As the weather starts to warm up, saving money with the family can be as close as spending one day digging in the dirt. Growing your favorite foods in your backyard, on your porch, or even on a balcony can be a family-friendly and rewarding way to save big. So gather up the kids and some trowels and start a garden together.
Getting a garden started can be as easy as buying your favorite plants from the store that have already started growing to buying seeds and starting from scratch. If you have a backyard, pick a sunny spot with well-drained soil, remove the grass and start planting; you can get your soil tested locally or do it yourself to be sure you have healthy soil (not too acidic, not too alkaline, and not depleted of nutrients) before planting. If you want to give “urban gardening” a chance, plant your veggies in some pots and place them in a sunny spot on your balcony or patio.
Not only can gardening save you money at the grocery store, it can provide a way to teach children about where their food comes from and get them interested in a new activity. Do you have a picky eater? Let them help you plant some of the veggies that they aren’t too sure about. Be sure to give them a job—because kids love having a stake in the success of a project—like watering, or you could even give them a separate space for their own little garden that they can be responsible for. A picky eater might be more interested in eating different foods if they are helping grow them.
Are you ready to dig in with gardening this spring?
Here are five tips to help get you started.
- Think about how much space you’ll have. This will help you decide what kind of fruits and vegetables you’ll be able to grow. Things like zucchini or squash won’t do as well if you are limited to gardening in containers.
- Think about what fruits and veggies your family eats a lot of, and then think about how much it costs to purchase them at the store. If you’re limited on how much space you have, you will want to grow the produce that is the most expensive to purchase at the store. This will save you the most money. For example, I love pesto, but basil is always a budget breaker. Last summer, I dedicated an entire pot of my very limited space to growing my own basil to enjoy one of my favorite meals very cheaply. (I was even able to grow enough that I made batches of pesto and froze them so I could enjoy the spoils of summer over the winter months.)
- Particularly when gardening in containers, be sure to use plant food every so often. As there isn’t much soil in the pot, every time you water it, the soil loses nutrients. Adding plant food to the water will help your plants produce the best fruits and veggies that they can. Be sure to double-check how much food is recommended and how often it’s recommended so you don’t over-feed your plant, which could be devastating.
- Be sure when you plant in the spring that you don’t plant too early (and don’t plant too late, either). If you’re starting from seeds, you’ll want to get those early- to mid-summer fruits and veggies in March so they’re ready when it’s warm enough to put them outside. If you’re going to be planting in containers, you need to wait to plant outside until there is no chance of a frost. Plants in containers will get colder faster because they don’t have the insulation of the surrounding ground to protect their roots.
- It’s all about experimentation. To figure out exactly what plants work best for you and the season, you have to jump in and get started. Then change your plan the following year if one variety of plant doesn’t work out.
Gardening is a great way to entertain the family all while saving money on groceries. Once you get your garden started this spring, you’ll want to be sure to pick up the summer edition of From Our Nest and look for the next Thrifty Tips column where you will learn how to preserve the harvests from your garden so you can enjoy them year-round!