Fruits and Vegetables 500

Gardening for Less

Do you want to grow a large garden that will provide your family a major percentage of your fresh fruits and vegetables? It's easy to spend a lot putting in a garden. Here are some ways that you can do it for less:

Grow from seeds

Seeds are much less money than buying plants at the nursery.

Just like shopping for anything else, however, it pays to shop around for seeds.

The cheapest seeds I've found so far are at Walmart. They have small packages of 20 cent seeds. These are great if you only want to plant a few, but they sell out quickly.

They also sell Burpee seeds for $1 and $1.50 a package. These are specially priced for Walmart (it says Walmart on the package). Target carries Burpee seeds too, without a special logo, for $.99 to $2.19 a packet. Local nurseries carry these same seeds without the Walmart logo—for about $1.75-$2.50 a packet.

You can also order online. There are many companies to choose from.

When choosing, keep in mind that some companies offer small quantities of seeds, and some offer larger quantities.

For some fruits and vegetables, you may get more seeds just by choosing one variety of plant over another.

For example, if you want to grow strawberries from seed (and there are some varieties that grow from seeds and not runners) you can order Fresca Strawberries: 20 seeds for $3.95, or you can order Alpine Strawberries from the same company: 1000 seeds for $3.55.

My own experience has been that those plants that give you more seeds for less tend to grow more easily and abundantly than the seeds that come with just a few seeds per packet.

Another advantage of growing from seeds is the ability to grow more varieties of fruits and vegetables than your local nursery or local store can provide.

If you need to start your seeds indoors and do not have money for containers, use empty plastic containers from sour cream, margarine, milk jugs cut in half, etc. If you are living on your food storage and do not have these things,

ask a friend or neighbor to save their extra containers for you.

You can also make starter containers from newspaper.

If you don't get the paper, ask a neighbor who does to save some for you.

Collect your own seeds

Your seed expense can be smaller next year if you don't have to buy any seeds.

You can do this by growing heirloom and open-pollinated varieties, and collecting their seeds for next year's harvest.

To learn more about saving seeds, check out

Basic Seed Saving

In case you are wondering what heirloom and open-pollinated seeds are, here is a brief definition:

Open pollinated seeds are seeds which produce offspring just like the parent plants. Open-pollinated seeds can be harvested and saved to plant the following year.

An heirloom plant variety plant is one that has been kept by familes and handed down from generation to generation.

An heirloom plant is grown from open-pollinated seeds; therefore, it is not a hybrid and has not been genetically modified.

You can download a free printable seed packet to use for storing your seeds by clicking on the picture of the child below:

Here are some companies who sell heirloom and open-pollinated seeds:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Heirloom Seeds

John Scheeper's Kitchen Garden Seeds

Seed Savers

Seeds of Change

Territorial Seed Company

Vermont Bean Company

Transplant Your Thinnings

One of the hardest things about thinning your garden is the feeling that you're wasting what is growing. However, thinning is neccessary in order to have good sized fruits and vegetables.

But if it grows in the ground, it doesn't have to be wasted.

Instead of just pulling up the plants that are growing too closely together, use a narrow hand shovel to carefully lift the seedlings that you would normally toss. Carry them on the shovel to another spot in the garden and replant them (with the correct spacing in between).

In order for this to be successful, there are a few things you need to do:

1) Transplant in the evening right before dark.

The thinnings can settle in their new surroundings best when the weather is cool. If you transplant them in the heat of the day, they will wilt and die.

2) Water the area well.

Water the place where you will be moving the thinnings before you move them, so that the ground is nice and moist, deep enough for the roots to be damp immediately.

Then, water again after planting.

3) Be careful to get all of the roots.

Dig carefully, and allow a litle dirt to cling to the roots so that you don't distrub the root hairs much. If you need to seperate plants, do so very tenderly and slowly.

I have succesfully transplanted lettuce, carrots, radishes, turnips, artichokes, cucumbers, basil, chamomile, parsley, cilantro, johnny jump-ups, larkspur, and vincas this way.

