Excess From Your Garden

Bill and I lived in apartments for the first 14 years of our marriage.  One of things we talked about a lot was how nice it would be to have a yard in which to grow things.

When we finally had the ground and started gardening it was to put food in our bellies rather than just for the joy of seeing things grow.

If your garden is first and foremost for sustenance, you tend to look at things and do things differently than gardeners who do it just because they enjoy it.

An Extreme (I hope) but True Example:

A neighbor has a beautiful little garden patch about 15′ x 15′. (not organic)  He planted romaine lettuce seedlings which are now 5 big heads almost ready to stalk.  They have yet to eat the first piece of lettuce.

A couple of dozen onions are at one end.  Several have beautiful flower heads.  They have yet to eat an onion.

His wife told me they tried to keep the onions in the refrigerator one year but they smelled so bad they threw them away.  They just didn’t know what to do with them. (How sad.  And he’s a country boy.)

The little garden is made complete with two robust looking rows of potatoes and two of tomatoes.  They’ll eat some of these for sure, but he doesn’t know what they’ll do with the abundance.

Somewhere in Between

It’s my guess that most people who garden are somewhere between my way — which utilizes everything in my garden and my neighbor’s way — which doesn’t make use of much, if anything at all.

A lot of folks I know garden.  They enjoy what they eat out of their garden, but it’s no big deal if it doesn’t produce. They just as soon buy at the grocery store.

In order to be happy with buying out of the grocery store, folks either don’t know what happens to mass produced food before it reaches them, or for one reason or the other they’ve just shut their eyes to it. Otherwise, they’d be thinking twice about buying it.

Giving it Away

Because of these different reasons behind gardening, there’s a lot of excess that folks don’t know what to do with. So, produce is given away by well meaning gardeners. This is especially true when it comes to summer squash.

In the vast majority of cases the receivers don’t want it any more than the gardener did.  And when you think about, why would someone want something from our garden that we don’t want?

I think I know what two of your answers might be:  “Because they’re hungry or because they don’t have anything.”  Unfortunately, no matter how hungry the vast majority might be in this day and age, it’s not squash they’re hungry for.  But rather a McDonald’s burger or a steak.

Many in today’s age know nothing of fresh wholesome vegetables and how to cook them. I’ve read news reports of people receiving  canned vegetables as part of a “fight hunger” program.  When they moved years later, the canned vegetables remained in the cabinets.  It then became clear: what was given was not part of their diet and they wouldn’t eat it.

Dealing with Excess Produce

One of the most beneficial ways to deal with excess in your garden is to turn it into the soil and let it give you some of the valued organic matter that’s hard to get enough of.  It’s one way to help insure next years crops will be bountiful. And not one bit will be wasted!

Final Thought

Unless you absolutely know for sure that someone wants what you’re offering, resist the urge to give your excess.  Most likely you’ll come out way ahead if you dig it in.


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  • Wow that’s a really interesting take on this. You’re right, but I never realized that turning it under was a good solution, awesome! 🙂

  • Hi Alicia,

    I think sometimes all of us overlook the obvious.

    Turning it under is a solution that is of great benefit.

    Thanks for letting me know your thoughts.


  • Theresa,
    What an interesting article. It took me by surprise because I was expecting the typical “be nice and give away your excess to those poor people who don’t have gardens….” But you are much wiser than that.

    The sad fact is, most people don’t have gardens because they don’t want them. And trying to push your excess onto them is like saying, “I know what’s best for you.” It’s insulting, and it’s psychological codependency.

    I know my neighbors well enough to know which ones actually appreciate the excess from my garden, like the working women who wish they had a garden, but don’t have time for it, or the people who just moved in, so their fruit trees aren’t as mature as ours.

    Most of our excess is eaten by the chickens, which saves money on chicken feed. Sometimes we take produce to the local homeless shelter. It’s a good idea to call first to see if they want it. My mom is involved in the Farmer’s Market, so I sometimes send extra produce with her. The compost pile gets what’s left.

