Any home gardener will tell you the produce tastes better, has higher nutrient content, and is the one form of ‘organic’ that they honestly know complies. I’ll let you in on a little secret that you might not know if you haven’t had a vegetable garden before, it’s not that hard. It’s not really easy either, and the initial set up is the most expensive part.
Your set up will depend on what space you have available, so it varies considerably, however you’ll be spending money on things like soil, seedlings, seeds, fertiliser, mulch and garden tools. Another thing you need to consider is water. Most vegetables have shallow roots and they like free draining soil so regular water is a must.
When do you see the cost benefits?
It really comes down the way you go about it and the process of learning and applying each season. To see a return on investment you need to commit to your food garden because that’s how you move closer to self-sufficiency. Not only will you improve your skills you’ll also absorb the setup costs as well.
You won’t save money if you do it for one season only.
Vegetable garden to self-sufficiency
Self-sufficiency doesn’t happen overnight. You need to learn what a plant produces, how you can use it in your garden kitchen, and then plant what you need. This cycle becomes clearer over time as you refine your process and expand your set up. You’ll also find new ways to grow and what grows best in your garden. Then your food garden will suddenly become a healthy supply your family can enjoy every season.
Here are some things for you to consider when growing food to save money and becoming self-sufficient.
You need rich organic soil to feed your plants so instead of buying it, you can turn your food scraps and garden litter into organic matter for your garden. There are many ways you can compost, and you’ll be reducing, reusing and recycling your waste. Composting is the foundation of organic gardening. Organic gardening principles are then built on top of rich soil. Check out some ways your family can compost at home and reduce your family footprint at the same time.
Continual harvest vegetable crops
These are the ones you can pick continually over a season like silverbeet, tomatoes, cucumber, eggplant, ornate lettuce, beans & capsicum. These veggies will keep on giving. You only need a few plants of each and you will have a continual supply for months. You’ll be able to fill your basket on a regular basis and over time the excess will be minimal because you’ll know exactly how to make the most of them. We also have a list of the easiest veggies to grow if you want to have a read through.
Staggering your crops can really extend your output as well. This is when you start 2 tomatoes plants in August and then another 2 in November. When the first crop is exhausted the second crop takes over and continues your supply. I use staggered planting all year round as it is a way I can ensure my output continues for as long as possible. Well, until Mother Nature decides she’s ready for a temperature change.
Creating more space to plant
Try growing in pots, vertically, on a trellis, or in other spaces in the garden. It’s amazing where you can find space when you really want to grow more. A well-positioned wall garden is a brilliant option for herbs. Or a climbing plant like pumpkin, cucumber, beans or snow peas can attach to a fence, gate or wall. I grow blueberries in a pot because I haven’t got a space in the ground. Anything is possible to a home gardener.
You can save hundreds of dollars growing a herb garden, and some herbs you can easily propagate and make them into gifts. Think about how we are made to buy herbs from the supermarket. Most of the time we have to throw away whats left over because we can’t use it. Imagine picking your herbs as you go and only using what you need, not to forget the amazing fresh flavour in your food. Some of the easiest herbs to grow include parsley, mint, chives, oregano, rosemary and thyme.
Starting from seed
The thing to remember with seed raising is it takes about 4-6 weeks for them to be ready for your garden. You’ll also need to protect them through the initial stages of life before they head out into the veggie patch.
Seeds only cost a couple of dollars a packet, so your outlay is minor compared to the abundance of healthy organic produce you will harvest in return. You can even purchase seeds in self-sufficiency packs to take the guesswork out of it and save money at the same time.
You need to choose a seed raising mix to start your seeds because they need lots of room to move during germination. Get the kids to help you with this stage as it’s a great experience for them. Check out our seed raising basics and how to get started.
Garden to plate
The worst thing that can happen when you have an abundance of produce left over, is that it goes to waste. My best advice is to have a few recipes or options for excess produce. Of course, share them with your family and friends, but you can also use your excess in creative ways to get the most value for money. Recipes such as green smoothies, vegetable fritters, herbal iced tea, salsa, homemade tomato sauce, passata, or bolognese sauce are a great way to achieve this.
Many home gardeners learn to preserve which allows them to extend their produce over the colder months. Drying out your herbs and storing, freezing your garlic, or adding your vegetable off cuts to stocks and then freezing are some of the ways you can do this.
Thinking about how to use your produce, is just as important when you’re working towards food self-sufficient and saving money growing food.
It’s definitely cheaper for our family to grow food but it doesn’t happen overnight. The best part about growing food at home is knowing it’s chemical and pesticide free, fresh and nutrient dense. That makes sense when you’re feeding your loved ones.