How Planning A Garden Can Help You Save This Spring
It may be hard to imagine while your yard is in hibernation, but spring will eventually come. While you wait, why not plan to create your own garden to supplement store-bought groceries this upcoming season? You don’t have to spend a ton of money to (literally) reap the rewards of home-grown fruits, vegetables, flowers or herbs—but forethought is key. Here are some tips for planning out how to save money growing vegetables.
Assess your circumstances
Anyone facing the beginning of the season with a random wheelbarrow of plants, gardening tools and fertilizer risks watching those plants die and losing hard-earned dollars along with them. Having a strategy heading into the growing season can help cut down on the time, effort and money required for a successful garden. The first step is to figure out what you need and want out of a garden, how much space you have for it, and how much time and physical ability you have to establish and maintain it, keeping in mind tasks such as weeding, watering, fertilizing and harvesting.
Select your crops
If you’re gardening to save money, choose items that you and your family will enjoy eating and that also grow well in your region—Canada has 10 climate zones, ranging from 0 in the coldest regions with the shortest growing season to 9 in the mildest areas. Here are some of the best vegetables to grow to save money.
Choose your plot
For the happiest veggies, select a flat or gently sloping area that gets at least six hours of full sun a day, preferably more. Too much wind and not enough drainage can hinder plant growth, as can nearby trees that will shade your plants and compete for nutrients and water in the soil. Other considerations may include access to water, existing landscaping, foot traffic and even viewing angles. If you’re strapped for space, or don’t want to plant a whole garden bed, consider a container garden, which can be grown on even the smallest of apartment balconies.
Design it yourself
Forgo the expense of hiring a landscape designer or professional gardener. Your local library and online gardening forums will have loads of plant and garden design information to help you learn about plant requirements, effective layouts and how to build and install any infrastructure needed, from pathways to raised beds to simple irrigation systems. Draw a scaled map of your garden area—including existing trees, shrubs, slopes, patios and fences—to help with your design. Start sourcing low-cost supplies, such as old pallets, fence boards or bricks that can be repurposed into raised beds, vintage gates or bedframes you can use for trellises, or old pots and buckets to clean up and use as a container garden. Salvage yards, junk shops, garage sales and online freecycling sites can be a gold mine of inexpensive materials.
Pay attention to soil
For best results, do not skimp on soil quality. Use soil with an abundance of organic matter, not too compacted or sandy. An inexpensive way to enrich your soil is by creating and using your own compost. You might also find mulch, which will help insulate the soil and retain moisture, at low cost or for free at local tree-cutting companies or through your municipality.
Source the plants
Growing plants from seed is a bit more work but far less expensive than purchasing larger plants. Search out seed swaps, ask for harvested seeds from friends and family and investigate local seed libraries that “loan” seeds at planting time in exchange for a portion of your harvested seeds at the end of the season. When the season starts, scope out gardening forums for plant swaps or look for individuals clearing out healthy plants and cuttings for free.
If you’re new to gardening it’s advisable to start with a small project until you learn the ropes and get a better idea of how much you can realistically take on. Buy only the garden tools you need instead of investing in expensive equipment. A hoe, spade and garden fork will do the trick nicely in most cases as long as you’re willing to use some muscle power. Using a rain barrel can help cut watering costs and local freecycling groups, flea markets and garage sales can be good sources of gently used tools.
Create a garden journal
Keep track of your plan and, as the season progresses, write down your observations about what is and isn’t working to help you re-evaluate when you start planning again for next year. Before long, you’ll be enjoying your harvest and taking pride in all your hard work.
For planning out ways to use all those fresh, homegrown vegetables, check out the PC Insiders subscription program, which offers access to food articles, videos and recipes through the INSIDERS PROJECT link (in addition to other benefits).
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