You can also use this method to move seedlings that have self-sown in the wrong place.

Compost

Dirt is important--so important that it's worth the most expense in your garden. Good dirt means higher yields of fruits and vegetables.

It seems awful to spend money on dirt, though.

As with anything else, shop around. This is a case where your local nursery may be cheaper than the discount stores. Buy pre-bagged, sterile manure (to avoid weed seeds), and compost/mulch to add to your soil.

Composting your own kitchen scraps and grass clippings, though, is the least expensive way to keep from buying compost each year. There are many methods of composting. A Google search will keep you busy for a long time. This is a case where "waste not, want not" actually increases your garden yield!

If you want an easy, simple way to compost that requires nothing more than a shovel (or even a trowel), you can try trench composting.

If you have $1 to spend on a garden, spend 90 cents on dirt and 10 cents on seeds, and your yield will be so much higher!

Read an excellent piece about dirt in the garden here.

Worms 500

Worms

Earthworms are important. Earthworm castings are expensive. Earthworm castings cost much more than compost. When you open the bag, it's lovely BLACK dirt, and it actually smells good!

However, there's a cheaper way.

Having worms in your garden will provide constant nourishment and castings to your garden, without having to buy tons of earthworm castings.

You can order worms online, buy them locally at your nursery if they sell them, or buy some from your local fishing shop (which for some is Walmart). Walmart has them for $4.16 (they're by the guns, in case you're wondering). This is less than buying a bag of castings, and they will quickly multiply.

I bought worms only once from the nursery. They even happened to be on sale that week. Had I known about Walmart, I could have saved myself the drive and the higher price.

It was well-worth getting some worms, though. Our hard desert soils here are too dry for worms the way they are, but once amended (and kept watered), they are ready for them. If you have raised beds, you can add worms to the beds.

Drip Irrigation 400

Install Drip Irrigation

That little black tubing next to flowers in the picture above is our drip irrigation. When set to come on (through a sprinkler system timer), water only drips out of the holes right next to the plants that I want to grow. This cuts down on water usage.

There are a few different ways to install drip lines. The least expensive line is the kind with the pre-drilled holes. They come with holes every 12 inches apart or every 6 inches apart. I buy the 6 inch kind and it is easy to know where to plant and space my seeds.

If you rototill the soil, you can lift up the drip lines and move them to one side when it's time to till. In my garden, I cannot rototill because it would break up tree roots, so my drip lines stay put. I just scratch fertilizers and mulches into the soil with a hand trowel.

There are less weeds to pull with drip irrigation, because water goes right to the plants.

In areas where there is little rainfall, drip irrigation saves time and money (for water). There is no overhead watering, which helps to prevent some funguses from developing.

Shop around and watch the sales

If you want to put in fruit trees, you don't have to pay full price. During spring and fall, nurseries often advertise fruit trees for sale. (Fall and winter planting of fruit trees helps the tree to establish a good root system over the winter before the next spring. I have had great results with fall planting of fruit trees). Usually our nursery has fruit trees on sale for $5 off per tree.

Compare prices. I found that Lowe's was about $10 more per tree than my local nursery's regular price.

If you decide to buy vegetable starts, also watch for the sales.

Compare and see what will work best for you. A 4 inch potted tomato plant may go on sale for 99 cents at the nursery, but if the 6 pack of tomatoes is $2.24, it's much less money than the 4 inch plants if you're getting 6. Usually, they are not that different in size, either!

Get the catalog

Many mail order companies have great coupons on their catalogs. Some give bonus seeds or coupons to early orderers. Gardens Alive offers $25 off a $25 order for first time customers if you use their catalog coupon early in the year. Burpee and others usually have a coupon for a certain amount off your order for early orders, too.

Mint 300

Grow from cuttings

Many plants will grow from cuttings. Mint is an easy plant to grow from cuttings.

Ask a friend or neighbor if you can have a cutting from a plant that you like. Stick it in rooting powder and watch it grow! Not everything will grow this way, but for those things that do, you can have plants for almost nothing (a container of rooting powder will last a while).

