Lisa Corr, Olde Town Realty | Haverhill, MA Real Estate


Cooking vegetables from your own garden is a great experience. In the same way that you appreciate a meal made from scratch more than a frozen dinner or takeout, cooking food that you grew yourself is an extremely rewarding feeling. Aside from being delicious, growing your own food can help you save money, waste less food, consume less plastic packaging (helping the environment), and try out new recipes you normally wouldn't. When it comes to planting vegetables for cooking, however, there's more to it than simply tossing some seeds in your garden. Here's how to get the most out of growing your own vegetables for use on the dinner table.

Plant smart

One of the first mistakes beginner gardeners make is planting the wrong vegetables or the wrong proportions of vegetables. One or two squash plants, for example, will provide ample amounts of squash for most small families. So, think about the meals you love to cook and what vegetables they require. Then find out how much those plants yield. Some vegetables can be planted and harvested at many times throughout the growing season. If you eat lots of leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, kale, etc.), don't plant a huge row all at once. Instead, plant in intervals of two or three weeks so you can reap the rewards throughout the season. Similarly, many lettuces (such a romaine) are able to be continually harvested--that means there's no need for pulling the whole planet out of the ground and replanting.

Plan your meals

To get the most out of your garden plan a weekly menu that incorporates items from your garden. If your tomatoes look like they're ripening, plan for making tomato sauce, pizza, or caprese sandwiches the following week. Get creative with recipes. If you have a surplus of peppers, try different stuffed pepper recipes. The internet is your best friend when it comes to discovering new uses for surplus vegetables.

Preserving

A garden should be useful to you year-round, not just during the autumn harvest season. There are several methods of preserving your vegetables. The way you choose depends on your own need. Common means of preservation include:
  • Freezing meals. Remember those stuffed peppers? You don't have to eat them every day of the week once your peppers are ripe. Cook up some rice, beans, and sauce, stuff your peppers and bake. Eat however much you want and place the rest in airtight bags in the freezer. They'll make great lunches for when you're in a rush.
  • Blanching and steaming.  If you're not quite sure how you'll want to use your vegetables but you know you'll use them later blanching and steaming are great options. Boil or steam them for five minutes then toss them into a bucket of ice-water to cool. Once cool, drain them and freeze them in bags.
  • Canning.  This method takes some preparation and research but canning is a great way to save fruits and vegetables for use throughout the year and are great if you don't have extra space in your freezer for frozen vegetables.

Are you on the fence about whether to buy a house with a big back yard? Although it's not always a bed of roses -- especially when it comes to upkeep -- the benefits can easily outweigh the drawbacks. Spacious yards are extremely versatile and can play a key role in creating fond family memories. Here's some food for thought on how you can use that extra outdoor space on your property to accommodate your interests, your goals, and your family's needs.
  1. Cultivate a vegetable garden. If you have a green thumb and a passion for growing your own food, a big yard can afford you that opportunity. Backyard agriculture is something the whole family can enjoy and get involved in. It's also a fun way to educate your kids about nature, farming, and where their food comes from. As a side note: If you're serious about pursuing this hobby, you may want to have an adjacent shed set up to protect your gardening tools, fertilizer, and other supplies. Building a greenhouse for growing flowers is another option to consider. Once you get backyard farming down to a science, you can save money on groceries and enjoy an abundant supply of organically grown fruits and vegetables. There are many sources of helpful information, both online and off, including Cornell Cooperative Extension.
  2. Special occasions: When you have room for a couple of picnic tables, a swing set, and a volleyball court (60 feet by 30 feet), then you have the basic ingredients for fun birthday parties, family gatherings, and backyard barbecues. Plenty of space also lends itself to frisbee games, badminton, Bocce ball, croquet, kickball, and anything else your group is up for. Whether you're planning a family reunion, a graduation party, a child's birthday, or a backyard wedding, a good-size residential property can provide the perfect setting.
  3. Expansion is an option. When your new house comes with some extra outdoor space to work with, all kinds of options are available to you. The possibilities can range from the construction of a sun room or additional bedroom to an in-law apartment or even a guest house with rental income potential. If a new swimming pool is on your "wish list," a spacious lot can help make that a reality.
  4. Room to run and play: You may have an energetic Labrador Retriever that loves to play fetch or a growing family that thrives on sports activities. Regardless, there's nothing like a big back yard to make all that possible. During the winter months, you can even use a multi-acre property for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. Creating your own skating ring is yet another option.
If you're looking for a "park-like setting" for your next home, then a large suburban or rural property might be exactly what you have in mind. Depending on the layout of the property and its proximity to other houses, an acre or more of land can provide just the right amount of privacy, flexibility, and freedom from traffic sounds, sirens, and other noise pollution.



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