Growing your own vegetables at home seems, on the surface, like a great way to save money. You’ll spend less at the grocery store and get healthful, tasty vegetables in return. As any gardener will tell you, however, a vegetable garden can quickly become a huge expense. Make the wrong choices, and those tomatoes you’re growing could cost a lot more than the tomatoes you’re avoiding at the store.
These 10 tips can help you lower your costs and make sure you’re truly making a good investment by growing your own food.
- Buy seeds. Seedlings can cost up to $3 per plant, where a package of seeds could cost you less than $1 and could yield many, many plants. Start your seeds in recycled egg cartons or clean milk containers to cut down yet more on your startup costs.
- Choose disease-resistant varieties. Many seed manufacturers have developed plants that are resistant to bugs, mildew and mold. These varieties could save you a lot of money, as you won’t have to buy pesticide sprays.
- Make your own compost. Skip the high cost of mulch and make your own by recycling your lawn clippings, kitchen scraps, leaves and other throwaway materials. Your plants will love the nutrients, and you might spend less with the trash company.
- Test your soil before adding fertilizers. Most seed manufacturers suggest that you add fertilizer to the soil before planting. Test your soil with an inexpensive kit from your garden center before you apply fertilizer. You may find your soil doesn’t need any amendments at all.
- Water your plants in the morning. Plants with wet leaves when the sun goes down become plants with mold problems, so evening watering is a bad idea. Similarly, watering your plants in the middle of the day means losing a lot of water to evaporation.
- Recycle water whenever you can. Collect water from your downspouts. Scoop up water from the kitchen sink, as long as it doesn’t have too much soap. Every time you can reuse water, you’re saving money on your water bill.
- Don’t plant more than you can eat, freeze or preserve. Planting a gigantic garden for a family of two could come at a high price. You’ll pay more for plants and water, and you’ll probably give away much of the benefit. Just plant what you know you can use. Start with a very small garden if you have no idea how much you’ll need.
- Pick off bugs instead of using pesticides. In the early morning hours, bugs are easy to spot and you can pluck them off, dump them in a bucket of water and skip the chemicals altogether. You’ll reduce your costs and avoid exposing your family to pesticides.
- Don’t plant what you can buy. If your corner market always sells incredibly cheap boxes of tomatoes, don’t plant tomatoes yourself. Stick to plants you love but can never afford to make your gardening dollar stretch yet further.
- Use sticks instead of cages. Many plants such as tomatoes, beans and squashes need supports in order to grow. Save by making your own supports out of sticks, rather than spending up on expensive metal cages.
Photo courtesy of Simon Howden: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=404