Lets create a community garden in Shelburne Falls. Villagers who live in the center of town, or residents who prefer gardening with friends and neighbors, and growing their own food, need a place to become resilient and save money on healthy fresh organic (low carbon miles) food! interested? - write to me, or post a reply with your ideas.
By Christina Brown
blog - frugal by nature
With food prices continually on the rise, more people are turning to gardening as a way to save money. If this is something you’ve been thinking about, you have a couple of options to consider.
You could invest in a Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) program, where you buy a share of produce from a local farm. It’s much less work than planting your own garden, but it also offers less flexibility. You’ll spend a minimum of $400 for the season and you may end up with produce you don’t know what to do with (rutabega, anyone?)
If you’re willing to invest some time, growing fruits and vegetables in your own back yard can be very economical. A $1 packet of carrot seeds will give you dozens of fresh carrots to eat. Just a few tomato plants will bear enough fruit for salads, salsas, sauces and more for a few months for a family of five.
Either way, gardening on your own has a lot of perks, besides the obvious cost savings. One of the perks is that you control the conditions. You can choose to raise your food organically, which provides a significant cost savings over buying organic produce at the store. You could pay as much as $3 a pound for organic carrots, or you could grow 25 pounds of carrots for the cost of a $1 packet of seeds.
The other perk: food you’ve grown yourself tastes amazing! Your food is picked fresh from your garden when it’s ready and doesn’t have to be transported on a truck or sit around on store shelves. When food tastes better, you’re less likely to let it go to waste.
I first started gardening three years ago. I’ve never had much of a green thumb, and I’ve made plenty of mistakes (and I’ll make more), but I can honestly say that growing your own food isn’t that hard. I’ve grown tomatoes, broccoli, green beans, carrots, peppers, zucchini, and basil in just two 4’x4’ raised bed garden plots and saved more than $125 on my food bill.
The first year is the most expensive as you get set up. My initial investment consisted of less than $70 for one 4‘x4’ raised-bed kit, dirt and plants. I added a second plot in year two. This year, my only investment has been plants and seeds. The amount of produce I’ve grown more than makes up for the money I’ve spent on my garden.
Of course, if you’re not careful, gardening can be expensive. If your motivation is to save money, it’s important to keep your costs low. Here are a few ways you can save money on planting a garden:
Start small. A smaller garden takes much less work and needs fewer materials to start. With a small raised bed and some containers, you’ll be able to grow plenty of fresh produce.
Start from seed. Starting seeds indoors can be a huge savings over what you’d pay for plants at the greenhouse. For example, you may pay $2 for tomato seeds to plant dozens of tomato plants, or you could buy one tomato plant at a greenhouse for $5 or more. You just need a bit more time and planning to start from seed. Since each seed packet has more than you need, consider a seed exchange with friends to get the plants you want for less.
Shop the sales. If planting from seed isn’t for you, then be sure to shop the sales at your local greenhouse. Sign up for any mailing lists or newsletters from local greenhouses to be notified of special sales. Watch for end-of-season close-outs and save 50% off or more on your plants.
Plant what you’ll eat. There’s no point in having a garden if you don’t like anything you plant. One of the best ways to save money when gardening is to plant things you love to eat but hate spending money on. For me, that’s broccoli. For you, it might be fresh herbs or tomatoes.
Compost. You can start your own compost bin or pile and provide hearty nutrition for your garden with your own vegetable scraps. You’ll save money on fertilizer and be doing something good for the environment.
Preserve your harvest. Make sure to make the most of what you’ve grown – I highly recommend freezing or canning whatever produce you don’t eat right away. You can watch the sales for deals on vacuum packers and bags for freezing, or use coupons to buy canning supplies. Canning jars can be picked up for great prices at thrift stores and estate sales – you’ll just need to get new lids and rings. You can even use a food dehydrator to preserve items like carrots and celery for use in soups during the winter months.
Gardening is a fun, family activity that doesn’t have to cost a lot. And if I can do it with my two brown thumbs, I know you can, too!