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Starting a Garden and Saving Money on Vegetables and Herbs

After a long hard winter, at least up here in the Northeast, the sun is coming out more often and several feet of snow has turned into a few inches of grey yuckiness. It’s time to think spring – and when I think of spring – I think green! Growing things, and saving money while doing it. Starting a vegetable garden is a great way to get outside, be healthy and stay frugal.


Saving Money with a Vegetable Garden

I started with three containers (big white buckets) full of compost and soil, and grew tomatoes – two cherry tomato plants and one giant hybrid variety.   Let me tell you, if you’ve never had a fresh homegrown tomato, you don’t know what you are missing.  Considering that the price of tomatoes skyrocketed last year, I think I got my money’s worth. But anyway….

If you have a yard, and can spare a few square feet, try putting in a small garden. “Victory gardens” were all the rage back during World War II and gardens sprung up all over the place. Well, in times like these where many folks are cash strapped, we can take a few tips from our grandparents and get growing! (We should probably change the name to “economic survival gardens” but the idea is the same…)

It’s really a great project to get the kids involved in, and it can be quite therapeutic to be digging in the dirt, getting back “in touch” with the earth.

Easy Plants to Grow

Here are a few of the plants that are easy to grow, and give a pretty good yield:

  • beans
  • peas
  • carrots
  • tomatoes
  • cucumbers
  • zucchini
  • lettuce
  • radishes

If you are going to put in plants like tomatoes or peppers or cucumbers, you need to either start the plants indoors, or buy them at a greenhouse , supermarket or hardware store. Being frugally minded, I recommend starting the plants yourself indoors. The worst that can happen is that they fail, and you have to buy some starter plants later. It’s worth a shot – just some packets of seed, a bag or two of potting soil and some small containers. Here’s a good article about starting plants indoors.

Companion Planting

Here’s a powerful secret – there are certain plants that grow very, very well together and actually help each other grow. They are called companion plants.

For example, if you are growing tomatoes, tomatoes love carrots  (that’s actually the title of a book about companion planting. ) Tomatoes also love onions, chives, and parsley. Here’s a link to a great chart over at Wikipedia about companion planting. Tomatoes however do not like cucumbers, corn, peas, potatoes or cabbages, so you would not want to put them together.

If you have room in your yard, you might try and imitate several tribes of Native Americans and grow the “Three Sisters” – Corn, beans and squash. Apparently, the corn grows and supports the beans, and the squashes provide ground cover eliminating most weeds. (Companion planting is not a new idea, just a good one!)

Container Gardens and Indoor Gardening

So, you live in an apartment and don’t have a yard? Got a window? You can grow all sorts of small vegetables and herbs in a sunny window, or supply some grow lights. I would recommend herbs, since herbs can get pretty expensive – and the fresh ones taste so much better – making the most mundane dishes come alive. It can also be a real kick snipping fresh herbs off your window garden while cooking! (If you get really good at this, small potted herbs are a cute gift, and can turn into a little part time home based business for you!)

Got a little bit of space, but can’t really dig up the yard? Try a container garden! Any old bucket , or box will do. You can even grow some vegetables hanging  off a balcony, or porch. (Don’t be fooled by those TV infomercials about the upside down tomatoes in a bag … Here’s a link to making your own upside down tomato planter.  It’s not rocket science!) Anybody with a square foot or two in a sunny spot can grow something.

Gardening Resources

There are resources all over the web about gardening, and rather than point them all out, here’s a few searches you can use that will get you started in the right direction.

  • companion planting
  • container gardening
  • small space gardening
  • square foot gardening
  • indoor gardening
  • herb garden
  • high yield gardening

Do you have any of your own gardening experiences that you’d like to share? Let’s get growing!


Andi is a Marketing Assistant at ACCC. He is passionate about supporting financial literacy efforts and helping to educate people on the Talking Cents blog!

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