It’s hard to believe it, but it’s the time of year again to plan your garden! In my last gardening post, I talked about my favorite companies to buy seeds and plants from for our Puget Sound growing climate. Over the weekend, I finalized this year’s gardening plans and placed my Territorial Seed order. I wanted to share with you some thoughts for what I’m doing this year and how you might plan your own garden.
Tip #1: Plan with a Friend or Two!
My good pal Susan came over Friday night so we could chat about our plans. One of the ways we like to save money is buy sharing a seed order. Since we both have small kitchen gardens, it’s easy to split a pack of kale and cucumber seeds (as well as the cost of shipping). We’ve also swapped herb and berry starts, gardening tools, and compost orders before.
So my first tip for you: before you place that seed order or run out to the nursery to buy a bunch of plants, ask around and see if there’s a friend or family member who’s also planning on gardening this year. Perhaps you can split some of the cost and effort involved.
Tip #2: Think with the End in Mind
Last year, I was very ambitious with my garden, trying all sorts of new varieties of tomatoes, flowers, and beans. But the sad truth is, some of it just didn’t get used or eaten! While it was all a good idea in principle, I hadn’t entirely thought through how I wanted to use everything. Susan told me she grew a number of beets because she has a roasted beet recipe she likes to make, but realized in the end she didn’t make the recipe that often.
She then used a term “gardener’s guilt,” which struck me! Gardening will require a lot of time, effort and in some cases, money. So proceed thoughtfully!
Don’t grow radishes if you despise them (even if you know they are good for you). And don’t grow kale if you can’t stand the stuff but figure you should because it’s in every third Pinterest recipe you see. Don’t grow 50 tomato plants if you don’t have a plan for how you’ll want to use them when they are ready. Be wise and avoid gardeners’ guilt.
Tip #3: Grow what you want to eat
When deciding what to grow, think about what you buy at the grocery store or farmers markets regularly – spinach? Carrots? Peas? Start there! By replacing store-bought veggies with your home-grown varieties, you’ll save the most money. Don’t feel pressured to grow cucumbers or rutabagas just because you feel you *should* grow them or they look pretty in the seed catalog.
It may save you more money to grow a few things in bigger quantities than lots of things in fewer quantities. This is particularly true if you have limited space. I’m also speaking from experience here because I have a tendency to want to grow about 30 different things in my 7 raised beds. Fun, but maybe not as smart as focusing that space more narrowly on a few varieties we can enjoy in abundance.
Tip #4: Grow what’s most expensive to eat
I personally adore growing herbs and greens because we can eat a lot of them and they can really put a dent in your grocery bill!
This year I debated trying my hand at growing potatoes in containers and Susan wisely reminded me how inexpensive potatoes are at the store. Granted, there may be additional reasons for growing your own (such as to avoid pesticides), but I do think if one of the reasons you’re looking to grow a garden is to save on cost, this is something worth considering.
My 2014 Garden Plans
This year I’m focusing my garden a bit more narrowly. I want to devote more space to herbs and greens and an entire bed to onions (one of my favorite things to grow!). I’m also selecting almost easy-to-grow/low fuss varieties to keep it simple this year.
Want to see what I decided on?
- Copra Onions (3rd year)
- Music Garlic (currently growing!)
- Patio Snacker Cucumber
- French Sorrel
- Perpetual Swiss Chard
- Improved Dwarf Siberian Kale
- White Russian & Lacinato Kale (I have these seeds)
- Cupidon Bean Organic
- Peas (I have these seeds)
- Italienischer Organic Lettuce
- Argula, spinach & butterhead lettuce (I have these seeds)
- Strawberry Spinach
- Tomatoes (variety TBD)
- Sunflowers (I have these seeds)
These would be Minnesota Midget Cantaloupes! Now I know melons generally do not grow well here in the Puget Sound, but this is why I heart Territorial Seed so much. Their varieties are selected for our short-growing season. I had a botched attempt at watermelon my first year gardening (they got as big as peas!), but I think I’m ready to try melons again! This variety of melon is small and sweet, and matures in 65-70 days. I’ll let you know how it grows. Or hey, order a packet yourself and we can try it together and compare notes!
I also have a few fixtures in my garden that are just there from previous years:
- Two blueberry bushes
- Kiwi vines (I planted them last year, may be a couple more years before we get fruit)
- Raspberry canes
- Assorted herbs – sage, mint, oregano, chamomile
- Some flowers (bulbs)
Altogether, I paid about $33 including tax and shipping for this year’s seeds. I’m happy with that! I’d like to buy one or two additional berry bushes, the tomato plant(s), and some soil amendments.
Now it’s your turn!
I know it may seem early, but it’s really not. Spring will be here before you know it and you’ll be glad you have a plan in place. So, I’d love to hear about your garden plans! Please share away! I’m no expert, but I will do my best to answer any questions you may have, too.
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PS Make sure to follow me on Pinterest! I have a very active gardening board with tons of ideas for the frugal gardener.