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Gardening to save Big $$$$$

January 5th, 2014 at 05:16 pm

Okay okay, gardening might not seem like a financial issue, but really it is. I swear!

We have a rather ambitious backyard 'farm' brewing. (I'm up to about 600 sq feet in planting space in the back, and 200 in the front). If I play my cards right, we will have plenty of fresh, chemical free heirloom fruits and veggies to eat from April until December next year.

I'm going to keep track of everything I pull out of the garden this year, as well as every dollar I spend on the garden, so I can determine how much it really does save. At the end of the season, I will calculate what it would have cost me to buy what we grew at the grocery store. Not sure how I should account for the items I can, but I'll figure that out. Should be interesting. I did this four years ago, at the last house, and I remember we pulled almost 200 pounds of roma tomatoes out that year alone. It was an epic year for home-canned pasta sauce.

Once again I have big plans for my backyard veggie garden. I finished my seed orders tonight. Luckily, I still have plenty of awesome heirloom seeds left over from last year (still viable), so I only had to spend about $30 out of pocket to fill in all the gaps.

I also attend an annual plant and seed swap, which allows me to share my extra seedlings in exchange for sometimes very expensive flowers, fruits, and veggies. All for free. It's fun. (I got spendy irises and lilies for my front yard last year). This year, I plan to grab strawberry and raspberry starts, some perennial flowers such as bee balm, and maybe some flavored mints for a tea garden. I highly recommend finding a free plant swap. They are addictive.

Last year, the goal was to construct the gardens. We had an okay season, but made the mistake of using subsoil in the raised beds (mixed with compost) and it was just too heavy and poor to produce much. We still got some, but not nearly what we could have. That has all been dug out and replaced with an excellent compost mix.

This year, the goal is to maximize their productivity. Spring, summer, and fall crops, row covers to extend the season, the whole deal. It could be an epic failure, but no matter what, it will be awesome, and I'm excited. I've always been a big gardener, but this is a step up even for me.

I'll probably be out in the garden in late February installing hoops and row covers.

If any of you are interested....

I have done a lot of research into season extending, and found and excellent book on it: "The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener" by Niki Jabour. I love it because she gardens in the same zone as I do, so all of her advice is relevant, unlike the books coming out of California.

I'm also going to try harder to interplant-- i.e. growing carrots, lettuce or beets under the tomatoes, rather than one crop. It could work well.

I hope I'm not the only one excited to garden!

I was out working in my beds this last sunny day. Here is the top pick, of me laying cardboard for the paths (I will mulch over them. It looks nice and keeps weeds down). And, then below that, my dream for what my garden will eventually look like!

22 Responses to “Gardening to save Big $$$$$”

  1. creditcardfree Says:

    I have grown some onions, snap peas, tomatoes, and mini pumpkins in the past. We have moved since then, and I have not established a bed as of yet. I love your plan!

  2. scfr Says:

    Wow - I think BOTH gardens look very impressive!

  3. Looking Forward Says:

    Very exciting!
    I enjoy gardening, but have not done more than just hobby gardening. I will be interested to read about your progress. The farm we get produce from does cover crops, interplanting etc. All interesting.
    I love the *dream* garden picture!!!

  4. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    May you have a big beautiful harvest and all the time and energy needed to preserve it! Do your children love it?

    I'm glad to see u-shape beds, as it maximizes planting space as compared to rectangular beds, yet still gives the same degree of access to the interior. I no longer use raised beds because they seemed to drain too well. I had double-dug raised beds (very high and fluffy) ala John Seymour of the Self-Sufficient Gardener.

    Will you have at least one storage vegetable that does not need processing? For us that is dry beans or peas, winter squash, and sweet potatoes.

  5. crazyliblady Says:

    Yes, it is a financial issue and a health issue. I began gardening 2 years ago. The first year was just with 4 tomatoes (3 survived) and 1 basil plant. I actually did pretty well with that, considering I had not grown anything since I planted tomato plants on my mom's back porch as a kid. She definitely did not do anything organic. We poured on the Miracle Grow. This past year, I expanded my garden to a 12'x12' space and grew all kinds of stuff, including stuff that I did not plant but sprang up from my compost. I made my own compost and used organic fertilizer from the farm store. I got pots and compost containers from a local store called the reuse it store, which is affiliated with the recycling center. They sell pots, containers, landscape material really cheap. It feels great knowing I could grow my own food organically and doing so sustainably. It's a lot of work, but SO worth it. Congrats on your garden let's hope we all do well next year!

  6. ThriftoRama Says:

    To answer questions.
    -Yes, the kids love it. They especially love finding worms and slugs. ( I give them a penny a slug!). We are going to make a worm composting bin this spring, for the boys.
    -For storage crops, I do butternut squash. I am also growing a storage potato and a storage beet(Lutz Winter Keeper) this year. And, I will be overwintering salad greens, beets, and carrots under heavy row covers all winter, so I can just go out and pick what I need. We'll see how that works.
    -CL-We make our own compost, and I often get volunteer squash and tomatoes from CSA share leftovers. Home compost usually isn't strong enough to kill those!
    - We keep a lot of the plastic pots that come through our house for reuse. I also sprout seeds inside those plastic clamshell containers that spinach and cherry tomatoes comes in at the grocery. They make good mini-greenhouses.
    -Once you get going, it isn't as much work as your think. The hard part is building and filling beds and hauling compost. Other than that, it only takes a few hours a week to maintain-- until harvest! Last year I spent maybe 5 days canning. Not too bad, considering we get to eat that all year long!

