A big part of garden planning involves, for me, checking the State of the Stored. Here it is, the first week of February: how are my supplies doing downstairs? Do I have enough tomato sauce to last me until this year’s harvest? Salsa, chutneys? How are the dried and canned beans doing? How about popcorn, frozen green beans, jams, canned peaches? How about pickles? Applesauce, veggie broth, canned chicken broth? Frozen fruits? Ketchup, barbecue sauce, garlic jelly? And the all-important apples, onions, garlic, shallots, potatoes, winter squash? A quick check of my stash tells me what I need to plant this year, and what holes need to be patched.
All seems swell downstairs: my general approach of “put away more than you can eat in two years” has worked well. Not that I am a pessimist, but better gardeners than me tend to make a big harvest as insurance against a bad year. Had the late blight hit my tomatoes last year (it did not, but took out half the school garden’s crop), I would still be in pretty good shape, except for ketchup and barbecue sauce. As it is, canning twice the normal year’s amount frees me, somewhat, from the drudgery of canning every crop every year. (This doesn’t work for frozen things, but canned goods: check!) And pressure-canned stuff is “good” for a long time.
Always, though, there are certain experimental things that I wish I had made more of (apple/pear moutarde, green apple/tomato chutney) but this can backfire too if I make a lot of something and it’s not quite so tasty (gooseberry jam). But even failures can have second lives. My calico popcorn, which I adore, is not the best at popping (hardly any homegrown one is: it has to do with moisture in the kernels and timing harvests perfectly…which requires a hydrometer, not something I am willing to spring for) but ground-up as a meal for cornbread or polenta? Hooeey! Hand me the honey!