vegetable garden

Vegetable Garden Tips

Grow A Vegetable Garden-Save Money

vegetable garden

Can you really grow a vegetable garden and save money? The answer is a firm yes. Even apartment dwellers can grow vegetables in containers on a patio, or herbs in a sunny window. Most people are looking for ways to save money these days. In fact, saving money by growing your own vegetables has a long history in the US. More people are waking up to this fact every day. Couldn’t you just give up some other things and not get your hands dirty? Perhaps…

You could drive less so that you use less fuel. You can turn down the thermostat in winter to use less heat. You could cut out such things as eating out or shopping. You could even eat less and save a little money. But you can save significant money if you can grow your own food. Your home-grown vegetables will also be healthier for you.

The vegetables you grow will also be organic. You can eliminate chemical pesticides and fertilizers when you grow your own vegetable garden. You also get to decide just what things you will allow in your soil. For instance, instead of using chemical fertilizers, you can compost yard and kitchen scraps, then use that compost to fortify your soil.

It does take work to grow your own vegetables. Most people find that the satisfaction of growing their own food far outweighs the work they put into it. Many people enjoy being able to get outdoors and take care of a garden. If you can add the satisfaction of saving money to the deal, that makes the harvest taste all the more sweet.

How Much Can You Save?

You have the ability to save significant amounts of money when you plant a vegetable garden. You don’t even have to know a thing about running a tiller or farming. You can buy vegetable plants already started at many local nurseries or even hardware stores. Choose the vegetables you like, buy some containers and potting soil, and you are ready to get started.

You may be able to save up to $100 per month, or more. Of course, this will all depend on how many plants you can grow in your space. Some people prefer just a few tomato plants in a bucket. Even this can give you more tomatoes than you can eat. Add a few other container vegetables and you can still realize savings in your grocery bill.

Obviously, if you have a place in your yard to put a bigger garden you will realize even more savings by growing vegetables. The people who have enough land to grow a large vegetable garden will realize the biggest savings. When I was growing up my grandmother had a 1-acre garden. She grew enough to feed the whole extended family. She knew how to freeze and can vegetables, so there was plenty throughout the winter.

Once you decide to grow vegetables on your own you’ll most likely find it not only enjoyable but it also saves you substantial money. As you continue to garden the same space and add compost back into the soil, it can actually increase yields, which adds to your savings.

Finally, if you have a garden spot try using seeds instead of buying plants. I have seen a single tomato plant selling for almost $4.00. You can get a packet of 25 seeds for $2-3, saving you even more money. Now is the perfect time to start planning your garden. Spring is the time to begin planting your vegetables for an abundant harvest in the summer and fall. The hardest part is going to be figuring out and planning how large of a garden you will have, and what to plant.

Planning A Vegetable Garden

vegetable garden planning

Planning a vegetable garden is very important for the success of your efforts. There are some things you need to consider when planning a vegetable garden. Planning will allow you to make the best use of your space while assuring the highest yields from your garden.

The first decision you have to make is the location of the vegetable garden. You must place the vegetable garden in an area where it is exposed to at least 6 hours of sunlight. The location must also be near a water source, so you can water in times of drought. The area must also have soil conducive to growing plants. It must have good drainage and must be free of silt, stones, and other hard objects. The location needs to be accessible, so you can get to it easily to work it and harvest your crop.

You need to plan the different plants and how many you intend to grow. This will help determine the size of the vegetable garden you will need. You should make a list of all the plants you want to grow in your garden. You also need to consider how much space each plant will need when it is mature.

Make a plan for the arrangement of the vegetable plants in the garden as well. The first consideration is the frequency of yield. Put the crops that produce early yields together. These crops include radishes, spinach, carrots, beets, etc. Make some space for replanting successively. Once these crops have been harvested, you can rotate in crops that produce later in the season.

You need to consider also that some plants cannot grow beside other plants. For instance, there are plants that enhance the growth of another when planted together; there are also those that inhibit the growth of each other. For instance, potatoes can inhibit the growth of both squash and tomatoes. Broccoli also inhibits tomato growth. Beans inhibit the growth of onions. Carrots inhibit the growth of dill plants. This does not stop you from planting all these plants in the garden. This is just a reminder to do your research on plants you should separate from one another when planting your garden.

