Preparing for Canning Season
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Are you ready to start buying seeds online to get ready for the upcoming gardening and canning season? Here are some of my best tips!
Preparing for Canning Season
It may seem crazy to think about buying seeds when the temperature is below zero, the wind is howling, and the ground can’t be found because of all the snow. But now is the time to do it! And there are a few reasons why:
1. Seed companies can sell out of the most popular varieties. Especially if you order from a smaller company, quantities are limited so you have to order when you can!
2. It gives you plenty of time to make your garden plan so it doesn’t come to get to May and you have no idea what you are planting.
3. It makes us happy to flip through to pages of the beautiful seed catalogs and see all the green and growing things! It can make a long winter feel just a little bit shorter.
So what are you waiting for? Grab those seed catalogs and get to work!
For many years now I have been buying seeds online. It’s easy, quicker than filling out order forms, and the order generally comes faster. Personally, I order from Baker Creek Seeds. I’ve been ordering with them for a while. Their seeds grow well, they have a really large variety, they are heirloom seeds, I can order them online, and their catalog is gorgeous! Generally, they send out their catalog in January (as long as you are on their mailing list) and I get my order in around the first of February. There are some other great heirloom seed companies out there, make sure you share your favorites in the comments!
Preparing for Canning Season
When you order your seeds, you’ll need to remember to keep in mind what you plan to can and how much of it. Here are some tips to make sure that you will order enough plants.
1. Start by making a list of all the things you want to can (tomatoes, vegetable soup, ect).
2. Once you’ve finished, scan over all the recipes you want to make or plan on making and make a list of all the fruits and veggies you will need to accomplish that.
3. Check out the seeds you have left from last year. I’ve almost always had luck planting “extras” a year later, some years we’ve ONLY planted the extras and didn’t even need to order new seeds!
4. Go through the seed catalog and determine which plants you need to order that would be best to accomplish the tasks you want to accomplish. So far I’ve never needed more than one packet of seeds per variety of plant but often I need much more than one of the same variety. For example, tomatoes are something we can the most of (stewed, soup, ketchup, bbq sauce, ect). But I also dry some and make some fresh salsa so I need to make sure I order plenty of canning (usually paste tomatoes) tomatoes, pear or cherry tomatoes, and some yellow or orange tomatoes. All to accomplish the different tasks I need to accomplish.
Here’s a list of the most popular foods to grow and preserve and about how many plants you will need per person. This list is relative though, since you may need more or less of something depending on your eating habits.
If you want a better list of how much to plant per person, check out my post here on What to Plant to Feed a Family.
Beans (Bush or Pole) – 15 plants per person
Broccoli – 5 plants per person
Cabbage – 5 plants per person
Cauliflower – 5 plants per person
Corn – 20 plants per person
Cucumbers – 5 plants per person
Lettuce – 10 plants per person
Melons – 3 plants per person
Onions – 40 plants per person
Peas – 20 plants per person
Peppers – 5 plants per person
Potatoes – 20 plants per person
Pumpkins – 1 plant per person
Summer Squash – 3 plants per person
Winter Squash – 2 plants per person
Tomatoes – 5 plants per person
*Remember, for example… that if you have 5 people in your family…buying one package of 25 tomato seeds will not be enough because that won’t produce 25 plants since you plant several seeds per hill.
Once you’ve figured all this out you will know exactly what you need to order! And just so long as everything grows, you should be good to go!
Preparing What You Need for Canning
There are several things you will need for the actual canning season and it’s best to prepare these things in advance before the season begins. To get started, here’s a short video of some of the things I would recommend.
In case you are a list person, here are the things I recommend to have ready for canning:
- Presto Pressure Canner
- Water Bath Canner
- Jars, Lids, and Rims
- Jar Lifter
- Canning Funnel
More Canning Supplies
There are a few other items that you will need for canning this summer that you might not think of. These are also good to get ahead of time so that you have them when you need them.
- Ball Blue Book (highly recommended)
- Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (optional but useful)
- Citric Acid
- Bottled Lemon Juice
- Apple Cider Vinegar or White Vinegar
- A list of your favorite foods, jams, jellies, relishes, and other things you want to make.
For more of my recommended canning cookbooks, check out my post on The Best Books on Canning and Preserving.
More Tips on How to Start Canning
- What to Can
- Cheap Canning Supplies
- Canning Inventory Printable
- How to Stay Sane During Canning Season
Plus go to my Canning and Preserving page to find all of my canning tutorials!
Have you ever tried buying seeds online? What are some tips you have for making sure you have enough food for canning?
Merissa has been blogging about and living the simple life since 2009 and has internationally published 2 books on the topic. You can read about Merissa’s journey from penniless to the 100-acre farm and ministry on the About Page. You can send her a message any time from the Contact Page.
