Garden: the easiest way your family can save money, eat healthier, help the environment

basket of fresh garden vegetables like carrots, lettuce, cabbage in a basket sitting in a garden

(photo compliments of wayetlighting.wordpress.com)

If you have a yard, start a garden. The financial benefits of gardening are extensive, the health benefits are obvious, and the environmental benefits are substantial. You don’t need a huge garden, and your family can help out and bond through the care of it.

Here’s a list of ways to maximize the benefits of gardening in your life:

  1. Make your own fertilizer. Get in the habit of composting your vegetable and garden scraps. You will do something nice for the planet, put less into the waste stream, and get free fertilizer for your garden in the process! You can find information on building your own compost bin at www.bluegrassgardens.com.
  2. Plant a money garden. With an eye towards increased interest in vegetable gardening, the Burpee Seed Company has developed a “Money Garden” seed packet. Six different kinds of vegetables are included for $10. The company says the plants will produce $650 dollars worth of produce.
  3. Wake up your garden with Starbucks. Coffee grounds are good for your garden. Who has coffee grounds that they need to get rid of? Why, Starbucks, of course. Many Starbucks locations bag up the used coffee grounds and offer them for free to any interested gardener who asks. So ask, and start feeding your soil for free.
  4. Tomatoes–try your beginning gardener’s luck. Getting started growing a vegetable garden can be intimidating. But give tomatoes a try–they really aren’t that hard. You can grow them from seed if you really want the full experience or buy small starter plants early in the spring. One tomato plant will run around $4, and when fully grown and producing, will keep you in tomatoes all summer long. With the cost of produce, particularly organic produce, it is a bargain investment. Eat your tomatoes fresh, roasted on  sandwiches, or make your own spaghetti sauce. If your garden produces enough, you can try canning and enjoy your summer tomatoes all winter long next year. Choose the sunniest part of your garden and see what you can do. Check out www.helpfulgardener.com for advice on growing tomatoes.
  5. Ask your friends for garden cuttings. Envious of a friend’s beautiful garden but without the cash to invest in lots of new plants? Why not ask your friend if you can have cuttings from their garden and grow your own from theirs? Jennifer has had great success with cuttings from rosemary plants…. For free. Herbs…for free, does it get any better than that? Good candidates for cuttings are: hydrangeas, herbs like basil, sage, and mint, fruit trees, and berries. Check out www. helpfulgardener.com for more info on getting started with cuttings and plant a garden for free.
  6. Lease your garden space to a small farmer. Not up to planting a vegetable garden on your own property? Why not offer it to a gardener in exchange for either cash or free vegetables? Many small-space dwellers are envious of their lawn-laden friends and would jump at the chance to come out and garden on your property. Put the word out that you would welcome another gardener on your property. There is a new movement called SPIN farming (small space intensive) in which urban yards are being using for small farming plots. Learn more about it at www.spinfarming.com, perhaps you will want to put your own front yard to use.
  7. Pick fruit in your neighborhood. “I looked out the window, and there was a woman with a plastic bag picking oranges off the tree!” Susan Carson told us. “A wealthy woman! I couldn’t believe it.” Everyone is out on the street looking for freebies nowadays, so we aren’t surprised. What can you find? Well, you might find a neighbor’s tree that no one is picking. Offer to pick it for them, and share the bounty. Oranges, lemons, grapefruits, apples, and pears—what are your neighbors growing that might be shared? Don’t be shy in offerning your time in harvesting fruit off of trees they may consider only ornamental. Years ago Jennifer had a nighttime dog-walking ritual that took her down alleys where fruit trees grew over the fence. Most nights she came home with a little something for breakfast the next day.
  8. Start a community garden patch. Not everyone has the space to plant a full-fledged vegetable garden, and not everyone has the time to weed. Gather your closest neighbors together and see if you can’t come up with a community garden plan that works for everyone. You can pool money to buy seeds; pool efforts to clean, plant and weed; and even better, pool the results for delicious fresh meals you can all enjoy. It may be that one neighbor had the space to lend, one neighbor has the cash to buy seed, one neighbor has the time and energy to keep it weeded, and one neighbor knows how to can so you can all enjoy your produce all year long.

The above tips are directly quoted from 573 Ways to Save Money by Peter Sander and Jennifer Sander. Please at least borrow this book from your local library, no-strings-attached. You’ll be shocked at how much you can learn about maximizing your household, neighborhood, shopping and do-it-yourself tasks.

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3 Comments

  1. […] of treating yourself to cut flowers on your dinner table (unless you can cut them for free in your own garden) buy a flowering indoor plant. It is less expensive to buy one pretty plant than a series of […]

  2. That book sounds pretty great, I might try to find it at the library this summer for some tips.

    I am not really one for gardening in the traditional sense (as in flowers and such) but I do dream of having my own little ‘ktichen garden’ (as we call them around here) one day. Just for tomatoes, fresh herbs (ridiciculously expensive!), peas, potatoes, carrots, rhubarb and other tasty things. I also think it is a great learning and physical activity for kids.

    One of my greatest childhood memories is digging potatoes and picking strawberries at my grandparents. There is nothing like eating freshly peeled potatoes that were in the ground just a few hours before cosnumption.

  3. The book is great. I learned a lot, and had to share.
    I feel you. I like flowers and all, but I’m more for practicality. As a kid, I really didn’t appreciate all of the work we put into gardening, I just loved the sunflowers we grew. Now, I’m so grateful that I have the know-how to save myself money.
    And fresh-picked food from the ground tastes stellar compared to store-bought. Stellar. We aren’t growing strawberries, but got some from Brad’s Produce. I feel like I had never tasted a real strawberry before that. It was just so unbelievably delicious.


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