Eight money saving tips for the City Gardener

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An Illustrated City Gardener Series
by Sandy Coughlin
The Reluctant Entertainer

I’ve been putting off writing my garden post this week, not because I’m lacking inspiration, but because I’ve been so busy! But I will say this time of year is very exciting for me and my husband, as we plan out and start planting our garden.

This year we have something new that has been sitting on our kitchen counter. We picked up this beauty on Craig’s List and, actually, it has changed gardening for us.

Have you ever heard of the Aerogarden?

Before I tell you about how we grow our own starts, I want to chat about some discussions that Paul and I have. Yes, we have our favorite veggies we love to grow each year–the standard tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini, beans, potatoes–you get the idea. But each year we also like to branch out to try something new … like ground cherries. Talk about a unique conversation starter around the table as you serve up a platter of these nutty, vanilla-ish tasting treats! (My husband says they are the up and coming fruit.)

As I’ve written in my past 2 gardening posts, we’ve turned many of our flower beds in our back yard (on a city lot) into garden vegetable beds. Today I’m exploring why we grow what we grow, and also some money-saving thoughts on gardening.

8 Ways to Save Money by Growing your Own Vegetables

1. Plan out your garden space before you shop.
The easiest way to overspend at the garden store is to not have your garden mapped out with the number of plants or seeds you need to buy. Garden websites, like Territorial Seed, will help you plan out the space. We have found them to be very helpful and innovative.

2. Think it through.
For example. garlic and corn simply are more effecient to buy in the store than to grow on a city lot. It’s all relevant, but corn and garlic take a ton of space and water, so think of what you could be growing in that space. Because of our friend Connie, who wrote the NEW Sonoma Diet book (you can enter to win a copy of her book!), we’re encouraged to try to grow peppers this year. For some reason we had difficulty getting our peppers to ripen in the past.

3. Grow what would be cheaper on your own, than to buy in the store.
For example, it’s cheaper to grow your own tomatoes than to buy them in the store. And especially lettuce and strawberries with this year’s problems in California, and besides, they taste much better. Onions, on the other hand, compete for space and sunlight, yet you can’t tell a huge difference of homegrown and store bought. We’ve opted to NOT use our city-lot space for onions.

4. Grow what your family likes.
Plan your garden around the vegetables you will be cooking with and that your family will eat. We love beets, but our kids aren’t as fond as them. On the other hand they love my Zucchini noodles, so we plant a ton of zucchinis and other squashes. (This year I plan to post a few new canning recipes!)

5. Grow what does well in your zone and grows well in your type of soil.
Don’t forget to save your coffee grounds for a richer compost (plant matter such as leaves, grass clippings, vegetable trimmings, egg shells, etc.). Compost does wonderful things for your garden’s soil. We also use a lot of straw (you’ll see it in pictures).

6. Start your own plants.
With our NEW Aerogarden, we’ve already saved a ton of money this year and it’s been an exciting process. Seeds are inexpensive, it just takes a little patience to get them “started” inside.

7. Plant in succession.
Don’t plant crops such as lettuce all at once. Plant some every week or so that there is always a fresh crop ready to pick. You want to plant what you can harvest and eat or can, without having any go to waste.

8. Plant according to the season.
Cool weather crops such as kale, swiss chard, and spinach don’t like the hot August heat. We just planted these last week.

There’s no way around making mistakes with gardening.  You’ll learn from year to year what works for you on your piece of property. The last few years we were looking forward to asparagus, but we didn’t plant it in the right soil. This year we’re devoting a new entire bed to it.

If you are planning a garden, what stage are you in right now?

Also, please let me know if you are interested in an entire post on the AeroGarden. I also thought I’d share a picture of the “gardeners,” all cleaned up after a long day of gardening and ready for a hot date! :)