As someone who has often written on the merits of growing food to save money and live better, I have often read comments that “it is too much work”, “too expensive”, and “not worth the effort”. As disheartening as hearing this is, it does reflect the attitude of many people. Why then, do some people embrace gardening even on a small scale while others just flip it off?
There are several issues that come to mind with the first being the most important.
- Do you prepare most of your meals from scratch or nearly so? If not, growing anything is probably a waste of time.
- Do you enjoy fresh and diverse taste in your food? If not, don’t bother trying. There is plenty of canned and frozen stuff for you at the store.
- Do you want to reduce the overall cost of your food budget? If not, stop reading this right now.
If you are still reading, there are some things that are practical to grow even in small spaces or containers and some things are not practical. In most cases, trying to grow grain or corn is impractical. It takes quite a bit of space and effort to grow enough to be useful. Likewise, potatoes require a fair amount of space to grow a reasonable crop. I usually dedicate about 200 sq. ft. of garden and harvest around 50 lbs. of potatoes.
However, tomatoes, peppers, and a variety of other crops can very successfully grown in small spaces or containers at a practical level to make a dent in the food budget. The truth is that growing most of the usual garden vegetables will help economically but the real value will be in the freshness and variety of what you grow. The most budget conscious plants to grow are herbs. With a small bottle of dried basil costing four or five dollars at the store, a single basil plant costing less than two dollars will provide you fresh basil until the first freeze comes along. The same is true for parsley, dill, sage, tarragon, rosemary, oregano and thyme. Each of these are easily grown in containers on a patio and surplus material can be dried and saved for out of season use.
Tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas, carrots, and radishes as well as lettuce and other plants can be grown in small gardens and containers and can make a difference but only if you prepare meals frequently. A container filled with readily available potting soil is all you need. After that, all you supply is sunshine and water.
One Roma tomato plant can provide between 10-20 four ounce tomatoes for salads or to make sauce. A bell pepper plant can provide you with 10 fresh peppers before the winter sets in. One of the great problems is selecting the plants to grow. There are over 100 varieties of tomato seeds available in seed catalogs. Talking to an experienced gardener should be able to resolve some of the most difficult questions and give you the confidence to try.
For anyone concerned about budget but more specifically about the quality and taste of their food, growing some of their produce can be a very positive experience.