It’s a gorgeous pre-spring day, just over 70 degrees here in Chesapeake, Virginia. I took to the opportunity to get some seeds in the ground for fast-growing cool weather crops. Realistically some of these could have been planted a few weeks ago, but I really don’t like working outside in the cold. I cleared out the first of my raised beds last weekend to get ready to plant.

peas gardening saves moneyI prefer to use the Square Foot Gardening Method for growing my produce. It’s a method developed by Mel Bartholomew and popularized by his PBS show back in the early 80s. His books have sold over 2 million copies. The basic idea is to buck the traditional farm-style rows and grow more in less space. I’ve used this method with a lot of success, both in San Diego and here in Virginia. For more information about it, you can visit the website Square Foot Gardening. If you’re trying to save money… check your local library for the book!

I have seeds for my summer crop started in a mini greenhouse on my sun porch. Here’s what I planted today:

Garden Plot – Front Left “Square”
Beets
Red Ace Hybrid
Swiss Chard
Bright Lights
Peas
Sugar Sprint (bush)
Peas
Sugar Sprint (bush)
Beets
Red Ace Hybrid
Lettuce
Summer Glory Blend
Peas
Sugar Sprint (bush)
Peas
Sugar Sprint (bush)
Carrots
Nandrin Hybrid
Lettuce
Summer Glory Blend
Peas
Sugar Sprint (bush)
Peas
Sugar Sprint (bush)
Carrots
Nandrin Hybrid
Lettuce
Summer Glory Blend
Radishes
Patricia
Radishes
Patricia

If you have space, growing your own vegetables (and fruit) is a great way to save money! The cost of groceries has been going up, and I’ve read there is a likelihood that we’ll see food price increases in the double-digits this year. Aside from saving money, when you grow your own food, you can control what’s in it: you can choose organic methods of pest control and fertilizer, or not… but it’s up to you!

radishes from my gardenAround here radishes now sell for about $1 a bunch, the lowest I’ve seen in the last year has been 69ยข. That’s for a dozen or so radishes. My seed pack contains at least 200 seeds (for $1.20), which will provide at least 10 times more radishes for my money. (the math works out to more, but I’m allowing for natural variations in production).

Of the plants I chose, the seeds averaged about $2 a pack. In all honesty, I probably won’t use the whole pack of any of them this year. I can choose to share the seeds, or carefully store them for next year. Seeds are packed and sold with dates. That doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t grow past the year they are packed for, but the germination rate may go down. However, properly packaged and stored, seeds can last for years. I keep mine in an ammo can (like my mom did!). It’s weather resistant… and vermin resistant, too. It also is light-proof. I store it in my garage which stays fairly cool all year.

Radishes typically take 3 or 4 weeks from planting to harvesting, peas take 10 weeks, lettuce takes 4-7 weeks — and can be harvested continually until the weather turns hot and causes it to bolt. Swiss chard, like lettuce can be harvested as needed, and takes roughly 8 weeks to harvest. Carrots take roughly 10 weeks, beets take 8. All of these numbers vary to a degree based on weather, water, etc. I will be able to harvest and replant radishes a few times before most of the other plants are ready to harvest, but using the square foot method, this isn’t a problem.

In my own gardening ventures I am not strictly organic, but mostly. I compost all of my produce scraps — either putting them directly into my compost bin, or feeding them to my 4 hens, or my red wigglers (worms).

I’ve built raised boxes over the years out of various materials, frequently re-purposed or reclaimed wood, and I use a dripper system for irrigation. My point is, you don’t have to go out and spend a bunch of money to start a garden. Tools can be borrowed or purchased at garage sales. Seeds are cheap. Research can help you identify ways to save on amending your soil without spending much money.

Aside from saving money on groceries, gardening is good exercise, gives me a reason to be out working in the yard, and gives me a sense of accomplishment, while feeling a connection with nature. Even if you just start with a tomato in a pot on your porch, consider giving gardening a try!