5 solutions for your garden that you can use with your finances
A vegetable garden can have a very positive impact on your health and on saving your finances. You spend less on groceries while getting better quality homemade fruits and vegetables. You may get to try something new, something that is too hard to find in the store, or something you can't afford. Also, working on a home garden gives you the opportunity to be toned down through exercise and fresh air.
But while there are such nice benefits, most Americans don't grow food in their own gardens.
People have a variety of reasons for avoiding gardening. Some people talk about lack of space to create their own garden (especially apartment dwellers). In some situations, a lack of time intervenes. Some say that a garden will hit finances (about $250 a year on average).
We can say that all of these problems are solvable. The most important thing you need to do is to choose the type of garden that is right for you in terms of the time you are willing to give it, the space you are willing to dedicate to it and the money spent on it.
Types of gardens:
Each type of garden has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some gardens will be less demanding financially, but will require more involvement from you and, accordingly, more time. Some gardens will be great for growing special, rarer crops. Some gardens you can fit into a small space, but you will have to spend more money.
Of course, you don't have to limit yourself and start just one garden. With all three of the key things mentioned above, you can try experimenting by working with different crops.
1. Plants in the ground
The easiest and most common type for a garden is plants that are planted straight into the ground. This option doesn't require any serious investment, as long as the soil is good.
Despite such pluses, such a garden needs more space. Based on various horticultural studies, it would take an average of 200 square feet to grow the amount of food for one person. A family of three will need 600 square feet for their vegetable garden to feed themselves.
The problem is that this will only meet your needs during the growing season. You won't have the surplus you need for winter storage. If you want to fully meet your needs - you will need about 4,000 feet per person alone.
The inground plantings also need to be cared for.They won't dry out too quickly like raised beds, so you don't have to think about watering as often. Still, they don't have much protection against pests and weeds, so you'll have to do a good job of keeping your vegetable garden safe.
What you can grow
What you can grow depends more on the type of soil and its quality. The best type for gardening is considered loam - it's a soil that absorbs water perfectly and is also rich in nutrients. You can take a small handful of soil in your hand and determine its type yourself. If it holds its shape for a while after you squeeze it, you are in luck. Your soil has the qualities needed to grow almost all kinds of vegetables.
Even if you are unlucky with your soil type, you can still establish your garden. In that case, though, you will have to improve your soil in some way, and this can be a very costly process. Or you can only grow a crop that will do well in your soil.
If you squeeze a handful of your soil and the texture is lumpy, you probably have clay soil. It is also rich in nutrients, but the texture is too dense and so the plant roots don't have much air. Nevertheless, you can try to change clay soil, to bring it closer to loam soil, for example: add some organic matter: peat moss, compost, straw or shredded leaves. You can also choose plants for which your soil would be ideal, for example: lettuce, cabbage, green beans or broccoli.
That said, if the soil in your hands starts to fall apart instantly, it means you have sandy soil. In spring, it warms up quickly, is light and is perfectly ventilated. However, the disadvantages are poor water retention and low nutrient content. To improve it, it is worth enriching it with organic matter and watering more often. A good choice of vegetables for sandy soil would be carrots or early spring greens.
What you will need
You don't need a lot of equipment for your first garden. A spatula and a few seeds and a watering can or garden hose and you're ready for your first vegetable garden.
Of course, if your soil is not of high quality, you could use some compost supplies. For vine plants (this includes tomatoes or squash), you will need to make some support for these plants - cages, twine, stakes. Also, a small fence made of hard materials like brick or stone can do a great job of keeping moisture out of your vegetable garden area.
The cost of your garden will depend on the soil you choose and the size of your garden. Let's assume your first garden will be 800 square feet and include 15 crops:
- 40-50 corn stalks.
- 20-30 feet of lettuce
- 4 to 8 feet of zucchini
- 4-6 melon vines
- 5 to 8 tomatoes
- 12 to 15 broccoli plants
- 12 to 16 feet of carrots
- 15-20 feet of cabbage
- 6-8 eggplants
- 30-40 feet of spinach
- 4-6 cucumbers or 2-4 vines
- 20 to 30 feet of beets (planted in rows).
- 10 to 15 bell peppers.
- 4-6 squash
- 40-50 potatoes
We can calculate that such a garden would require about two and a half cubic yards of compost. And that's between 70 and 100 bags. You might want to make your own, though. It will also require 12 to 25 wire cages for melons, squash and tomatoes. The cheapest option is your own wire fence and column cages.
Prices will vary either way depending on where you live. Suppose you are in the northeast of the country and then your spending would be about this:
- 80-90 bags of compost - $255
- Tools - $50
- Fencing - $150.
- Crop seeds - $30
- Total: $485.
This is a serious investment, but it will turn into fresh produce. A vegetable garden like this could potentially bring you $2,000 worth of fresh vegetables a year. So that's a potential profit of more than $1,500.
It's harder to calculate the time you spend on your garden. Even how often you have to water your garden will depend on the amount of rainfall in your area. Pests and weeds also spread differently in certain areas.
