Food finance and food insecurity are relatively new terms that are quickly becoming more familiar. The average American family spends $800.00 to $1,000.00 a month on groceries, and food prices are expected to keep rising. Knowing how to grow your own food is a great way to put some of that money back into your pocket.
Approximately 100 square feet per person is needed to provide a season’s worth of food. However, a more limited amount of space can still yield enough to supplement your grocery bill. You can still grow your own food in a small side yard, raised beds, flower boxes, and planters.
Regardless of where you will be planting, soil quality and good drainage are important. If you will be planting in the ground, take the time to break up the soil, remove any sod and weed roots, and build up the soil with compost. Be sure that any containers have drainage holes. Adding gravel to the bottom of containers and raised beds before adding dirt will also help with drainage.
Make sure that you have left enough room for the roots to grow. The deeper the roots can grow, the less often it will need to be watered and the stronger the plant will be.
Pick varieties of vegetables and fruits that do the best in your growing zone. If you are unsure or a first time gardener, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most local nurseries and greenhouses will be happy to share their experience with you.
Potatoes, onions, carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers and zucchini are popular plants to grow. Potatoes require a lot of space to grow, so I recommend growing a sweet potato or yam variety to get the most nutritional value out of the space available. Climbing plants, such as beans or peas, are a great way to maximize calorie value in a small amount of space. Tomatoes, lettuce, onions, strawberries and peppers can all be grown with great success in containers.
You can grow vegetables from seed or buy seedlings early in the year to plant. Many vegetables, such as carrots, can be sown directly into the garden and then thinned. Starting plants from seed will save the most amount of money. Some seeds will need to be started indoors at least a month before they are planted. They will grow the best if they are planted in a planting mix made for seedlings, and will require maximum light, warmth and moisture. Consider investing in an ultra violet light to provide consistent heat and light. You will also need a spray bottle, as delicate seedlings will need to be misted and may not survive an accidental dousing.
Whether you seedlings are grown at home or purchased, set them outside during the day for a couple of times before planting. This will allow them to adjust to the temperature change before undergoing the shock of transplanting. When the seedlings are ready to be transplanted, water your container or bed generously. Gently separate the roots before planting and water them well.
All that you will need to do until harvest time is to maintain your container or bed. Weeding a couple of times a week should be enough for most garden plots. Make it a habit to water your plants in the morning. This will lessen the amount of water evaporated, and ensure that any issues of garden pests, rot or the need to be thinned is spotted and dealt with immediately.
When harvest time comes, you can enjoy both the savings and the wholesome food you’ve grown.