Jenna Spesard of Tiny House, Giant Journey shares how her garden helps cut back on grocery bills, saving money on food while providing a healthy lifestyle.
Have you ever visited a grocery store and left with more than you need? How about that awful moment when the cashier reads your grand total and a shockwave of dread travels up your spine? Grocery shopping as a Grownup is complicated. Even the produce aisle can be overwhelming with so many different labels: natural, organic, local, non-GMO, etc.
I love organic tomatoes from local farms as much as the next person, but keeping up with food trends is exhausting. Often, I find myself leaving the supermarket feeling broke and defeated. Of course, there is a better way to obtain fresh produce.
You can save money by starting a garden.
This isn’t breaking news. Gardening has been around for centuries, but most Grownups are not in the habit of growing their own food. Starting a garden takes time and effort, but eating home-grown vegetables is economical, eco-friendly, healthy, and delicious. So why not give it a try?
Tips for Starting Your First Garden
Decide how to start
When starting a garden, you have two options: start from seed or go with pre-grown seedlings or plants. There are pros and cons to each method. Starting from seed is normally cheaper, but you will also need to purchase soil. You can typically purchase one package of 25 seeds for $3 or one plant for $5.
It’s important to note that some vegetables loathe being transplanted, especially if they’re fully grown. The least-stressful method for starting your garden is to plant seeds directly outdoors or start indoors with plants that are OK to transplant, such as tomatoes, peppers, onions, and celery.
Sow indoors with free or cheap containers
If you have limited space for an indoor sprouting garden, don’t worry: Seeds can grow in a variety of small containers. Just don’t purchase a fancy grow kit for $20; they’re expensive and gimmicky! You can easily make your own grow kit from items you have around the house. I reuse food containers from the grocery store to make my own grow kits. (How’s that for irony?)
Use the following steps to create a DIY indoor grow kit:
- Choose a container, such as an aluminum can, plastic tub, or bottle.
- Poke or drill tiny holes in the bottom of the container for drainage.
- Fill with soil and follow planting directions for each type of seed.
- Place in a warm area. Don’t worry about sunlight until they’ve sprouted.
- Water regularly, keeping the soil moist.
After a few weeks, you can transplant the sprouts to your outdoor garden. The smaller the plant, the better it will survive the transfer.
Save money by composting
Fertilizers can be expensive. To save money, you can use compost (or a blend of a homemade compost and organic fertilizer) to feed your garden. To create my own compost, I use an outdoor compost tumbler, which does a good job of decomposing my yard and food scraps. You can also create a simple backyard compost pile, making sure to add the correct ratio of green and brown material. Backyard compost piles will require occasional stirring and time to decompose.
Creating a good, rich compost isn’t easy. Like gardening, composting is a skill that takes some practice. If you decide to make your own compost, it’s a good idea to test it on a few plants before using it on your entire garden.
Expand your space with vertical gardens
If you have limited space, like I do with my Tiny House, you can build a vertical garden using recycled bottles. If you want to get even more creative and thrifty, try making this $20 DIY hydroponic planter, which will save you space and money on fertilizer!
Do your research
Creating an efficient and productive garden can be challenging, especially on your first try. Each plant requires a certain amount of sunlight, space, water, and fertilizer. Some plants don’t play nice together, so you have to research which veggies to plant side by side and which to separate. You will need to keep a schedule of when it is time to sow, transplant (if you choose to do so), and harvest based on your location, climate, and plant variety.
It can be hard to keep track of all this information. I suggest keeping a garden diary for reference or downloading a gardening app on your smartphone.
Not everyone has a green thumb, and some plants can be more difficult than others. As much as I love tomatoes, I never have any luck growing them. Sometimes, even if you do everything right, a plant just won’t produce. Don’t get discouraged. It’s important to experiment and know your skill level. Start with a simple set up and stay positive.
Even if you don’t have much success with your first harvest, realize that gardening will take some trial and error. In fact, that’s why it’s so much fun! Your skills will grow along with your garden and, once you get the hang of it, your bank account will reap the rewards of fresh homegrown produce.
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