  • Hi Diane,

    I sure appreciated your comment and think it adds a lot to this post.

    How great that you are able to share some of your produce with others who DO want it!

    Regarding your surprise because you were expecting the typical ———:
    I hope you will come to NEVER expect the typical on TMG. I try to shed a different light on things than what is typically out there. Glad I succeeded on this post. I will continue to strive to give information that is right-on, but not necessarily what you see every where else.

    Thanks again for such a meaningful comment.


  • That’s why I keep reading. It’s not typical. It’s wonderfully refreshing!

  • I, too, thought that you would be telling us of how you share your excess. And, yes, you’re right that a lot of people really don’t want the homegrown stuff.

    I have a small garden, and am increasing the size of it each year just a wee bit. Full time job, at least one day a week caregiving of parents as well as church activities tend to keep me very busy. Not much time for gardening like I’d want to do. My goal is to become less dependent upon the grocery stores–and to be a blessing.

    My excess goes to ME! First I try to bless my pastor and his wife. Seems to me that we need to honor God’s man and his family. There is also a missionary and family nearby who isn’t overseas, but rather is a missionary to the prisons. They’ve lost a lot of support during this tough economic time we’re in. I like to share with them, too. Then I usually take produce to my folks’s house. My grown children get some, and so do some of my friends. And I choose those friends carefully, because some don’t really want the stuff. Lastly, I try to can or freeze some of my harvest for myself. Of course, I do eat some of the fresh produce while I’m sharing with others. But my canning and preserving seems to be one of the lower priorities.

    J-esus, then
    O-thers, then

    What a wonderful way to spell JOY! A kids Sunday School song, but still a nice little ditty that I use to remind me to put others ahead of me.

    Happy Gardening!

  • That is a great idea and it totally surprised me as well.

    I live in an apt complex, we have 8 garden plots of which I’ve been fortunate to have been chosen for plot, the last 2 years. Last year I ended up with 2 extra plots due to people walking away from their plots as it was too much work for 1 and the other hurt their back.

    I donated the bulk of those 2 plots to my local food pantry. The hard part is the fact that there’s no quarantee each year so there are many things I don’t even bother growing.

    I love your blog, it’s very readable, clear. Thank you.

  • Hi Anniegi,

    One question: When you said “there’s no quarantee each year” did you mean in being able to get a garden plot? I just want to make sure I am understanding correctly.

    I hope you will always be able to get a plot. If anything were to happen that you didn’t get one, do you have a balcony that you could grow things in pots?

    What things are you able to grow in the plots? How big are the plots?

    Sure glad you love TMG. I’m always trying to make it better and more useful. I appreciate the feedback very much.

    All my best,

  • Dear Virginia,

    Congratulations on all you are accomplishing! I think you are one who is a perfect example of the fact that gardening is not impossible even with a full schedule —–if —-you really want to do it.

    Happy Gardening to you too, Virginia!


  • Theresa,
    I should have said there are 400+ apts in my complex so they have a lottery. I don’t know how many people put their names in, (I lived here since 1989 and have only had a plot 5 times) so I feel fortunate to have been picked for a spot 2 years in a row.

    I have done tomatoes, peppers, & herbs as well as flowers on my patio for years. The veggies were challenging as I only receive direct sun in the late afternoon but I set my big pots on wheels & would move them into the light.

    Our plots are 12×8 & I’m lucky as the plot I have receives terrific light & the soil’s really rich as compared to some of the other plots. I’ve managed to plant 16 plum & cherry tomatoes plants, 3 peppers, green beans, a couple of squash plants, pickling cukes, peas, carrots, & herbs & some marigolds for good measure. If it goes 1/2 as well as last year I should have (hopefully) another bumper crop! Thank you for your response and again for your blog. Very informative.

  • What an inspiration you are Anniegi! I think it’s wonderful what you’ve done on your patio for years. How I wish you could have one of the plots every year.

    Sounds like you’ve got some great stuff planted. Bet you can hardly wait to start eating the harvest. Let me know how things go.

