This is a guest post by Sarah Ann Noel…
My husband, Trevor, has a green thumb, remnant of a country-boy upbringing, I imagine. When we were house hunting a few years ago, his number one priority was a backyard for a beautiful garden. And, mind you, this was before gardening was a cool hipster thing to do. So I rolled my eyes and shrugged my shoulders through the entire first planting season after we moved into our house. He poured hours into that garden, moving raised beds to different places in the yard, carefully mapping and marking what should go where at what time.
How to Plant a Garden and Save Some Dough in the Process…
All the while, in retaliation, Trevor would joke, “You want to eat?” which elicited laughter; but I didn’t take him seriously. I figured we’d enjoy a few meals from the spoils of his hobby and that would be that.
And then! The harvest! I laid my eyes on that haul and calculated what we’d yielded, not just in vegetables, but in dollars saved. We had meals upon meals worth of produce right in our backyard, and because it had been well-planned, the crops came in at different times to maximize usage. By keeping a garden, our cost of living is significantly lower each summer. While it can be an investment up-front, the whole process gets cheaper for us year after year too, as we stockpile necessary tools and perfect our methods.
If you’re a novice gardener but want to begin, here are some things to consider as you’re starting out:
1. Start small with hearty crops like squash and peas
Better to plant a few things that you can turn your attention to as you learn than to kill off an entire large garden. Gardening is an investment. Ours is half of our backyard and Trevor is out there in the morning and evening to maintain it.
2. Purchase pods to start your plants indoors or purchase starter plants
Of course, use seeds too; they are cheaper. But transplanting a healthy plant gives you a better chance of continued growth. (If you’re going to get to gardening this summer, skip the pods and head straight for the starters since it’s later in the season. But they’re a money-saver for the next season and the trays are reusable.)
3. Map out your space
Successful gardens come from detailed planning. Use the backs of your seed packets or starter markers to estimate spacing for rows and in between plants. There is also information on the best times to plant and plant needs once they are in the ground. Follow these instructions to the letter. You can also research for the best practices for your climate.
4. Invest in your soil
Especially if you’re in the city, use raised beds to stay away from potential toxins in the ground. (We live in a downtown neighborhood established in the 1930’s and find all sorts of “artifacts” buried in our yard. Cool for treasure hunts, not for eating.) Purchase high-quality, nutrient rich top soil for your raised beds. And if you have the space, start a compost pile to mix in with your soil too!
5. Consider how you will use your harvest
Some plants, like squash, for example, can be high-yield crops. Baked zucchini can get old really quickly. To maximize your savings and eliminate waste, search for new recipes ahead of time so you can use everything you reap. Here’s a cool recipe for chocolate zucchini bread!
Are you into gardening? If so, has it saved you money and what are your favorite things to grow?
Sarah Ann Noel is a blogger and editor writing mostly short stories and essays focusing on a young married life, capturing lessons and observations of love, faith, motherhood, lifestyle choices, and growth. She runs a blog that caters to young families with real-life stories–and a dash of snark. She is also a freelance copywriter and editor, working on communications projects and online copy for small businesses, non-profits, and magazines.