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Spreadsheets and preserving

February 1, 2019


This year I'm trying to get more organized to hopefully be able to harvest more and preserve more food for my family. I decided to make a spread sheet with sowing/seed starting dates, days to maturity, and expected harvest dates. I'm also going to try to plan how many plants to plant per person, and then maybe use this list to make goals for myself on specific days.

A little about me... I have a community garden that is about 20 minutes away. I have the summer off because I'm a teacher, but when school starts again I get very busy and don't have as much time to get to the garden. My hope is that I can plan better when things will be ready to pick, and then make it over to the garden to pick/preserve them. Every year I end up loosing a lot of veggies that rot on the plants because I miss the harvest window (especially with tomatoes). Not having the garden in my backyard makes it a lot harder to keep an eye on things.

Usually I can green beans and strawberry jam every year. I'm hoping to preserve the following this year in addition to beans and berries: Potatoes, tomatoes, summer squash, kale, winter squash. I also want to make some baby food because we are expecting a baby in August. :)

I've included a link to my plating schedule spreadsheet - I would love to hear how others have used spreadsheets, pitfalls, suggestions to make mine better, as well as just any advice you would have to help preserve more food (it takes a lot of time!!)

Thanks so much,

Planting Schedule (still have some empty spaces to fill in)

Also, here is the calculator that I used that might be helpful when calculating harvest dates https://www.vitegreenhouses.com/HarvestDateCalculator.asp


zone 6

Comments (10)

  • floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

    You might get more responses to this on the Vegetable Forum since it's more about growing than preserving. As for days to harvest, that depends on your location and the weather. Any table is only a very rough estimate.

  • annie1992

    Steve, I can't help you on the planting schedule, but I always try to keep some kind of record of what I "need" to preserve to last until next year. After I do that much, I decide how much extra time I have to preserve anything that I have a bumper crop of. I canned somewhere over 700 jars this year, last year I topped 1,000 but I made a LOT of pickles, which we will not use before they lose quality, so that was a waste of time and ingredients, I think.

    At the most basic, try to determine how much of each item will be used by the entire family annually. I know Grandma would start by figuring that there were six of us, so if she had green beans she'd need a quart. Making chili once a week in the winter? If you want to do that for six months, and you need 2 quarts per batch, then you'll need at least 48 quarts of tomatoes just for that purpose.

    When I was working I used to take vacation days to can, or I'd can late at night, after work and after the kids were asleep. My garden was 18 miles away, on the farm, so whatever I picked on Sunday would be canned during the week or frozen for later consumption or processing. A new baby is going to take a LOT of time, so you might have to factor that into your plans too...

    So, are you going to can potatoes? Dehydrate them? Do you have a root cellar? Will the kale be canned or kale chips or frozen? What kind of baby food are you considering, and do you want to can it in small 4 ounce jars or freeze it in usable portions?

    Yes, lots of questions, but those are all considerations before you start.

    Good luck, congratulations on the new family member, and Happy Canning.


    Scott thanked annie1992
  • beesneeds

    Quite the grow list :) Taters are more root cellar for me. Winter squash too. Though I do like to freeze up some pulp or make the occasional batch of squash flour. But overall, maybe looking at a week or two for digging/picking, and curing before going into storage depends on the taters and squash.

    Cut your tomato list back a bit. Especially if the baby is due in August. At a quick glance a bunch of them start producing, and keep on doing it along with a handful that will more dump and done... by the end of August you will be drowning in tomatoes and baby. And also, consider dehydrating some tomatoes. Sliced is nice, some of them stand up to a smoking before drying. You can grind it up into tomato powder too. If you got the freezer space for it, bag them up whole for later use. Overall, decent to heavy processing from mid till the end of July, into heavy through August through September sometime. Then sometime in September till whenever cold comes to you and kills them off a dwindling yield.

    You can also dehydrate peppers. Sweet or hot, smoked or not. They also work great for small batch canning, like if you only have 3-4pints to process up. Harvest window can be for several weeks.

    spinach, and herbs for the freezer. Herbs can be frozen alone or in pesos and compound butters, some can be dried nicer than others. Harvest windows can depend on the weather.

    Kale can overwinter outside amazingly well and freeze nice. Dries up great. This one can have months of harvest if treated right.

    carrots and radishes pickle up well and can root cellar well. Radish greens and carrots dry nicely. typically you get a week or two of good picking if you sow all at once. You can stretch it out with sowing out a couple times. Some carrots and radishes ( look for winter instead of spring radish) can be left in the ground during winter- so long as you box in the bed to leave it warm enough to dig up during winter.

    Cukes and summer squash can be fresh, pickled, or dried. I like a couple dried cuke slices in my water, or some squash broken up and tossed into a veggie soup in the last few minutes to rehydrate. Not familiar with the harvest window on the cukes, but your Zukes will keep putting out as fast as you can harvest till either frost or squash bugs kill it.

    Scott thanked beesneeds
  • Scott

    Hello Annie,

    I don't have a dehydrator, but i'd like to purchase one. Any suggestions on brand model to look for? I'd like to buy a nice used one. I was planning on trying to dehydrate kale, summer squash, and tomatoes. Also, I read that some herbs are best dehydrated.

    For potatoes, I have a basement. I was going to try to do two batches? Although, I've never done that before. Usually I just eat them fresh until I run out. I was going to try to do more this year to see if I can get some to keep longer in the basement. It is not a root cellar and doesn't get very cold. I was also planning on making some shredded potatoes for hash browns and freezing them.

    Also, we will have an extra refrigerator next year (we are moving now and we decided to keep our current old refrigerator as an extra one in the basement. I can use it to store some veggies in it.

