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5 Tips For Growing An Organic Vegetable Garden On A Budget

Growing some of your own organic vegetables is a great way to increase the amount of fresh, organic food in your family’s diet while saving yourself some cash. But it is also easy to waste money, especially if you get seduced by marketing hype and buy lots of stuff you don’t really need (hybrid seeds or fancy containers for planting), or if you don’t select your vegetables strategically. Here are 8 tips to help maximize the return on your investment.

1. Pick the right veggies for your garden

Grow only vegetables you and your family already buy and eat and only plant as much as you will eat. These might include veggies that are best fresh (such as leaf lettuce) or those that are expensive or hard to find fresh and organic in your local stores.
To help you narrow down your list, first figure out what vegetables actually do well in your climate—your local Cooperative Extension Office is a great source for this information, as is your local Master Gardener Program. Find either one by searching the name online in combination with your state or city name.

Next, plan to include some vegetables in your garden that will produce for months (i.e. give you more edible bang for your buck) such as cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and string beans (pole variety, not bush). And for vegetables you plant and harvest just once, like radishes, choose varieties that mature more quickly so you can plant something else in the same place after you pick them. Optimized space is money saved.

2. Waste nothing

Use everything you raise! Got extra? Pop ‘em in the freezer, make refrigerator pickles, share them with friends, or donate them to a food bank.

3. Coordinate a seed swap

Get in touch with your gardening friends, or anyone you know who’s interested in growing their own delicious fresh vegetables, and coordinate a seed swap. Decide who will buy which vegetable seeds and then split the packets. Most packets contain more seed than the average herb gardener will need in several years, so splitting up multiple packets can end up being a big money saver.

4. Start from seeds—with a few exceptions

Start almost all veggies from seed. Garden centers increasingly sell seedlings of almost any veggie you can think of in pots, but most are a waste of money as they don’t transplant well. Plants grown from seeds you put directly in your garden will almost always catch up and outperform them.
Buy old-fashioned, non-hybrid seeds as they tend to be less expensive than fancy new hybrid seeds. However, disease-resistant hybrids may be a good investment if a particular disease tends to kill plants prematurely in your area. If you can't find organic seeds locally, two all-organic companies worth trying are High Mowing and Sustainable Seed Co.

5. Go small to start

If you’re new to gardening, start small—no more than 10-by-10 feet, or two 4-by-8-feet raised beds. You will harvest more out of a small, well cared for plot (and have a lot more fun) than you will from one you lose to the weeds mid-summer. Also consider placing your garden close to the kitchen door, or next to a path you use every day. This will make it easier to remember to pick and use your produce, and to give your garden a little love on a regular basis.

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