Starting a Garden to Save Money
One of the cornerstones of frugal living is gardening. After all, there are few things that help you save money on food better than growing your own. My husband and I enjoy planting a garden.
We prefer to plant items that are fairly easy to grow in our area, that we know we will eat a lot of, and that cost a little more at the grocery store. We don’t have a lot of time, and we don’t have a ton of space, so we are creative about our garden, and we are choosy about what we grow.
If you are thinking of starting a garden, there are a few things to keep in mind if you want success.
Know Your Space
You want to know your gardening space. This means that you should have an idea of what plants will grow well in your climate. Your local master gardener or nursery owner can help you figure out what will grow best.
You should also know how much space you have for a garden. Rather than take up a good chunk of yard in our suburban neighbourhood, my husband and I built garden boxes along the back and side fences and created an herb garden in a box next to our house. This makes it easier to get to the plants and care for them, and we get the same square footage for growing, while leaving plenty of open space in the yard for play.
If you have never gardened before, it is often a good idea to start small. Choose only a few plants and see how you do with them. Don’t plant too much, either. If you know that you are going to be pressed for time, only plant items that you know you will eat regularly. Grow your garden little by little as you learn the ropes, and as you have a little more time to care for a larger garden.
You can also find better success with some plants if you grow starter plants inside the house, and then transplant them later.
Use Some Sort of Soil Helper
We like to mix steer manure and compost into our garden boxes. Adding something to the soil can help your plants grow better. There are a number of natural and artificial fertilizers as well. (We have found that compost and steer manure work fine, without extra help.)
You will need to turn the soil every year to loosen it up for growing, and this is an ideal time to mix in your soil helper of choice. If you have really poor soil, it might not be a bad idea to buy some top soil to bring in initially. We did this our first year.
Take Care of Your Plants
Making some money with your garden or more than likely, saving some money by growing your own vegetables is the inevitable route you will go down with your vegetable garden.
Now, I don’t even worry about food bills with my money-saving garden.
My favourite money saving plants:
Tomatoes were the first plant I thought about for our new garden. I love them and they consistently are sold at our grocery store for more than £2 a pound, which annoys the snot out of me. A couple of £5 tomato plants have the ability to produce more than 20 tomatoes each throughout the season. Since that sounded about right for my husband and me, we planted two of them in our garden.
Remember when planting tomatoes to space the plants at least 2 feet apart to give them room to grow. Also keep in mind some system to keep away pests. Squirrels or other rodents have been chomping away at my green tomatoes and moth balls are not working for me. I believe we will have to try wire mesh next.
Basil was our next choice since we do use so much of it. Basil plants are also very hardy which is necessary for beginner gardeners like us. Our two plants have grown to be about 2 ½ feet tall in a matter of a couple of months and produce more than enough basil leaves for our marinara sauces and olive oil rubs.
They only cost about £2 each as seedlings and we’ve already saved £5 since we have not needed to buy a new package of dried basil leaves. My next step will be to dry some leaves out for our pantry during the winter.
My husband’s choice for the garden was cilantro. A couple of plants cost us £5 total and he likes adding it to all sorts of things including his rice. He was able to cut some off multiple times, but we did not know that cilantro blooms into coriander if you don’t cut off the buds.
So now we have two huge coriander plants, but we don’t use coriander in our cooking much. Oops. Next year we will know better and will keep the cilantro maintained properly. Thanks to our mild winters, we have a shot at not losing our herbs permanently over December and January.
We bought three chive seedlings for £5 total and have already harvested and used more than £10 worth in 2–months. It goes on baked potatoes, salads, soups, and even has been gifted to others. This will definitely be a plant we keep around in years to come.