    I like the idea about freezing tomatoes until I get enough. I've never thought of that! I usually don't have enough at a time to do a full batch, and didn't want to spend the time and electricity to can a small batch. I think this will help a lot!

    Back to the dehydrator - I don't have experience using dehydrated ingredients while cooking... Is the texture decent. I think that in a soup it would be pretty close to the real thing. Is that correct? I like the idea of kale chips.

    Baby food- I have a Omega Juicer that has a function that can make purees, however, i've never used it for this purpose. I was going to try butternut squash for that purpose. They might last long enough for me to use them for baby food? Maybe if I freeze some first and then later process them?

    Another community gardener friend of mine does TONS of sweet potatoes. Maybe I could trade him some veggies for a few sweet potatoes. I think those would be good for baby food also.

    Wow- 700 jars! That's a lot of time! I would love to get 50 quarts of tomatoes. Any good calculators about how many plants to have?


  • Scott


    Thanks for the comment! I forgot to mention that I'm not going to grow ALL of the things on the list. First, i don't have space for it all, and second time. I am using it as a master list for me that I can refer to in future years as well. I was planning on planting about 30 tomato plants. I just need to decide which varieties would be best for my purposes. My thoughts were to stick with about 3-4 varieties at my community garden that are good for processing, and then do about 5 tomatoes in 15 gallon grow bags at my house for fresh eating and cherry tomato dehydrating. I have two other kids who LOVE tomatoes and help me pick them.

    Any suggestions about good varieties for canning would be great. I'm trying a lot of new varieties this year for canning purposes, so If anyone has some great ones that work well in zone 6 Ohio I would love suggestions.

    Community Garden

    Amish Paste (new for me)

    San Marzano II (new for me)

    Stupice (new)

    Italian Heirloom ( has done very good for me, and produces all season)

    Juliet ( new)

    Defiant PhR (new)

    Fresh tomatoes at Home:

    Black cherry (love)

    Blush (love)

    Sun Gold (new... and excited to try it)

    Dwarfs (going to try a few this year mainly to see how they work and save seeds)

    As you can see, I have a lot of new tomatoes that I wanted to use for canning/freezing/dehydrating. I'm a little nervous about how they will perform and having all of my "eggs" in one basket. If I had 6 tomatoes of a certain variety that all ripened at the same time, would that make enough to can? Or do I need more like 10 of on kind ( such as 10 San Marzano, and 10 Amish Paste)

    P.S. We have a HUGE cucumber beetle issue around my area. Any organic suggestions? I usually trellis my cucumbers, but I was considering doing them on the ground with a row cover until they flower, but even then I'm not sure that will work because the beetles will show up overnight (or sooner). Also, I'm assuming I'd need to lay down a bunch of straw/mulch so the fruit don't sit on the soil directly.


  • Scott

    Also, any suggestions for pepper varieties? I like thick walled sweet pepper for fresh eating and I am curious how they will dehydrate. I also plan on doing a couple jalapenos. I would like to have about 8 pints of salsa for the year.

  • floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

    Re baby food. If it's due in August you won't be weaning much before next March and you'll need very little baby gloop until a few months later. By which time your baby would be eating fresh stuff. Maybe put off making the baby stuff until next season?

  • Scott

    Good idea. I didn’t make any homemade baby food with my other two kids, but I wanted to try this time. next year is a good idea

  • annie1992

    Scott, I have an Excaliber and I love it, but it's a pretty expensive option and I seldom see one second hand. I like the fact that it's pretty much a square box and so I can make a gallon of yogurt at a time, put it into quart canning jars and let it "cook" in the Excaliber. My first dehydrator was a Harvest Maid and it worked just fine for years, at a much smaller investment. My stepson has a second hand Nesco that is round and it works for his purposes, but he can't make yogurt. Not that he wants to, LOL.

    I always grow two types of potates. I plant them at the same time, but plant an early potato and a late potato. Last year the early potato was Red Norland and the late potato was Kennebec. I still have some Kennebec's in my cold storage, along with a lot of butternut squash, so if you have a cool place at all, they can last for several months.

    I didn't care for the dehydrated kale but my daughters like it to add to smoothies and I've used it in meatloaf to add some extra nutrition. I've been unsuccessful at drying tomatoes enough to make tomato powder. I did dry a lot of zucchini and they are good in soup, also not bad for crunching instead of chips because I sprinkled some with salt and pepper before dehydrating.

    Peppers? I had really good luck with Ajvarski last year but usually a bell type pepper does better here in our short growing season.

    Happy Canning!


  • defrost49

    I found Buran bell pepper from Pinetree Seeds to be very large and very productive. I'm in NH but usually have plenty of peppers that ripen red so I can roast them and then store in the freezer. Love my Excalibur dehydrator but I'm not using it enough. I recently got a cookbook about dehydrating which offers more recipes on how to use dried food. For example, I buy utility grade apples at the orchard and near the end of the season they had a sale of buy one half bushel bag, get one free. I chose cooking apple varieties. Canned some but dehydrated more. Small pieces to put in oatmeal. Shredded to use in other recipes. Our potatoes and winter squash have been storing fine in the garage that is probably around 55 degrees (semi heated).

    Study up on which varieties grow best in summer and which grow better in cooler weather and are probably better for storage. I'm thinking root vegetables, leeks and cabbages can hold in the garden but perhaps you won't have time to harvest with a new baby and going back to work.

    I don't like to dehydrate tomatoes all the way to the crispy stage so I cut paste tomatoes either in half (Vilms is a small paste type) or quarters. Seed. Dry until raisin like. Pack in sandwich bags and then into a large freezer bag. Peppers can get cut into slices and frozen without blanching. Very easy.

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