There's more than one way to preserve a crop. You can freeze, can, dry, or make preserves and pickles. You can construct a cold storage area or a root cellar in the basement. You can make a storage pit in the garden. Some vegetables are very obliging. For Instance, extra green beans are no problem because you can freeze, can, dry, or pickle them. And some root vegetables are best stored in the ground for as long as possible — just go out and dig them up when you're ready to use them. If you have a big family and a lot of garden space, you may need to use several different methods to make the most of your crop. If you have only a small garden and a small family, perhaps freezing alone is all you need to consider. Read through the introductory sections on each method of preserving in Part 3, so you're aware of the space and equipment involved and the advantages and disadvantages of each method. Consider also the climate where you live and how much time you're able and willing to spend on preserving. At this point, as in your initial choice of which vegetables to grow, personal preferences are important. If your family hates turnips and only likes carrots raw, it's hardly going to be worthwhile to have a root cellar. If you're always on the run, it's pure fantasy to imagine yourself making preserves come fall. You may also want to investigate sharing the crop — and the work. If you live in a community of gardeners you may find it possible to get together on preserving projects, sharing crops, equipment, and labor.
CLIMATE: HOW WHERE YOU LIVE AFFECTS WHAT YOU GROW
Plants, like people, have definite ideas about where they like to live. Like people, they flourish in congenial conditions and become weak and dispirited if life is too difficult for them to cope with. Unlike people, however, plants can't take practical steps to improve their homesite — they can't up and move, and they can't protect themselves against adverse conditions. You, the gardener, are largely responsible for how well your plants do in the climatic conditions you offer them, and you'll save yourself a lot of frustration and disappointment if you have some understanding of how climate affects your garden and if you choose your crops accoAing to your climate.
What gardeners mean by a "growing season"
Throughout this book you'll encounter references to the "growing season." The growing season is, essentially, the length of time your area can give plants the conditions they need to reach maturity and produce a crop. The growing season is measured in terms of the number of days between the last frost in spring and the first frost in fall. In general terms.
these two dates mark the beginning and end of the time in which plants grow from seed to maturity. Some areas never have frost at all and use their dry season as their "winter." In these areas, however, it's still possible to use hypothetical "frost" dates. So the length of your growing season is (technically) totally dependent on your local climate. When you plant a vegetable depends on how well that vegetable handles extremes of temperature.
The dates on which a certain area can expect to have the last spring frost and the first fall frost are called the "average date of last frost" and the "average date of first frost," respectively. They are generally used as reference points for planning and planting vegetables, but they're not infallible. They do however, give you a fairly accurate guide as to which vegetables will do best in your area, and they are the reference points most generally used in this book. As with every other aspect of gardening you need to be a little bit flexible. The chart at the end of this chapter lists the average dates of first and last frosts in major cities throughout the United States. If you live within 10 miles of a city listed, you can take these dates as accurate; three or four days either way is just as acceptable, so don't feel you must do all your planting exactly on the one listed day. All these dates are average, and the weather can always spring surprises. If you live a long way from a listed city or are for any reason unsure when to plant, call your local Cooperative Extension Service or Weather Bureau for advice. The Cooperative Extension Service is a joint effort of the United States Department of Agriculture and the state land-grant colleges and universities. The service's local office is an invaluable resource for the gardener, and a list of offices throughout the country appears in Part 4.
Climatic or "hardiness" zones
The average date of last frost is not the only reference point used to determine when to plant a garden. At one time or other gardeners have made that date dependent on everything from "climatic zones" to the phases of the moon. Climatic zones are the small maps you find on the back of seed packages; they divide the United States into zones or areas with fairly similar climates. They're probably far more accurate references for planting than phases of the moon, but they're very general, and they don't tell the whole story. There are many incidental — sometimes almost accidental — conditions that can cause changes in climate within a climatic zone.
The climatic zone map in the seed catalog or on the back of a seed packet can give you a broad idea of how a vegetable (or vegetable variety, because carrots, tomatoes, and other popular vegetables don't by any means conform to a stereotype) will do in your area. Climatic zones, however, don't take into account the variations that occur within an area which, if you go by the book, has the same climatic conditions prevailing over many square miles. For instance, if the balcony of your downtown apartment faces south, you may be able to grow vegetables on it that would never survive in a north-facing garden of your apartment block. Lots of large buildings, a nearby body of water like a lake, or even heavy traffic can significantly alter the temperature (and pollution level) in a small garden. So, given all these imponderables, it's safer to judge how well a vegetable will grow by considering its own tolerance to certain conditions, rather than by a hard-and-fast map reference.
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How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.