: Dinner out for hubby’s birthday!!
Wednesday: Venison Hamburger Steaks, Mashed Potatoes, Vegetable
Thursday: Popcorn Shrimp
Friday: Grilled Hamburgers, Potato Wedges
Saturday: Chicken Puffs, Tossed Salad

Week 2
Sunday: Mother’s Day-We will be visiting family
Monday: Asian Meatballs & Rice
Tuesday: Buffalo Chicken Tenders, French Fries
Wednesday: Grilled Pork Chops, Baked Potatoes
Thursday: Grocery Night-We always grab something while we are out for $10 or less
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: Hubby’s Birthday Party!!

Week 3
Sunday: General Tso’s Chicken & Fried Rice
Monday: Tacos
Tuesday: Meatball Subs
Wednesday: My sister-in-law’s graduation-going out to dinner with family
Thursday: Sausage Gravy & Biscuits
Friday: Cabbage & Kielbasa Skillet
Saturday: Spaghetti Pie

Week 4:
Sunday: Meatloaf, Baked Potatoes
Monday: Sausage Hash
Tuesday: Dinner out with Hubby!!
Wednesday: Tortellini
Thursday:  Grocery Night-We always grab something while we are out for $10 or less
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: Steak Hoagies

Week 5
Sunday: Teriyaki Meatballs & Rice
Monday: Happy Memorial Day! Steaks, Potato Salad, Deviled Eggs
Tuesday: Pierogies

If there is a particular meal that you would like to see the recipe for on the blog, let me know! Also, if you have any questions about my meal plan or need advice on making your own, please feel free to comment below or send me an email! I always love to hear from my readers!

My Monthly Meal Plan-May 2016

Tips for Successful Meal Planning

Tips for successful meal planning1

A few months ago I wrote about the importance of meal planning and what a huge difference it has made for my family. (If you haven’t read it yet, check it out here!) The improvements it caused in our home were numerous! It greatly reduced the stress in our home in the evenings and restored a sense of peace and order. It also saved us money by cutting back on useless spending on convenience food or restaurants. It also saved us money by reducing the wasted food in our home: the things on my grocery list, I already have a plan for, so of course they are going to get used up!

Now I’ve heard a lot of people say that they associate meal-planning with dieting. There are a lot of diet systems out there that talk about meal-planning and food preparation. However, meal-planning is really just what its name implies. It is choosing what you are going to eat for each dinner throughout the week/month ahead of time. Then making your grocery list according to that plan and making the meal on the scheduled day.Now, I’m not saying that you can’t use this as a method for eating healthy and dieting. It is definitely a very effective way to help with dieting. However, I don’t want that to be a hindrance to anybody either. At the end of the day,  meal-planning is meant to make your life easier, not harder! So try to make it work for you and your family.

As with any new process, you want to set yourself up for success. To do this, you need to make sure that you are prepared prior to sitting down to actually compile your meal plan. One of the best and easiest ways I have found to start is by compiling a meal list. So, pull out your frequently used recipe books and grab your recipe cards. I started a few pages with different columns on them according to the main ingredient or meat. The columns I used are as follows: Ground Beef, Venison, Other Beef Cuts, Pork/Ham, Special Sandwiches, Breakfast, Fish, Chicken, Sausage, Misc Meat, Misc-Everything else, and Veggies & Side dishes. Once you have your columns planned out, then start filling in your families favorite meals.

Tips for successful meal planning2

To help you in your meal planning journey, I have included in this post 2 free printables!

Click here to download my Free Printable Meal Planning Chart!

Use the meal planning chart to record your meals for each day at the beginning of the week or month.

Click here to download my Free Printable Meal List Chart

Use the meal list to record all of your family’s frequently used recipes. Separate the recipes by main ingredient, title each box with one main ingredient category and record the corresponding recipes in that box. You will probably need multiple pages to have enough columns for all of your categories.

I know that meal planning seems like a huge undertaking when you are first starting out. But I can’t tell you enough times how much peace and order it brought to our home! It reduced my stress levels in the evening and who doesn’t want less stress! I hope I’ve inspired you and encouraged you to try out this meal planning thing! Good luck in all of your meal planning adventures!