An acquaintance of mine, Anna, maintains a garden of about 400 square feet and spends about 80 hours a year maintaining it. So we can calculate that our 800 square foot garden might require twice as much time - 160 hours. Not so much time for a regular hobby, is it? And when you also factor in the money that stays in our pockets - it gets even more satisfying.
2. Raised beds
You may not have the best soil on your property, and then it can cost too much to plow and improve it. You can build box raised beds and fill them with soil. This way, you can extend the length of the growing season because the air will get to your plants better and they will warm up faster in the spring. It will also keep your soil from getting compacted, and this will have a great effect on your plants.
Raised beds will cost you more than those on the ground. But they can be much cheaper to maintain in the future. Space in the garden will be limited, and that way fertilizer, water, and compost won't go anywhere and will continue to feed your plants. Also, given that the soil won't be compacted, you definitely won't need the large amounts of organic matter that you would need every year in the first option.
You'll more often have to make sure that water doesn't run off your raised beds, leaving them dry.
What you will be able to grow
Because this method is limited in size, we need to use the space smartly by planting crops in squares rather than rows. This is also known as intensive gardening. We will be able to increase the number of plants grown per square foot as well as save time on weed control.
For all its advantages, this method will not work universally for all crops. Sweet corn requires much more space and this compact planting will not be a good idea for this plant. Large melons and squash, pumpkin and watermelon may also be too massive and sprawling for such a garden.
Despite these limitations, you can separately adapt each patch of soil for each crop. Somewhere you may need light soil and somewhere denser soil. Adjust to the needs of the crops being grown and then you can grow anything.
What you will need
You can build a bed yourself (which will be cheaper) or buy a ready-made one. On average, for pre-built ones, prices online range from $50 to $150 for a 4-foot by 4-foot bed.
There are many instructions online showing how to build your own bed from scratch. They are all different and meet specific needs. For example, some will make your bed resistant to rot, some will be built with cheap materials, and some will help keep you safe from weeds and pests.
Once you've decided on your beds, you need soil. The volume needed is the multiplied length, width and depth measured in feet.
If you decide to garden in a block planting method, making smart use of all the space, you won't need much space to feed your family. An experienced gardener can get about 250 pounds of vegetables a year from a garden of only 150 square feet!
Of course, it will be hard to get those results right away the first year, but a family of four could well be fed using a space of 300-400 square feet of raised beds. Let's calculate how much that would cost:
- 20 cubic feet of planting soil: $220.
- Seeds of 15 different crops: $30
- 115 cubic feet of soil: $200
- 1 pound of deck screws: $15
- 90 (10 feet) two-by-fours: $720.
- Tools : $50
- 57 cubic feet of compost: $170
- Total: $1405.
So, the initial cost for a vegetable garden like this can hit the wallet hard, since equipping such a garden is really not as easy as in the first case, but it should pay for itself in the first year.
Already in the second year, your expenses for this garden will range from $150 to $300 per year.
3. Container gardens
You may not have enough space outdoors and then a container garden is a great way out.
You can use this option in the smallest gardens, or even if you don't have one. Any small space with access to sunlight (balcony, rooftop, small patio) will be able to accommodate a small number of pots of greens or tomatoes.
Since your plants are not in the soil, you don't need to prepare it or weed it. But since potted plants won't have natural access to water, you'll need to water them more often.
You will still be able to move your pots around. For example, take them out into the yard when it rains, or to get more sunlight. If the weather doesn't look good, then you can take your plants inside, or cover them with something.
What you can grow
Containers seriously limit the space for your plants. Of course if you have a big enough container, you can grow anything. But don't take it too far. Corn will require so much space that the point of container growing is lost altogether.
Here is a list of the space required for some plants:
- Tomatoes: 12 inches deep
- Onions: 4 inches deep
- Beets: 12 inches deep
- Eggplants: 5 gallons per plant
- Cucumbers: 5 gallons per two plants
- Peppers (sweet or hot): 12 inches deep.
- Lettuce and other greens: 6 to 8 inches deep
- Peas: 5 gallons for several plants
- Beans: 12 inches deep
That said, some plants will need special handling in order to be comfortable in the containers. Some plants, such as cucumbers, beans, tomatoes or peas, will need extra support, such as a trellis. Tomatoes also need good protection from the cold.
What you will need
Any type of container holds a plant as long as it is large enough to accommodate the plant's roots and has drainage holes for water drainage. You can use clay pots or plastic pots. Wooden barrels are not a bad option.You can also always use any other containers not originally intended for growing plants (garbage cans, buckets, tubs).
As always, do not forget the soil. A flat top layer is not a good idea because it will make your container too heavy to move. A good option would be a mixture of 8 parts grit soil, 4 parts compost and 1 part sand (coarse grained), which is necessary for good drainage.
Of the tools you will need very little: a trowel, and a hose or watering can. Also seedlings or seeds.
The cost depends on the types of containers you will use and the number of plants. Let's imagine you are setting up a small garden with five containers. This is roughly your cost:
- Five containers: $20.