  7. ThriftoRama Says:

    Also, I'm glad someone else has heard of U-shaped beds! I opted for that shape after much research. It's based on the keyhole bed idea-- maximum growing space in minimal footprint. I also was inspired a bit by european potagers. My garden is somewhat symmetrical, in that there are four u-shaped beds (two pairs, facing each other) with a path in the middle of round and rectangular beds.

    The round ones I made from discarded basement window wells from the Habitat for Humanity reuse it store. I love second hand!

  8. rob62521 Says:

    Gardening is not only a money saver and far more healthy eating, but good exercise as well! I do wish we had more of a spot for a garden. I'm sure the neighbors aren't happy about the tomato plants and pots of other stuff in the front yard, but our back yard is totally shaded, except for one small area. The neighbor cut down a tree that shaded that spot and we used it last summer. We planted some garlic there this fall and DH will plant tomatoes there. He tried carrots and they came up, but a bunny ate them. He had to replant them in a pot.

  9. ThriftoRama Says:

    There are some veggies that can tolerate shade, such as lettuces and salad greens, potatoes and beets. Might try those in the shady spots!

  10. rob62521 Says:

    Good idea! Thanks!

  11. PatientSaver Says:

    I usually seem to net about $250 or so with my produce. When I calculate savings, I go to the supermarket I usually shop to make note of organic prices of veggies I grew to determine their value. Of course, I also deduct the cost of seeds, seedlings and any other expenses associated with growing the garden. It's usually minimal.

    I have also been thinking about what I'll grow in 2013. The tomato blight's gotten really bad, so I think I need to skip growing tomatoes (and anything in the night shade family) for a year. I'm thinking kale, shallots, garlic, peapods, basil, leeks, beans so far.

  12. LuckyRobin Says:

    My big plan for my garden this year is to grow enough green beans and enough tomatoes to can for the year. I figure I need at least 52 pints of tomatoes and 104 quarts of green beans. I will also grow chard and kale for the rabbits and kohlrabi and few other things like herbs and cucumbers for me. But I will consider it a success if I get the amount of tomatoes and green beans that I want for canning.

  13. ThriftoRama Says:

    That's an excellent plan, LuckyRobin.

    Comfrey leaves are also excellent feed for both rabbits and the compost, and they are a perennial that is pretty hardy.

    I have a self-sufficiency plan. We make enough applesauce and pasta sauce and diced tomatoes to never have to buy it at the store. We also make enough jam to last through the year. Not all of the fruit comes from us. Whatever we come up short, we have a farmer friend who can fill in. But, in five more years, I'm hoping we can grow 100 percent of our fruit too!

  14. danielhermann Says:

    Gardening can definitely be cash positive provided you have green fingers, are willing to put in the required efforts, have technical knowledge and weather permitting. You can definitely grow seasonal fruits and vegetables which could at least take care of your family needs so you save on those. Tomatoes, lemons can be grown for self and for sale. Also you can set aside a section for herbs and can have your own rosemary, thyme, basil and the like. You can also look into mushroom farming in one section. It is quite lucrative. You could tie up with a local pizza or other such eatery, if you find that you can meet their year-round requirements. Let us know how it pans out.

  15. LuckyRobin Says:

    Thrift--I want to grow comfrey, but it is an aggressive perennial so I don't want to plant it while we are still living here. Well, maybe some in pots like I will with Jerusalem artichokes. I made enough jam the summer of 2012 that I doubt I will have to make more before 2015! I've got enough applesauce for the year, too. How do you do your pasta sauce? I can never get it to boil down thick enough, but I've only tried to do straight tomato sauce.

  16. ThriftoRama Says:

    It took us a while to master 'thick' pasta sauce.

    First, we use a Victorio food mill to process it, so it's that nice smooth consistency, then we boil it down. We also only use roma or sauce type tomatoes, because they are generally less watery than other tomatoes, so there is less boiling before it's thick. We either mix it with basil or with onions, zucchini, basil, oregano, etc.

    We also use the tomato-basil puree to make homemade creamy tomato soup.

  17. LuckyRobin Says:

    I've been thinking about buying a Victorio food mill. I finally found a place that carries it locally. It sounds like you've had good luck with using one.

  18. ThriftoRama Says:

    I like the food mill. It really changed the way I can. I feel like I can do a larger volume in much less time. I use it primarily for tomatoes and apples. It was definitely worth the money. I got the cheaper one. I think it was about $75. Worth every penny.

    It takes the peels off the raw tomatoes for you. When we make applesauce, we boil down sliced apples--peels, cores, and all. Then it goes int he food mill, which takes out the seeds, peels, and cores. I love the food mill!

    I don't really like the salsa attachment though. I like my salsa chunkier, so we still do that by hand.

  19. LuckyRobin Says:

    I think I will definitely invest in one then. I hate taking the time to blanch and peel tomatoes and it would be nice not to have to peel apples, either. I like my salsa chunky as well. I've always made it in the blender and then added some bigger chunks of tomato at the end.

  20. kashi Says:

    Your garden looks amazing already! I'm sure it will look like the bottom photo in no time. I love gardening too and can't wait for spring! Smile

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