This post on preparing for canning season was originally posted on Little House Living in January 2014. It has been updated as of May 2023.
Thanks for breaking down how many plants per person one would need to plant. Question 1: I assume that these estimates are for self-sufficiency, rather than just to supplement veggies purchased as needed? It’s a bit mind-boggling to think how large my garden would have to be to provide for the 9 of us. I would like to produce more from my garden, but it appears we would have to use the entire back yard. Question 2: Where I live, the summer sun is deadly to many of my plants and the exposed veggies, and I’m limited as to areas of my yard that don’t receive the full impact of the afternoon sun. (We have no trees, and due to the power lines and water lines, I cannot plant any trees to provide shade.) Which of these veggies could be successfully grown in containers that could be moved every day to avoid the afternoon sun? Thanks for all the info.
Yes, these numbers would be how much to plant if you want to feed your family all your own produce through the winter. Could you put up some fences that would help block the plants from the afternoon sun? Many (if not all) of these plants can be grown in containers if needed.
It is very hot where we are in Central Texas. This year, we are going to use a keyhole garden. We’ve known several people to utilize these.
1) The plants mature much quicker than those planted in the ground.
2) The plants support one another if planted properly with sun-loving plants providing shade for others.
3) Partly because they mature earlier and partly because of the nourishment they receive, they produce bountifully.
4) I get to use my kitchen scraps (egg shells, fruit and vegetable scraps, left over coffee (my carafe broke), coffee filter with grounds, tea bags, boxes, and even cow manure) to put into the key hole garden to start it and now put it in the center hole to maintain it.
5) It requires less than 2 gallons per day of water – even in this heat.
If you are not familiar, you can read some information on the .pdf download available, but I highly recommend the DVD as there is additional useful information and questions answered on it. http://www.debtolman.com/ One seems to produce an abundance for families of 4, perhaps two would provide what is necessary (and allow you to diversify your crops even more) for a family of 9?
I would like to use straw bales around it for growing potatoes and carrots to extend the amount of food I can grow and also to provide some cooling function for the soil within our keyhole garden.
I’m assuming you want the backyard for kids to play in, but consider 3 things
1 planting in your front yard. Who says it has to be your backyard! Less gets to mow too!
2 grow up not out! Verticle gardening is a great way to go
3 consider hydroponics. They are easy to maintain vertically and you can get more plants in a smaller space 🙂
Thank you so much for this! We bought our house in 2011 and it came with a small garden. We have expanded it 3 times since then and it is now 5 times the size! I just started canning last year and am so excited to try new things this year. My hubby bought me an indoor greenhouse for Christmas and my mom got me a canning recipe book. I’m very anxious to get started and this planning guide helps!
Who do you purchase your potatoes from? Baker creek doesn’t have seed potatoes or onions. I’m trying to decide who to shop with. I like heirlooms and gmo free. Thanks
I’ve been getting them with my mom, she orders them in bulk…I will ask her.
Great post! I normally buy Baker Creek seeds and occasionally buy some from the local Co-Op. I always over-plant everything! So much so that we have plenty for us and plenty for family and friends and luckily they do the same so we are normally in good stock of fresh veggies.
Thanks for the info. I will be using it this summer. We also like BC. I love SSE and make sure to take advantage of their 50% sale in Nov. : )
If you live in a very hot sunny place, think about putting up an umbrella or two. Or you could stretch some sheets out between ropes to create shade for those heat wilted plants. Plan for the future, plant vineing plants that you could create shade with, that way you can cut, trim or move around as needed.
I get my heirloom/organic seeds straight from Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa.
Thank you Merissa for all that you share.
Seed Savers catalog out of Decorah, Iowa
Hmmm number of seeds per packet thing is confusing to me. How about if I plant one seed per small planter (those black things) and seeds are fertile to grow each and everyone of them? I really don’t understand the idea behind putting more than 1 seed into one hole and have to thin (and waste valuable seed) later when they grow. Is there a logic behind this that I miss?
Depending on the seed I usually put 2 seeds in a planter because generally they don’t all germinate. And the same when I plan things like squash and pumpkins outside.
Thanks for the clarification, Merissa, and thank you, Tammy for the info about the Keyhole Garden. I actually grew up very close to Clifton, where Dr. Tolman’s garden is. Now, I’m about 3 hrs. southeast, near Houston. I look forward to researching this.
The timing of this post is right on. Even though I only have a partial sun patio, I plan on maximizing the space and growing as much as possible in pot, and I was just perusing some seeds online. I can’t wait for spring!
My husband and I are planning to participate in our local community garden this year and I was wondering how many years seeds are good for (and how to properly store them after we’re done using them this year). Thanks!
