No grocery tomato can compete with a sun-ripened garden tomato. However, if that tomato cost you $32 to grow, was it worth it?
I believe that growing your own produce should not be an expensive endeavor. Gardening can be as expensive or as inexpensive as you want it to be. If you are wanting to start a garden but think it will be too expensive, look for ways to save money gardening. When thinking about how and where to save money, consider the essentials of a garden.
Gardens really just need a place, some plants, a trowel, good soil, and adequate water.
If you are just starting to garden, don’t buy a ton of equipment to get a site prepared. The cheapest way to prepare a grassy or weeded spot is to cover your future garden site with cardboard and leaves in the fall, let them smother the grass and weeds, then remove them and plant your crops in the weedless spot in the spring. If you have to till the ground, try to rent a tiller. Even better, find a friend who also wants to garden and split the rental fee. Raised beds are nice too(see some posts here and an update here) but try to find scrap wood before buying new.
As far as plants are concerned, it is far less expensive to start your own plants from seed. Starting seeds is free if you can get seeds from gardening friends who have extras. I have an entire post on How I Get Free Seeds, be sure to read it! If you already have some seeds, you may be able to get new seeds that you want by trading with a friend. I also buy seeds in bulk from Chaver’s in Milton. Many plants can also be grown from seeds gathered from produce you buy at the grocery store. I saved seeds from a tomatillo, but you can save seeds from many other vegetables and fruits. Sometimes results may vary, but it is a very inexpensive way to get started. Another way to get plants for free is through propagation- like in my B2G3 Free Tomato post.
Of course, there was the time that I turned $.10 into $54, that was pretty awesome too.
Fancy tools are pretty, but to start a garden all you really have to own is a trowel. A few more helpful tools that I use often are a shovel, rake, hoe, and pitchfork.
If you already have rich soil, you can plant right in that. For most of us though, some type of amendment is needed. The best soil additive is compost. You can make your own from yard and kitchen scraps. If you are new to composting, I have simple instructions in my post, Coffee to Compost-Literally!
Some think that they can just add fertilizer without nourishing the soil. Think of the soil as a living organism; you wouldn’t just feed a junk food addict some vitamins and expect them alone to fix his health, would you? If you have unhealthy soil, a blast of fertilizer will not provide lasting results.
Cover crops are a good way to suppress weeds during the heat of the summer. I found a nitrogen-fixing cover crop for just 75 cents!
Finally, your plants will need water. You can greatly reduce water usage by planting varieties suited to your area and by planting them at the right time. I also like to try to plant seeds before a rainstorm so God can water them. Mulching, in addition to reducing competition from weeds, can help to keep valuable moisture from evaporating.
If you want to garden, don’t let money be an issue. Start small, and only buy items as you find a need. You can start a garden inexpensively using these frugal garden tips. How do you save money in your garden? Please share your tips in the comments-we can all learn from each other!