    Thanks for all the details of what you have to do to garden. It was great.


  • I enjoy your garden blog. I wanted to add that when you have extra vegetables, if there are any older people nearby who may be living on a tight budget, they will know how to cook the vegetables and usually be very grateful. I have several elderly neighbors who are unable to garden and they are happy when I bring them a sack of my extras. I believe they use them from the way they smile and are so happy to get them.

  • Hi Theresa,

    Last year my sister fell and broke her wrist and dislocated her shoulder. I picked her up at the hospital and stayed with her several weeks, smack-dab in the middle of harvest season!

    I try to drink a fresh fruit and greens shake every day made in my blender to improve my health.

    My husband didn’t know what to do with all of the excess cucumbers from the garden, so he quartered them lengthwise and froze them in small food-saver bags.

    When I came home I would open a bag and use 1/2 cucumber in my shake, still frozen, for a wonderfully chilled shake. I would stick the other 1/2 back in the freezer for my shake the next day.

    It was a perfect solution for my need of cucumbers and our desire to use everything that grew in our garden.

    Thanks for sharing,

  • Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this with me Betty!
    I absolutely love cucumbers and will NOT touch store-boughts — so that leaves a small window to enjoy cucumbers.
    I just never thought about using them frozen for chilled shakes. It’s a great idea.
    We eat 3 a day during the season, but when I get excess I’m going to freeze some and use them for shakes.
    Thanks so much.

  • You are so welcome. As much as you’ve helped me, I’m so glad I can help you.


  • Thank you for this post Theresa!
    I was somewhat concerned that I was being a little selfish and cynical by keeping all of my produce. I only give what people explicitly ask for because I am cynical enough to know most people do not use it, and often think it is not as good as what is in the store! I grow all of my produce from seed and value every single thing that comes out of my garden. I just couldn’t bare it if someone dumped it in the trash.
    I was also feeling a little bit selfish and guilty by turning any leftovers into the soil. Thinking to myself maybe someone could really use this. I love that leftover produce turns my soil into black gold.
    So, I really want to thank you so much for validating my actions and feelings. Love to you

  • I am so glad this post validated your actions and feeling Tony.

    I treasure and value my produce so very much and like you, I can’t stand the thoughts of someone dumping it in the trash. (And I’ve seen that happen many times.)

    One time, years ago, I shared my treasured tomatoes in November. I found out that the man and his wife had no idea how to keep them (although I had told them) and they told someone else how they used these tomatoes for target practice! Good lesson for me.

    Produce takes a lot from your soil and it’s nice to be able to put some back and have that black gold!

    Love to you too Toni!

  • Hello Theresa,
    The other day I was so surprised to see my “abundance”. I was able to pick a whole bowl of green beans. I got to my plot, and my bush beans were so loaded the plant was almost sideways. I was THRILLED. I A few raw, and boy how delicious it was.
    It seems I have planted just enough somehow. I love green beans. I might have to give some of my tomatoes away, but I already have a few people tell me they would like some tomatoes, and a zucchini please.
    I am enjoying my garden more than I thought I would.
    I remember what you told me a couple of months ago about turning things back into the dirt, which I did with a bean plant this evening.
    Thank you for your post, it is always an interesting topic.

  • Hey Susan!
    How exciting your report is!

    It’s wonderful that you are enjoying your garden even more than anticipated.

    I am so happy for you and visualized your excitement when seeing those beautiful green beans! Nothing like fresh from the garden!

    Here it is your first garden and you already have enough of some things to give away!

    Keep me updated Susan. I love sharing your joy!

  • Thanks Theresa for your words of encouragement. Getting to share my garden with someone who “gets it” is so nice.
    I don’t get to my garden as often as I would like but when I went back a couple of days after discovering all of my green beans, I had more ! On different plants and picked them and as a surprise brought them to a friend who lives nearby.
    I wrapped them up and put them between her outside door and screen door.
    She was so happy to have them. She called to tell me they were so sweet.

    Again thank you for sharing my joy.

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