Not everything even needs rooting powder (mint will root in water in 2-3 days) !

How to propagate some edible plants from cuttings:

Blackberries and Raspberries

Blueberries

Grapes

Fig Trees

Pomegranates (these will also grow from seeds)

Many herbs and plants can be propagated by "layering." You bend down a branch and pin it to the ground (you can use a bobby pin), and bury the pinned down part with dirt. Keep this spot watered, and in a few months (and sometimes less) when a good root system has been established under the pinned spot, you can cut the branch off from the original plant, and dig up and move your new plant. This is a great way to help a friend expand her garden as well.

Some herbs that can grow this way are: Rosemary, mint, thyme, lavender

Mint

Rosemary

Sage, French Tarragon, Chives

For fruit trees, you can also graft trees to seedlings or existing trees to have new varieties.

You can make new seedlings from suckers and grow benchgrafts by grafting with scionwood.

You can graft in the winter with scionwood and in the summer with budwood. Here is a little info about budwood grafting.

Participate in seed exchanges

Do you have more seeds than you need? Do you wish you could swap with someone else for something else that you don't have?

Seed exchanges provide a good way to get seeds for the cost of an envelope and postage.

You can share seeds with friends and family.

You can also participate in large seed exchanges.

Feel free to use the downloadable seed packet to share seeds with others.

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What I grow in my garden in Las Vegas
 
 
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Herb Garden
 
 
Borage
Cilantro
Chives
English Thyme
French Tarragon
Garlic
Genovese Basil
German Chamomile
Greek Oregano
Italian Parsley
Peppermint
Rosemary
Sage
Spearmint
Sweet Lavender
 
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Vegetable Garden
 
 
Artichokes
Asparagus
Butternut Squash
Armenian Cucumbers
Green Onions
Lettuce
Radishes
Spinach
Sugar Snap Peas
Swiss Chard
Early Girl Tomatoes
Yellow Pear Tomatoes
Turnips
Zucchini
 
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Fruits
 
 
Early Elberta Peach
Desert Gold Peach
Katy Apricot
Royal Apricot
20th Century Asian Pear
Bartlett Pears (2)
Green Gage Plum
Pomegranate (2)
Stella Cherry
Apples (15), including Dorsett Golden and Granny Smith
Meyer Lemons (5)
Algerian Tangerines
Rio Red Grapefruit (2)
Oranges (2)
Mexican Lime
Red Grapes
Green Grapes
Blackberries
Blueberry
Passionfruit
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Flowers
 
 
Bacopa
Camellia
Miniature daffodils
Foxglove
Johnny Jump-ups
Nasturiums
Lilies
Poppies
Ranunculus
Rocket Larkspur
David Austin Roses
Stock
Sunflowers
Vincas
Violets
Zinnias
 
 
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Garden Tours
 
Is your group interested in a garden tour and class?
Look here for current tours and classes. If there isn't one scheduled, email me to request one.
For a sneak peak at my garden, see here.
 
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Sources
 
 
This is a wonderful source for flowering bulbs in large quantities:
Two sources for seeds that I have grown with some success:
 

Burpee.com - Tomato HP Logo

 
 
 
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Garden Links
 
 
Plant a garden without tilling! Instructions
 
It doesn't have to be cold where you live to grow apples. Learn here about Growing Apples in a Warm Climate
His downloadable e-book, Growing Apples in the City, has information about types of apples, grafting, pruning, and espaliering trees. It's well worth getting.
 
Growing an edible garden in the city: Garden Girl
She makes the most of the space she has. If you have a small garden, check out her site for ideas.

 

Planting, pruning, fertilizing, and plant choices for the desert:
 
How to take cuttings of plants to make new plants:
 
How to determine your gardening zone:
 
 
 
 
Get fruit for free from gardens other than your own: Gleaning Fruit
 
Donate extra garden produce to a participating food pantry near you:
 
Don't have a space to garden? Have space and want to share it? Check out Sharing Backyards to learn more.

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners

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