Raising a garden has many benefits. Not only do you experience the fresh air and peaceful time outdoors, you enjoy fresh, healthy, tasty food right from your own backyard. It’s great for kids too – it’s fun to learn how plants grow, where food comes from, and best of all, they can dig in the dirt. 🙂
Raising a garden can save you money too. At our house, we raise enough fruit and veggies to eat during the warmer months and we freeze and can some for later. We’re still enjoying salsa we made last July – and it’s February!
Though growing some of your own food can save you money, gardening can also cost money. If you aren’t careful, you can end up spending just as much (or more) on gardening supplies as you would buying at the local farmer’s market. But, it is possible to have a garden without breaking the bank. Here are a few of the major ways I save on gardening.
5 ways I save on gardening
1. Start plants from seed or bare root
I haven’t purchased a single seedling from the nursery in two years. Planting from seed (or bare root for fruit plants) and raising my own seedlings to transplant into the garden is where I realize the most savings.
Take tomatoes for example. I can purchase a decent sized tomato plant in May at the local garden center for $3.98. If I purchase 10 plants, my total cost is $39.80. On the other hand, I can purchase a packet of tomato seeds (around 30 seeds) for $1.69.* Savings? $38.11. And that’s just for tomatoes, that doesn’t include the savings on other plants.
I start my plants in my sunroom at the beginning of March (I’m in Zone 4). The seedlings grow in an extra large, wire dog kennel with two shelves in it and a grow light on top. Why? I have two cats. I learned the hard way that cats love pepper seedlings.
*I also use seeds from last year. When I don’t use all the seeds in a packet, I put them in a sealed container in the fridge. The seeds are generally fine for use the next year.
I’m still trying to perfect my mulching method. Two years ago, I used straw – which only lasted about a month before the weeds started to sprout. Apparently, I didn’t get very clean straw, so it just caused more problems.
Then I used an organic compost/mulch that I loved, but I haven’t ever found it again. It had just enough larger pieces to keep the weeds down, but it was fine enough to break down well and add nutrients to the soil.
Last year, I used grass clippings from the lawn. Since we don’t put chemicals on our lawn, there is no harm in using the grass clippings in the vegetable garden. This worked really well – and it’s free! Not only did it keep the weeds down, it kept the soil moist so we didn’t have to water as often. Win-win.
3. Plant varieties I know we will eat
I learned this lesson the hard way. We don’t like kohlrabi and we don’t need 6 different varieties of kale. Last year, I planted more of our favorites and less of the things we don’t eat as often to keep waste down.
4. Plant twice (and succession planting)
You don’t have to plant once in the spring and be done with it. Several vegetable plants mature within 60 days – if you rotate crops and plan ahead, you can get two rounds of some types of vegetables each season.
There is rarely an empty space in my garden. For example, once I harvest the green beans at the end of June, I plant carrots for fall. And once the peas are done, I plant pole green beans in their place.
I’ve also used succession planting. Succession planting just means spreading out planting times (by a week or so), so you don’t have to harvest all of one crop at once. For example, if you want the green bean harvest to be spread out, plant a few seeds, then plant a few more in a week, and so on. This is a great way to make sure you eat your harvest, particularly if you don’t want to freeze or can the extra.
5. Plant fruit trees and bushes
We have a miniature “orchard” we planted when we moved to our house three years ago. Though we haven’t harvested anything yet, in another year, we will have apples and pears. We also planted bare root blueberry bushes in the landscaping around the house. They are beautiful in the fall and are each supposed to produce 5 pounds of fruit at maturity.
Although there is some upfront cost with the trees and bushes, they’ll keep producing year after year. We have less than $200 in our trees and bushes, but they will more than pay for themselves in the years ahead.
How could I do better?
Our water bill is extraordinarily high. We are on rural water and to say it’s expensive is an understatement. I don’t water the garden every day but, when it’s hot and dry, our water bill reflects it.
We’ve discussed a rain barrel system, as that would save us on our water costs, but since our garden is so far away from the house, we’d have to rig a system for getting the water out there. After doing some back of the napkin figures, the rain barrel system would take a few years to pay off. For now, it’s on the back burner.
While I do compost some plants/food scraps directly into the garden, I don’t have a bin set up specifically for this purpose. This is definitely something I need to work on, as it would provide great fertilizer and mulch for the garden. (If your interested in starting your own compost, check out this great article!)
Do you garden? How do you save money?
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