Saturday, January 12, 2008

Why should I grow my own veggies...

when I can just buy organic from the store?
Do you really save money growing your own veggies?
How do you grow enough for your family when you have a small garden?

These are just some of the questions that I get from my friends who have not yet discovered the joy of small space gardening.

Let's start the first two questions, especially "Why should I grow my own when I can just buy organic from the store, co-op, farmer's market, etc.?" There are many answers to this question but the most basic answer is CO$T! Yes, you really do save money in the long run when you grow your own veggies. Last year, I spent just under $25.00 dollars for seeds, supplies, and soil/peat moss. My costs now are low because I am an established gardener. It was higher when I was collecting supplies over the years. Last year was my most abundant year but also the year that I lost the largest percentage of my harvest to frost, floods, etc. BUT despite my losses I still have NOT purchased frozen broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peas, or onions since JUNE. Yes, my friends, I typed that correctly. My family of four has not had a store bought vegetable (with the exception of corn and brussell sprouts and veggies for Thanksgiving and Christmas because the holidays would have been hard on my stash) since JUNE. If I keep using at the pace that I estimate that I will not have to buy the veggies that I grew in my garden until March. In March, my carrots and peas will be scheduled to come in by May along with my radishes, lettuce, and spinach. So, if (and with gardening it is always a big IF) everything goes well, there will only be about a 2 or three month span where I will not have my family eating something that I have grown with my own hands. That is a great feeling!!! I have saved so much money!

I have two separate gardens that combined equals a garden much smaller that what most folks consider big enough to feed a family. I have one small garden along the side of my house that depending on the season and crop rotation grows strawberries, lettuce, spinach, onions, green peppers and jalapeno peppers. This garden is approximately 3 ft wide by about 10 ft long. Tiny. My "big" garden is really two squares corner to corner joined together by a triangle. It is stuck in the corner of our yard where our fence juts in around a utility box, that is why it is an odd shape. But it is still small. In there, I grow my broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers (vertically), peas, onions, cilantro, and mint (in a container otherwise I would have a garden filled with mint).

So, what is my secret for growing so much in a small space? Crop rotation, companion planting, and a "small space" mind set where I plant crops close together in a more "French gardening" stagger method vs. the traditional row planting. I also use "bonus spaces" such as the areas along my paths to grow things like extra carrots or green onions because they grow almost straight up or underground and don't take up a great deal of space. Creativity, determination, and a willingness to experiment and perhaps fail are important if you are going to get the most out of your small space garden.

Over the next few weeks/months I plan to chronicle EXACTLY how I set up and care for my beloved garden so that those who are interested can keep tabs on what I am doing. Please keep in mind that gardening is based on region and I am in zone 5a so your results, plants, etc. may be different. If you would like to know what grows well in your area, I recommend that you contact your local gardening extension or just leave me a comment and I can help you figure out what will work in your area. (Unless you live in, let's say, Florida or Arizona. I have no idea how to grow things in those states. LOL!!)

Gardening is easy and fun. You will learn more about your region and it's weather and ecosystem than you ever imagined you would. You will learn to love bees (we would run out of food without them to pollinate everything!), butterflies, spiders and snakes. Your children may just eat things that you never thought they would. You will learn to be patient and wait for a natural predator to come and begin eating whatever is bugging your plants. I am still amazed when I see the wasps come year after year to clean up the cabbage worms from my broccoli and cauliflower. You will know the satisfaction of growing something yourself and not relying on the store. You learn to see the hand of God in nature. Gardening is GREAT and I hope that you will feel inspired and confident to do it in whatever method you can, be it in 5 gallon buckets on your patio or on your very own path of land somewhere in your yard.

Have a wonderful weekend!! :)


a soldier's wife said...

Thanks so much!! I am so excited about starting this :) Now to figure out what Zone I'm in :)

sara said...

This a very generous thing for you to do.