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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
My husband and I tried to start a garden this year (our first) but it didn't really succeed, mainly because we didn't have the time to devote to it or the money to buy plants (seeds weren't started inside but I will next year). I was debating whether or not it would be a good idea to try to buy produce when it's cheap at the stores and farmer's market here this summer and then canning or freezing it for the winter. Has anyone else done this? Tips, recommendations, ideas? Thanks! :tom:
 

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don't you still have time to start somethings in the garden? We've always done our garden the end of may and had great success. We're in Ohio. I've canned things I got at the farmers markets with good results.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
We're in Arkansas and I think we might be able to plant some tomato plants and pick fruit off them before winter. I just wish that I'd had success with cucumbers and squash. We got a LOT of rain the couple of weeks after planting so maybe they washed out. :(
 

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-You probably won't be money ahead purchasing produce at retail prices from a grocery store, and then invest the cost of utilities to process it over buying cans of foods you were planning to can at home (especially when I can get corn/green beans/beets, etc. for around 65-85 cents a can).

I've taught home canning classes and we do a cost analysis, and it's quickly becoming VERY expensive to do home canning when you figure ALL the costs that can be associated with it (water, seeds, plants, fertilizer, tools, canning equipment, energy to process the food, etc.), let alone if you have to purchase the produce. For this reason, I do more dehydrating, and freezing anymore, rather than home canning.

-Search out someone with a large garden who would sell you fresh produce at a bulk rate. You'll have better quality home canned and home-frozen foods if the vegetables are picked at their peek of quality and you can process those foods within 6-12 hours after harvest. For best quality, apricots, nectarines, peaches, pears, and plums should be ripened one or more days between harvest and canning.

-Check to see what fall crops you can grow. Here in central Kansas I'll plant my fall crop of green beans the first of July through the first week in August and will harvest them from the end of August through mid-October if I stager the planting schedule so I don't get all my harvest at the same time. I can plant beets late July-August and harvest them in October. Carrots planted in mid July - harvested in October. Leaf lettuce planted mid-August will be harvested in late September. Same with potatoes, radishes and spinach and other greens. Check your local green house, Cooperative Extension Service (aka County Extension Office), or the Internet for garden planting schedules for your area.

-You need to be careful with cucumbers at the grocery store because they are generally slicing cucumbers and have a coating of wax on them. They are not canning cucumbers, which are a different variety than slicing cucumbers. Same with those sold at "farmer's markets". You also need to take care not to use low-acid tomato varieties (unless you process them in a pressure canner).

-You'll never get "fresh" produce from a grocery store. You'll get better quality and higher nutrition if you purchase foods that are already frozen because commercial foods were frozen at the height of ripeness and quickly processed after picking. When you start with poor quality food, whatever the source, it doesn't get any better when canned or frozen.

"Most foods begin losing some of their vitamins when harvested. Nearly half of the vitamins may be lost within a few days unless the fresh produce is cooled or preserved. Within 1-2 weeks, even refrigerated produce loses half or more of some of its vitamins. The heating process during canning destroys from 1/3 to 1/2 of vitamins A and C, thiamin, and riboflavin. Once canned, additional losses of these sensitive vitamins are from 5-20-percent each year. The amounts of other vitamins, however, are only slightly lower in canned compared with fresh food. If vegetables are handled properly and canned promptly after harvest, they can be more nutritious than fresh produce sold in local stores". (Source: Complete Guide to Home Canning) So you can end up canning or freezing foods that are already depleted in nutrition to begin with, plus the amount lost from high-heat processing, so you'll get empty calories and little nutrients, if you aren't careful of the food source.

-There are also some varieties of foods that you grow specifically for home canning or freezing that hold-up better through processing. Those varieties are not necessarily produced for stores or sold at farmer's markets.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thank you for all the tips! I know that it's not saving me money really but I was hoping to can some jam and maybe some tomatoes if I can find them cheaply enough, so that come winter we won't be spending a lot on these things. It's really hard to beat prices when I use sales and coupons anyway, but things like homemade jam just can't be replaced. :)
 

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Not sure of your location, but here in NY, I would still be putting in things, but our garden is already planted. We have a Uncle who lives close who is just putting his garden in now, June. Every year, sometimes it won't be till the 3rd week of June, and it goes in. And his plants do great :) He has a mini greenhouse and starts his own plants.
I even put some garlic in late. I had 2 free to me bulbs, that gave me 35 cloves and they were sprouting. In they went between the peppers. My son told me my timing was wrong for them, but I fiqured they were already sprouting on their own, I was going to take my chances.

If I was you, I would put a ad on craigslist wanting some produce to can. Willing to pay a fair price. You may even end up with some free stuff. Never hurts to ask. Or mention to friends and relatives, that you are looking. Get the word out :)

Also in the meanwhile, if you don't have the canning jars and lids, start shopping around and buying them. I just picked up 5 more boxes of standard month lids this morning for $ 1 each at the Family Dollar store closest to us. Cheapest price I have seen yet.
I been buying them on and off all winter getting ahead. I have picked up quite a few used jars at garage sales, etc.
I'm ready when the garden kicks in......I think :)

I plan on doing some serious canning this summer. I better, I just filled the second upright with bread. Not much freezer space currently available.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thank you! I really had no idea that I could start a garden this late and try again. Definitely will be hunting around for plants to put in and checking dollar general for lids and jars! :)
 

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Planting late still may be your best option.

I did this last year because we moved the last week of May and could not get my garden in until the second week of June. The soil was terrible and I figured I would not make anything. I planted green beans, lima beans and something called six weeks peas. The limas and green beans made enough to eat fresh, but the six weeks peas.......I canned and canned and canned them. I could not believe how prolific hey were in this terrible clay soil that we have worked on improving now for an entire year. I visited my local farm store and asked questions. The owner was very helpful. If I had listened to him about the variety of green beans, those would have done better as well. All this to say.....there is something you can plant now.

Buying produce.....I have done that also, but never was able to save any money that way. I have, however, picked berries on the side of the road and found folks who were sick of picking their own blueberries and let me come clean up. You might ask friends and see if they know anyone who usually has extra produce. You never know....someone might share!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks for the great advice! My husband and I are going to at least try to make some upside down hanging planters out of soda pop bottles (2 liters) and put tomatoes in them, because we can make sure they get the good soil and it won't cost much to start them up. I doubt that we'll get the garden restarted much because we'd have to dig it all up again and the soil really is too sandy so we're going to work at getting a tiller and turning it several times before next year. Also going to save the veggie scraps from the kitchen to add nutrients to the soil. :)
 
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