Save Money With a Garden

By Lena / March 29, 2012
A lot of people contact http://www.DinnerGarden.org about starting a garden. We hear from experienced gardeners as well as people who are considering starting their first garden ever. The biggest concern we hear is: Can I afford to start a garden?The amount of money needed to grow food for a family is a valid concern for many families. We talk to families everyday who don’t have any money to spare in their budget and don’t think they can garden because it is too expensive. Like any other hobby, gardening can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be.  Just because gardening stores sell fancy pots, expensive potting soil, irrigation systems, and specially formulated fertilizer doesn’t mean a gardener needs those things to grow food at home. With regular watering and sunlight, plants will produce fruit and vegetables. When the family has food from their own garden, they will not have to spend as much money at the grocery store. If they grow a lot of fruit and vegetables, they can sell the extra food at a farmer’s market or in their community to earn money. So gardening can actually be a way to save money.

Many people are surprised to hear that you can grow plants in old containers they have around the house. Soda bottles and milk jugs are great for growing tomatoes, beets, carrots, radishes, peppers, and many other vegetables. Simply cut off the tops of the bottles, poke drainage holes in the bottom, fill them with dirt, plant the seed, and water it. Like magic, the vegetables will grow! Loose leaf lettuce has very shallow roots and can grow in two inches of soil. We plant lettuce in old Styrofoam coolers, aluminum trays, and the containers left over from frozen dinners. Simply poke holes in the bottom, fill the container with two inches of dirt, plant the lettuce seeds, and water. Before you know it, you will have lettuce for your dinner salad!

Seeds want to grow. If you give them water and some dirt, they will grow. We always tell people, “don’t worry, the seeds do all the work!”

The question of special dirt and specialized potting soils is a common one. While it is true that plants will perform better in amended soil, many of our gardeners can’t afford to buy fertilizer, compost, or expensive dirt. Fortunately, the best fertilizer you can use is absolutely free! We show our Dinner Gardeners how to make compost piles at home, using things they have at home. Compost is a wonderful fertilizer that helps vegetables grow by providing all the nutrients they need. It is also very easy to make!

A compost pile will need to be in a container, like a trash can or plastic storage box with holes poked in it so air can move around, or a garbage bag left partly open at the top. Some people make compost piles on the ground, which works, but attracts bugs. To create the compost, simply put the vegetable peels, egg shells, used coffee grounds, and kitchen scraps from regular cooking (no meat, cheese, or milk) in the pile along with yard scraps like leaves and cut, dried grass. People can also dig up worms from the ground and put them in the compost pile. Worms living in the compost pile make wonderful helpers! When they eat the garbage, they help make the fertilizer even better.

Mix in some regular dirt and let the compost sit. Every other day, stir the compost to help it break down. After about a month, the compost will be ready to use! It can be sprinkled in the garden and on potted plants. If the compost is ready before the garden is planted, it is a good idea to mix it into the dirt where the seeds will be planted.

We keep two compost containers going at once.  That way, we can let one bin sit, allowing the scraps to breakdown, while we add fresh material to the new bin.  When the first bin is ready to use, we empty the compost from the bin, let the second bin rest, and add fresh material to the first bin.  It’s a never ending supply of compost!

Just be sure to compost all those plants once they are done producing!

By: Kathie

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Lena