My husband cringes when I start making noises about preserving food for the winter.
''Wouldn't it be easier to just go to the store and buy a can of corn?'' he asks.
And yes, it would. But his biggest argument isn't about my inconvenience. His concern is the expense.
I suppose when you add up the cost of all the supplies, seeds, compost (if it isn't homemade), fertilizer, and all the canning supplies needed to put away bounteous amounts of food, the costs can add up. Fortunately, most of those supplies only need to be purchased once, with seeds, compost and fertilizer being the only things you need to purchase every year and compost is relative. Of course, this doesn't include labor, and although my time is worth something, I don't count it when I'm doing something I enjoy.
Personally, I have never added up the costs. In my basement, being stored for when they are needed, are two pressure canners, enamel canning pots of various sizes, sieves and food mills, miscellaneous accessories and an impossible to count number of canning jars. If you are looking for canning jars, check out area yard sales and auctions where they are nearly always found in great numbers and are quite inexpensive. Even if you have to buy them new, however, once purchased, they can be reused for several years, sans seals, which can safely only be used once.
If you prefer to freeze your food, you will, of course, need to invest in a freezer, which uses electricity. Not to mention freezer containers or plastic storage bags. These are not as easily reusable as canning jars.
It doesn't have to cost a fortune to plant a few vegetables and put them way for leaner times. Leaner times lately is a description for all the time as evidenced by the headlines and news reports of record job losses combined with rising food costs.
Perhaps it is a sign of recent times that has blurred the line between the flower and vegetable gardens. Gardeners, even those with little space, are realizing that their flowers will look just as lovely with a few 'Purple Ruffles' basil plants mixed among the petunias or scarlet runner beans sharing a trellis with spring blooming clematis. Vegetable plants are, after all, just as lovely as all those perennials we've spent hundreds of dollars on to brighten up our landscape. We might as well get something useful from our space as well.
The idea of mixing vegetables with flowers isn't new to this economy. My grandparents, who raised their children in a small town in Pennsylvania, did exactly the opposite and regularly planted flowers among their vegetables. Nearly 60 years ago, they managed to escape the on-again, off-again life of living in a mining town where accidents, strikes and mine closings left them sometimes months without any income, to the industrial boom of the Mahoning Valley. Even the move to the more prosperous life-style local industry offered in those days, my grandparents never put aside their frugal ways of planting and preserving vegetables for winter.
There was no elaborate flower garden with winding walkways and expensive fountains and yard art. The beauty of my grandmother's garden came from pass-along plants she had either brought with her from her former home or exchanged with neighbors, friends and other family members. Hollyhocks climbed up her porch trellis, reseeding each year and blooming in shades of pink, lavender and white. She dug ferns from the woods behind her house and planted them under the eaves where they were adequately shaded from the heat of summer.
Occasionally, while perusing the current year's catalog to decide what would feed their family that season, the seed budget might have a bit of wiggle room for a new rose bush or a few gladiolus bulbs.
Today it makes sense that even though we do have the elaborate gardens with winding paths and garden art, we should allow a bit of space among the Heuchera (coral bells) and the Coreopsis to place a cherry tomato or perhaps a few jalepeno plants.
Just think of the money you'll save by growing your own.
Evanoff is a Master Gardener with The Ohio State University Extension of Trumbull County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.