Gardening and 4H fun

Thursday, March 12, 2020

It’s that time of the year to begin thinking about your summer gardening! And while that is difficult, given we still have snow on the ground, this is about the time gardeners start purchasing (or thinking) of purchasing seeds. Another item to consider is which items will you want to plant?

What do you plan to do with your produce? Safely preserving foods at home by canning, drying or freezing requires using processing methods that not only preserve food, but also destroy bacteria and molds that cause foodborne illnesses.

Learning safe food preservation techniques is important, to protect yourself and others from dangerous food borne illnesses. Here at the extension office, we can provide you with the safest recipes that have been researched and tested by the USDA and Extension services. Freezing has many advantages. It is a convenient method for preserving foods at home, foods maintain their nutritional value and keep their flavor if done properly.

Drying is one of the oldest methods and is very simple and easy to learn. Making safe dry foods is especially important and requires cleanliness every step of the way.

Protecting from airborne spoilers. Canning is another great food preservation technique but requires a bit more involvement. First thing to consider is what is your altitude? At higher altitudes home-canned foods must be processed for longer time or at a higher pressure.

Secondly, is the food you are canning a high-acid or low-acid food? If you are canning a low-acid food, using a pressure canner is the only way to reach a temperature high enough to protect food from spoilage and diseasecausing bacteria. If the food is high acid, you can use a pressure, or water bath canner.

For more information on canning, freezing or drying please stop by the Extension office, we have all the resources and recipes to guide you on your food preservation journey. In thinking about gardening and food preservation the Extension office also coordinates the local community garden plots over by Granite Peak Park. If you are interested in purchasing a plot this summer, please contact us.

Starting in March on Thursday evenings, we are offering a 9-week Master Gardener course with 2 hour sessions. The cost is $75 to cover the Master Gardener Handbook with materials and handouts. Topics covered include: Intro to Soils, Nutrients, and Fertility; Perennials and Biennials; Lawn Irrigation; Tree, Shrubs, and Vines; Small Fruit and Fruit Trees; Composting; Intro to Pest Management (IPM); followed later in the summer by Garden Cooking and Preservation. Class size is limited, so sign up early. To register call the Stillwater County Extension Office at 322-8035 or by emailing Lee Schmelzer at lees@montana.edu.

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