- Ten gallons of compost: $10.
- Support trellises: $20.
- 20 gallons of soil: $30.
- Tools: $5.
- 2.5 gallons of sand: $10
- Seeds: $10
- Total: $105
You can use the same containers, tools and trellises every year. But you will have to add a new potting mix to continually feed your containers with organic matter.
Of course, such a garden will be inexpensive for you, but you shouldn't expect too much production from it either. Nevertheless, even such a small garden can provide you with up to 30 pounds of tomatoes, 10 eggplants, several pounds of peppers, and up to five heads of lettuce. That's about $150 to $200. Thus, the garden pays for itself in the first year and the savings will be even nicer in the future.
4. Window boxes
You won't need a large amount of space at all to use this type of growing. You will only need a large sized window that has access to sunlight. Even apartment dwellers in large cities will be able to grow something in these small gardens.
This shallow box can be outside a window or inside your apartment. They won't require you to make a significant monetary investment or time commitment, but they won't be able to hold many plants either. You won't need to dig, plow, or weed. All you have to do is water regularly to keep the plants from drying out.
What you can grow
Tomatoes or peppers, so beloved by Americans, will be too big to grow in window boxes. But, there are quite a number of different crops with small roots. Radishes, beets, beans, lettuce and sometimes even carrots (certain varieties).
It won't take a lot of materials to equip a window box. The main thing is to fix it securely, purchase a potting mix and seeds. You do not even need a spatula, as your bare hands are enough for planting.
Equipment can be very different in cost and quality. You can pay either 15 or 100 dollars for a planter. Choose what you like. Think about drainage, and even how the box will fit your window in terms of decor.
Let's imagine your window is 30 inches. You want to grow five crops. Here are your approximate costs:
- A plastic window box with tools to hold it in place: $30.
- 20 quarts of potting mix: $15
- Seeds: $15.
- Total: $60 dollars.
Of course, you can use the same box every year. The main thing is to remember to replace the potting mix and new seeds.
It would be hard to calculate the potential benefit of a crop from such a box. More often than not, you'll just tear off a leaf when you need it. But let's assume that you buy a $3 bag of greens every week during the growing season, which is 32 weeks. Do the math, and it turns out that the box could pay for itself in the first year and save you more than $50 a year thereafter.
5. Community Gardens
You can live in an apartment and still have a large garden to share with your neighbors. A community garden can be located on the roof, on some vacant lot, in a public park, etc.
A community garden can be divided into separate plots and then you will take care of your own area and be responsible for keeping it neat.
What you can grow
In theory you can grow anything. It all comes down to the size of the garden (your allotment).
In any case, you will have to limit yourself to the area that the organizers will allocate to you.
Also, community gardens often have their own rules for growing certain crops. For example, you won't be able to grow tall crops because they could potentially limit your neighbor's plot's access to sunlight.
Also consider whether you will be comfortable tending to your garden if it is too far from your home. So try to think about planting crops that do not require constant watering and weeding. For example, crops such as:
- Tomatoes (especially cherry tomatoes)
What do you need?
First, you need to search the internet to find a community garden near you.
If you can't find anything online, ask around your neighbors, or places where it could theoretically be located (recreation parks, universities, libraries).
Finding a garden does not guarantee that you will get an allotment. There is often a waiting list for such gardens because they are in high demand.
If you are successful, you got the plot, then you can almost immediately get to work. A great perk of community gardens is that they already have common tools and sometimes even their own compost. You will only need to buy seeds, or, trellises (if necessary).
The cost to participate in a community garden can vary widely. Some are free and get money from sponsors or through government support, and some charge their members.
Seeds usually cost from a few dollars a bag and will rarely cost you more than $6 to $8. You can also try exchanging seeds with other gardeners, looking for a better deal online, or collecting seeds from your own crop.
The amount of your crop will depend on your own diligence and the size of your plot. If you already have a little gardening experience, you can get about 250 pounds of produce from a 150 foot plot. And that's already about $800 a year in profit.
If you're not an experienced gardener, you need to understand one simple thing: Not everything you plant will grow right away. In any case, you may experience setbacks due to weather, your mistakes in choosing soil or seeds, and that's perfectly normal for beginners. The Internet may promise you a guaranteed result thanks to some gardening tools, but this is not true. There can never be a hundred percent guarantee.
If you want to maximize your chances of success, then try to get as much knowledge as possible. Read the internet, watch instructional videos, and ask other gardeners for advice. Finally, learn and try it yourself. Without practice, you won't get the right experience.
Try to keep your garden well maintained, watered heavily, and supplied with a good amount of compost. Protect your plants from weeds and pests and harvest on time.
If you are lucky enough to produce more crops than you need for your own consumption, think about storing your produce properly. Perhaps you should consider canning? Using all your new knowledge, good tools and your own persistence you may be surprised at the amount of money you save and the quality of your fresh produce.
Was this article helpful?2 Posted by: 👨 Sam E. Lucchesi