I buy from “Heirloomseeds.com” They are on-line only and do not send out a catalog. Thank you for the list of how many plants to put in the ground. I have only done a small garden.
I know I’m one of many, but thank you for the per person plant count. It has greatly simplified my garden plan. I don’t know the exact measurements of my “in-ground” garden, but I know about how many plants I can fit in the rows.
Great information! One question, when you plant broccoli and cauliflower do you stagger each of their planting? I always seem to have all the broccoli and cauliflower ready to harvest at the same time…and although I have a food saver the broccoli is not as crisp as I would like. Hints??
Hmmm, I guess we’ve always done it at the same time but we freeze it to preserve for winter…it depends on your growing season but maybe you could plant one a few weeks after the other?
Is there a planner or guide to give you an idea of how large your garden needs to be for a given number of plants?
The Ball Blue Book has a chart in the back called “garden planning guide” detailing row length and yield per 100 ft row. It is what I use to determine how many rows of each veggie to plant to have enough for canning and freezing. The guide is for a family of 6 but you can adjust it as needed.
I’m wondering why you order new seed every year. You plant heirloom seeds, why don’t you save seed from your crop to plant the next season? Isn’t that the point of growing heirloom (open-pollinated) plants? I save seeds and only order new ones if I want to try a new variety. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange is a good place to shop.
I didn’t actually order last year since we were in the rv and didn’t save from the year before because of that reason so I’m starting over this time 🙁
We got our Baker Creek order in TODAY!!!! We are so excited to get our garden in the ground, if only the weather would cooperate. Come on SPRING!!!
When you plant seeds, do you start them inside? I’ve never really had luck with seeds purchased from the store. I’d love to be able to grow from seeds.
Also, how would you freeze cucumbers,onions and potatoes ,or would you can those…if so how do you keep them to their natural flavor?
Cucumbers don’t freeze well. I’ve frozen mashed potatoes before with ok success but I’ve found those better to can. Onions freeze really well. You can actually just slice them up and freeze, or slice and fry and freeze, depending how they would be most useful to you later.
You can also dry potatoes and onions in a dehydrator. I have done sliced and hashbrowns but when you do onions you need to it outside or in a garage.
Yes, I always start tomatoes and peppers indoors, most other things I plant can be sown directly outside but in my zone the plants that take 70-80 to germination have to be sown indoors.
Great breakdown of the plants per person and very helpful and useful information. Thank you.
Since you live at Piedmont, I’d suggest you make a phone call or write to: Fischer’s Garden Store at Belgrade, MT. They have great seeds that are OP for short growing seasons and high altitudes as well as dry conditions. She’s a wonderful gal and you can get seed potatoes from her too. Try it, you’ll like it. She raises much of her own seed and it’s a family business that belonged to her uncle . They have some unique things like Monatana Green greenbeans, short season tomatoes and oxheart carrots. It’s great to support a small mom and pop business and you won’t be sorry it’s good seed.
Actually I have read several sites on how much to plant per person and I think she is underestimating it a little if you are going for self sufficiency. Yet some of the plants I have planted far less and I still had waste. My tomatoes and zucchini I only plant 6 total and I have more than enough for my family of 4
Great info! I haven’t really thought much of actually preparing for canning. I just imagined myself canning “anything left over”. lol
I love the idea of planning to have enough to can.
I love that you break down how many of each type of plant you need to sustain your family! I’ve never seen that before. I have always just gardened for supplemental produce, but each year I’m trying to replace more & more of our store bought produce with homegrown. I have had really good luck with getting seeds from Seed Savers Exchange. I’ll have to check out some of the other sources mentioned. #turnituptuesday
Great tips! I can’t wait for spring and to get my hands into dirt. Thanks for linking up at Thursday Favorite Things, please visit us again next week!
Great tips! I’m going to pass this along to my dad who is the gardener/canner in the family! Thanks for linking up at the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop! We hope you join us again next week!
Love your list of plants per person. Very helpful and will try planting another garden this year.
Do you ever save your own seeds? I thought that was one of the benefits of buying heirlooms.
I have before! Here are my tips on that: Saving Seeds.
I found out that many libraries are now offering seed exchange programs as well. You can take seeds for your vegetable garden from them and then when your plants head out or “go to seed” you take the seeds back to the library. I thought it was a great win/win program and a cheap way to get seeds.
Love the information! I have used Fedco seeds in the past, saved my own and had wonderful results using seeds, potatoes and onions from Wal-mart. Their tomato and herbs do well also as our growing season is too short to start those from seed.
Thanks for the planting information. Very helpful!
Mary’s Heirloom Seeds is a great source for online seed ordering! No catalog but her prices are amazing!
This will be my first year canning. Excited and nervous at the same time!!!
Great information and I ordered the journal. Can’t wait to get it!!!