If you have any questions about my meal planning techniques or need advice in your own meal planning, leave your questions in the comment section below or send me an email. I always love to hear from my readers!

April 2016 Homestead Update

April Homestead Update3

This is our second year on our homestead but it’s the first year of having a “real” yard. We have so much work to get done, it seems like we will never have enough time to get it all done! We have such a blank slate, in both the house and the garden that it leaves quite the lengthy to-do list. If you want to see a list of some of our homesteading goals, check it out here.

Landscaping-Mulched

Herb Garden-Mulched

Things we have already accomplished:

  • Finished painting the basement walls and floor. (This was a huge, time-consuming project. We are so glad it is done!)
  • Made progress with running water lines out to our shed & garden area.
  • Cleaned up our landscaping-removed all leaves and dead branches, trimmed bushes.
  • Added new mulch to our landscaping.
  • Added more “deer repellent” to our fruit trees. (More about this below!)
  • Removed all of the blossoms from our fruit trees-I have to admit that this was a little painful since they are so pretty, but when fruit trees are young, it is good to remove the blossoms so that the tree puts its energy into the tree itself rather than trying to produce fruit.

Pear Tree

More on the deer repellent for the fruit trees: So we added four new fruit trees to our backyard homestead at the end of the summer last year-two apple and two pear. We were a little concerned about them because we have a lot of deer that come through our backyard everyday. My dad gave us the idea to use Irish Spring soap as a deterrent. So we gave it a try! We took one bar of Irish Spring soap, cut it into quarters, and drilled a hole through each piece. We tied a string through the hole and then we attached one to each tree. This kept the deer away from our trees all winter! So, I don’t know if it’s just coincidence or if it really worked. I’m sticking to “It worked!” So we are going to continue using this method unless something changes. It is super frugal and has been effective this far.

Deer Repellent

Goals that still need accomplished:

  • Plan out the area for our garden-measure and stake out where exactly it’s going to be.
  • Build our garden fence.
  • Finish running water out to the shed & garden area.

To be quite honest, the month is quickly coming to a close, so some of these tasks may get pushed into May. But as long as they are ready for Memorial Day weekend, we’ll be in good shape. That is when we plant our garden every year! I can’t believe it’s almost May already!

April Homestead update1

Take a look at our new strawberry plants! They already have little strawberries on them! Friends of ours were thinning their strawberry patch and we were the lucky recipients of the leftovers! I also just planted some more strawberry seeds. So hopefully we will have a nice little strawberry patch in our new garden!

Strawberry Seeds

At the end of the day, the most important thing in accomplishing a large volume of tasks, whether around the homestead, in your homemaking or at your 9-5,  is to ensure that you have a plan in place and clearly set goals. We definitely have both of these when it comes to our homesteading goals, it’s more just a matter of having the free time to get everything accomplished.

April Homestead Update2

What projects are you working on around the house and yard this spring? Share in the comments below. I always love to hear from my readers!

Cornbread Waffles

Cornbread Waffles 1

If you are looking for a new and creative way to make cornbread this is it! It is also a great way to spruce up a meal that you cook for your family frequently.  A few weeks ago, I shared with you one of our frequent meals – my recipe for Homemade Crockpot Chili. This is a creative way to serve chili and so many other soups too!

Cornbread Waffles 2

My favorite cornbread mix is Jiffy mix! It is easy to make and an extremely frugal option. All I did was prepare the mix according to the instructions on the package. Then I heated up my waffle iron. Once it was ready, I poured a little less than a 1/2 cup  of cornbread mix into the iron and cooked for about 2-3 minutes. Every waffle iron is different though, so keep a close eye on them while cooking! Once they are golden brown, they are ready to eat!! Butter the waffles as soon as they come out of the iron.

Cornbread Waffles 3

Then, simply pour your chili over top of the waffles, sprinkle with your favorite toppings like shredded cheddar cheese. And don’t stop there…Be creative with it! You can switch it up and top these waffles with whatever you like, your favorite soup, stew or chowder too!

What other ideas do you have that would taste delicious over top of these cornbread waffles? Leave your ideas in the comments below!