Thursday, June 17, 2010

Healthy & Homegrown: Gardening

"Hey Cheapo, how can I afford healthy, organic produce for my family on a $50 weekly grocery budget?"

Simple. Grow it yourself!

I'm serious! It doesn't take much room and isn't difficult at all. If you think you need a farm, 100 acres, a tractor and a few cows in order to have a garden, think again.

See, we have this small spot in our backyard. For the past few years, it has been more of a decorative type space...well...the weeds started taking over a bit so I'm not sure it was REALLY decorative anymore, but anyway. This year, we decided it needed to be used in a more practical, economical way. We should have done this WAY before now, but for the past four summers, I have managed to hurt myself in some shape or form (remember the cankle?) This season, I am taking NO chances. With a goal in mind, we pulled ivy, removed pine trees and even dug out an old, stubborn tree stump that was right in the middle of it all (we didn't have the heart to take out the rose bush or the lilies - though we will transplant those this fall.)

Next, we turned in a few bags of organic composted manure and we were ready to plant (this is only about $2 per bag.) Oh how nice is the dirt! So dark black and rich - filled with earthworms - what a good sign! (here in the Midwest, we can talk dirt all day long - about how you can "Throw your hat down and grow it!")

We ended up planting: 2 green peppers, 1 hot banana pepper, 2 jalapenos, 1 Early Girl tomato, 1 Better Boy tomato, 1 cherry tomato, 2 yellow pear tomatoes and 1 German Queen (which are tomatoes that grow bigger than baseballs.) Around the edges are 17 Buttercrunch lettuce plants and there in a pot stands the Basil. When the planting was finished, we did cover the area with a chunky mulch to help in reducing the weeds and for retaining moisture.

Finally, here it is. I took these pictures on May 27th.

Nineteen days later, on June 15th, I took this picture. Can you believe the difference? Talk about short term goal satisfaction, holy cow! It's like a jungle out there.

The hot banana peppers have gone from this...


And...I started counting the buds and there are over 30 of them on this plant alone! One plant...we may end up with over 50 peppers by the time it's done.

Even with the small area of land we have here in town, I know others have even less. Whether you live in a house, duplex or apartment, you most likely have an area to keep plant containers, right?

After our garden was planted and we stood and stared at it for a bit (like it was going to grow right before our eyes), we decided we needed something else to mess with. So, we pulled out some decorative containers and planted some onion and mesculin leaf lettuce seeds (which is just a mix of tender greens.) Around the corner, I have a huge container FULL of chives. I *heart* them. I started that container about 6 or 7 years ago. I never have to do anything to it except harvest the herb. It just keeps coming back on it's own every year. Plants that require no attention, how I love thee.

You can also plant peppers or tomatoes in the containers as well. Just make sure the container is big enough to support the plant as it grows, start with good dirt and keep it watered.

Even with only a few plants in our garden, my little family of three is going to have WAY more produce than we can ever eat. We plan on making salsa and canning peppers and tomatoes to use over the winter. Also, we find so much joy in being able to give to other people: family, friends or food programs!

How is keeping a garden a frugal effort? Yes, starting this garden cost us somewhere in the range of $100, but we will greatly profit in produce. Expense could have been lowered by buying smaller plants or starting them from seed, but we chose to purchase bigger plants that were marked down on clearance. Even with paying $3.98 for a pepper plant, each pepper is only costing around seven cents.

Next year, our expenses should be even lower. Reasons?
  • We will already have the tomato cages from this year.
  • We are starting a compost pile with our yard and produce scraps - will eliminate the need for manure. (or, if you know someone with a farm, ask them for some old, composted horse or cow doo-doo.)
  • Now that our garden area is prepared, we can plant "on time", eliminating the need to buy more established plants.
So, have you decided to grow veggies of your own now? Grab some seeds and dirt...and get planting!

OH! And don't forget about the little ones - did you know that when children take part in growing their own food, they are more apt to eat healthy vegetables? Get yours involved today!

**Something we removed the ivy from the garden area, we found this mortared into the stonework...what's it's story?**

Also linked to Coupon Teacher's Thrifty Thursday.


Tanya said...

Wow, what an impressive difference! Good dirt really does give the necessary boost. I wish my garden looked as good as yours. :)

Coupon Teacher said...

That is amazing. Your garden actually looks pretty. Mine is a mess!

Paula said...

I love your blog! I signed up to be a new follower.