Vegetable Garden Layout

Once you have initial planning completed it’s important to plan how the garden will be laid out. The layout of your garden will depend on what vegetables you want to grow, your planting space, and if you would like to opt for companion planting. You should have answered all these questions in the initial planning phase. Here are some helpful tips on how to layout your garden.

Choose your Garden Layout

There are three basic vegetable garden layouts, and they are rows, beds, and “potager” style.

The most popular rows style of layout requires planting seeds in a row which could either mean planting one type of seed in a row or different seeds in a row.

The bed type of layout is similar to the rows style but on a smaller level. This layout allows access to the plant beds from the exterior of the garden or as you walk through the garden path instead of coming from inside the plant bed. This is particularly convenient to avoid stepping on the beds which tend to pack in the soil and makes it difficult to dig and aerate in the spring or fall. Plant beds are great ways to maximize garden space, and you can even use raised beds for easy gardening.

The most decorative style of layout is the “potager”, which means kitchen garden in French. This layout is described as geometric which allows you to layout your garden in circles or arrange plants by color or even food type.

Consider Companion Planting

The idea behind companion planting involves planting different kinds of plants together so that they help each other grow. A perfect example of this is planting beans, corn, and squash together which was commonly done by Native Americans. While the corn gives the beans a place to climb, the beans give their companions nutrients in the soil and the squash serves as a shade to the roots of the plants beside it. This not only prevents weeds from growing, but it also saves water.

Other great plants for companion planting are onions, which scare slugs and aphids away, tomatoes, which grow well with carrots, and basil, which improves the taste of tomatoes. Another example is horseradish and potatoes which when planted together give your potatoes protection from disease. In planting vegetable gardens, companion planting is certainly worth considering.

Compost for Gardening

Another thing to consider when planting a vegetable garden is the health of your soil. Many soils are just not conducive to growing vegetables for a myriad of reasons. One thing you can do to help your soil is to add soil amendments, such as the organic matter you get from compost.

How do you make compost for gardening? What is compost anyway? Let’s look at what compost is and how to go about creating compost for gardening.

A compost pile is simply a method of changing crude organic materials into something resembling soil, called humus. Compost-making is a simple process. You can make it a part of your lawn maintenance routine by something as simple as bagging your lawn clippings and placing them in a compost pile.

Composting is using natural processes of bacteria, earthworms, etc. to break down the organic material. Once the organic material is broken down, it resembles soil and contains nutrients that are beneficial to your garden when added to the existing soil. Compost can be used to replace nutrients removed by your plants during the growing season instead of using chemical fertilizers. Once the compost is worked into the existing soil it is slowly broken down further by the life that exists in the soil. The action of bacteria, fungi, worms, and insects breaks down the organic matter and releases nitrates which the plants in your garden use to grow. This is the same concept as the nitrogen fertilizer you can purchase to place on your garden. However, this process is totally natural and doesn’t require any man-made chemicals.

Composting artificially accelerates the decomposition of crude organic matter. When tilled into soil compost that hasn’t completely broken down doesn’t immediately act as fertilizer. It won’t immediately contribute to plant growth until it has decomposed further. If the compost is allowed to continue to decompose until virtually all the organic matter has changed into humus then the compost can immediately begin feeding the plants in your garden. Composting allows us to recycle organic material such as grass, leaves, and vegetable matter in an environmentally friendly way.

Making a compost pile is relatively easy. You can use grass clippings, garden waste, leaves, etc. You can use commercial compost bins or simply place your organic matter into a pile. You want to keep the pile moist by either rainfall or occasionally sprinkling the pile with water. Turning the pile with a hayfork or other tool will allow air in to keep the bacteria and other microbes working on breaking down the organic matter. You can use clear plastic sheeting to hold in the heat to help the compost pile break down. Heat and moisture are the keys to getting good compost from your compost heap. This speeds up the breakdown of the organic matter into humus.

Once you have a supply of humus it’s time to work it into your garden soil. If you want to be completely natural you can use a spade to mix the compost into your soil. You can also use a rotary tiller to mix the compost into your soil. Going over the area several times with a rotary tiller will really mix the soil well, and you should then have a dark rich soil perfect for growing your favorite garden vegetables.

