If this is your first growing season, and even if it is not, gardening may not be a money saver. There, I said it! When I set out to begin my first-ever garden, money-saving was one of the primary benefits I foresaw. Finally getting in the dirt with my minimal knowledge, however, taught me to appreciate an entirely different set of benefits to a home garden. Along the way, I have learned a few money-saving tricks, too, so I will share some of those benefits and hacks here.
First of all, the beginning gardener has a lot of legitimate research to do. If you’ve started this process, you may have a lot of murky information swirling around your Pinterest, er, head. The first thing I learned, is that seed packages or plant tags have all the essential information to actually grow the plant. What I mean is, growing a plant is as easy as planting a seed or seedling in the ground in a sunny spot, and watering it every once in a while. Towards the end of my first harvest season, I went back to teaching and had no time for my garden. I didn’t weed it; I didn’t water it; I didn’t even look at it until on a whim, I went to check for bell peppers. Everything was still growing, even though we had had a couple frosts at that point.
The next spring I was too busy to prep my garden for summer. To my surprise, I had onions, garlic, strawberries, and a few herbs growing back among a mess of weeds. I tell you this to give you hope that all those tips about soil PH, pest removal, planting schedules, spacing, growing conditions, etc…it just helps create and maintain stronger, more proliferate plants. So take heart! If your thumb is rather brown, you can still grow plants that actually produce with basic skills.
Now, onto business. When you grow a garden with your family, you learn together. You learn that in order to produce, you must sow, tend, and care for that which you hope produces. While some plants will survive neglect, no plant will grow that wasn’t actually planted. Your children learn the cause and effect relationship between sowing and reaping.
You also show your children where food comes from. They see that sometimes vegetables are imperfect and covered in dirt. They learn that fruit is sometimes sweetest right off the branch, after a quick wipe-down on your shirt. They learn dirt doesn’t hurt, as they say, if they ever had any doubt. They learn to test before popping a whole hot pepper in their mouths – at least my son learned this. They learn about pulling weeds and hard work. They learn that we need to spend time in the garden several times a week, and sometimes every day to water in a dry spell. They learn to pay attention to details, such as searching for plant-killing pests or diseases. Together, you’ll learn to problem solve and troubleshoot. You’ll even learn to deal with loss and failure because yes, you will need to buy Kale at the grocery store when you lose your crop to caterpillars overnight.
This year, I am experimenting with seed starting with a grow light and all that. But that first year? I planted many more seedlings than I did seeds. The seeds I did plant, I sowed directly into the soil. At first, I chose plants based on what I thought I could save money by planting myself–ie: expensive produce. None of my cauliflower worked out, and we had one small cantaloupe of several vines planted. This season, I am changing up some of the things we use a lot of to include some of the things easiest to grow. As a novice, start with what easy–tomatoes, squash, lettuce, and beans. There are plenty of lists out there! As the growing season progresses, I will type out more tips and lessons learned. For now, I hope to give you a jumping off point to research and set your garden up for this season. Planting in the ground without a greenhouse or hoop covering won’t be until Mother’s Day for our area, so you still have plenty of time.
- Plan what you could use or enjoy in a home garden. Even if you don’t need many vegetables, you can still plant things that are simple, pretty, or both.
- Begin drafting a layout of your garden space and what you will plant.
- If you are going to start your own seeds, do it asap!
- Create a budget for your garden. If it’s your first garden, your spending can easily get out of control. Pre-set the amount you are willing to spend then,
- Create a shopping list of supplies and either seeds or plants. Depending on your budget, you may need to spread your purchases across a few weeks or months.
- And finally, prep your garden grounds, or raised beds. In my garden, it needed to be tilled and we rented a cultivator from Home Depot. If this describes what you need to do, add it to your budget.
Things I practice that you should research:
- companion planting
- successive growing
- organic pest control
A few products I find worth the money, other than the basics.
- Money tip: the most inexpensive seedlings I found were at Ace Hardware. Wide variety and great prices. Burpee is the more reputable plant supplier, and you can get those at Home Depot, Lowe’s, or really anywhere that has a greenhouse tent outside their stores.
- Jiffy Greenhouses
- Inexpensive grow light
- Bamboo Plant stakes
I hope these tips helped inspire and educate! Let me know if you are planning to grow with me this season!