Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Frugal Tip- Grow a Garden.

I can't tell you just how much having a garden has saved us. It does have an initial investment, but as long as you keep reusing the materials you purchase that will go down each year that you garden. Starting from seed can become especially cheap if you reuse the containers you use.

In previous years we have been able to use our garden to can pickles (something my children can inhale), supplement our grocery budget, and give gifts to our families (like the delicious zucchini bread we made one year). This year I plan to use a lot of the garden to can (diced tomatoes and other things like sauces), and freeze (diced bell pepper ready to use). It takes some effort and space, but even having a container garden can provide some good food and save a few pennies here and there.

For our garden we started indoors. We wanted to grow from seeds, but since the growing period in our area doesn't start until mid-May, we needed to figure out a way to start the seeds sooner than that so we could transfer them in the spring.

We ended up using an indoor green house to help our garden. It was $60 (which is not usually in our budget) but has been used for 3 years now and is used in the garage for storage in between seasons so we are happy with it. With it we were able to start our plants in February. This meant we spent months with a greenhouse in our living room, since the windows in our garage were not good enough to let in enough sun, but we were able to work around it knowing that in the end it would be worthwhile.


Then the plants got a bit too big to keep the cover on pretty quickly. We planted seeds in the trays that are sold at most stores because it helped us be able to keep track of what we were growing and they were able to fit well on the shelves.


The next step was to transfer the bigger tomatoes into their own pots. This was one benefit to starting so early, because we knew that the plants would become more mature by the time we were able to plant them outside. We hoped to have a faster yielding garden by doing it this way. We opted for these plastic containers because at our local garden shop they were inexpensive and we knew we could reuse them in years to come. Our other option were the pots that could be planted but the bigger ones were expensive and they are one time use so the convenience of being able to plant the entire pot was not enough for us to go that route.


The end result was a pretty, jungle of a garden that is really starting to produce:


So far we have picked over 18 tomatoes, over 36 cherry tomatoes (as big or bigger than ping pong balls), and over 16 bell peppers. Only 4 green beans because we have a rabbit that seems to be favoring those, but I plan on trying some natural remedies to help solve that problem :)

I plan to use this garden the best way possible. We have been using fresh veggies in our meals, even having snack trays with the cherry tomatoes, bell pepper and few green beans rather than buying a salad for a side. I have many tomatoes ready to use and plan to can them so that we will have food longer than this summer since we are finally starting to produce more than we can keep up with.


So whether your garden is large or small, find out what can be grown in our area and use it to help you save money. Be sure to plant things that you will use, or else it will feel like a waste. Also build connections in your area to trade food if you aren't up to preserving it. Having a garden can be more than food, it can become a hobby that you enjoy as well.

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