Store Fresh Food Longer-6 Tips

If you are going to grow a vegetable garden then you should also learn how to store your fresh food to minimize waste. You don’t want to do all that work and then have your fresh food spoil because you stored it improperly.

It is said the average family in the US wastes up to 15% of the fresh foods they buy annually. To prevent that waste we need to learn ways to store fresh food longer. When you learn the ways you can save money by learning to store fresh food longer, you may kick yourself for the money you wasted. So let’s examine 6 tips to help you learn to keep your fresh food around longer and prevent as much waste as possible.

Copy The Idea Of The Root Cellar

In days gone by our grandparents may have had a root cellar to keep root crops like onions, carrots, and potatoes fresh for a long time. They also likely stored all the canned goods down there as well. You probably don’t have a root cellar, but you can use the same concept as they did.

The idea is to keep these things in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. If you store these vegetables in the refrigerator it will actually make them spoil faster. If you store them in a paper bag separated from each other they will last much longer. My grandmother used to store the onions she raised in her garden in old pantyhose. Once they got a run she cut off the leg and place an onion inside in the toe area, then twist it a couple of times. Then she would drop another one in. She would continue until it was full, then hang it up. This kept the onions separated and they would last for many months. Put them in a cool, dry area out of the sun and you’ll never have to run to the store for fresh onion.

Wrap Cheese In Wax Paper

Cheese is another one of those foods that will spoil quickly if not stored properly. Wrap cheese in wax paper and store it in the refrigerator. The wax paper allows the cheese to breathe but resists moisture. This can prevent mold from starting on your cheese. Bonus tip- be sure and store your cheese separately to prevent the aromas from mixing.

Keep Fresh Herbs Moist

Fresh herbs from your herb garden can transform a meal from good to great. If you happen to pick too much don’t throw it away. Fresh herbs are like cut flower arrangements, they need water. You can put the leftovers from leafy herbs like basil into a little water. This will keep them fresh until you can use the rest. Non-leafy herbs such as rosemary seem to do better if you place them in a moistened paper towel and then store them in the refrigerator. This can prevent you from throwing them away.

Another option that I use is to harvest throughout the summer and dry my herbs in a food dehydrator. Then I store the dried herbs in resealable plastic containers. This is another way to keep your herbs from the garden for use through the winter. This is the food dehydrator I use.

Learn Canning

You can use another of grandmother’s tricks to store fresh food longer by learning to can food. Canning is the process of storing food in jars that are vacuum sealed for freshness. Canning really isn’t that hard to learn, and you never know when knowledge like that will come in handy. It’s also a good way to be prepared for any food disruptions that might happen.

This might be a bit of overkill if you only have a small amount of leftover fresh fruits or vegetables. However, if you garden, this is a great way to preserve your fresh vegetables for a treat during the long winter. There are abundant resources online that will teach you how to can vegetables and other foods safely.

Get A Vacuum Sealer

In addition to learning to can foods, you can also store foods like meats and even fruits and vegetables by vacuum sealing them. Vacuum sealing removes all the air from a plastic storage bag so that the food won’t oxidize or suffer from freezer burn as fast. Vacuum sealed foods can last for months past the date you would throw them away.

A good vacuum seal system will run you from $30 on the low end to $2-300 on the high end. You will get a return on that investment pretty quickly when you add up the amount of money you save by not wasting food. This is a good option for a vacuum sealer.

Use It Or Compost It

If you have stored all the fresh food you can using the above methods and still have some left, do an online search for a recipe and use it up. There are literally thousands of sites online that list recipes. You can find one of those and feel good that you are not wasting food and your family got a great meal.

If all the above fails and you still have some fresh food that must be thrown away, don’t just trash it. You can use it to start a compost pile for a vegetable or flower garden. A compost pile is a collection of leaves, grass clippings, and other vegetable matter that is left to rot. The breakdown of the organic matter produces rich, dark organic soil that can feed your garden or be used for potted plants. Just be sure and don’t add any meat or fat to the pile. These things will rot and create bad smells, but aren’t going to compost. They will attract unwanted things to the compost pile. Stick with vegetable matter, fallen leaves, grass clippings, etc.

Now you have tons of things to consider and use as you start and maintain your vegetable garden. Give gardening a try and see just how much fun you can have and the money you can save. Nothing beats the satisfaction of enjoying the vegetables you grown from your own garden.

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