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How does your garden grow?

Published June 02. 2010 05:00PM

Now that warm weather is here to stay, we're busy planting our "summer" garden. Bring on the tomatoes and corn!

Growing your own food can be a great way to save money. But if you're not careful, gardening can also be a big waste of time and money. Plan ahead to make this summer your most frugal season yet.

Don't buy the hype

Have you walked through a garden center lately? The aisles are filled with gimmicky tools and overpriced specialty plants. Don't buy into the hype.

All you need to grow your own food is seeds or plants and some sunlight. If you have a patio that gets a few hours of sunlight each day, you can grow tomatoes in a large pot!

We recently bought six tomato plants for $2.15 from our local greenhouse if we get one tomato per plant, we'll break even. How many will you need to grow to make money on those hanging tomato baskets?

Plant what you'll eat

Use common sense while planning your garden. If you love tomatoes, plant tomatoes. If you hate peas … well, don't plant peas. Would you buy a food at the grocery store just because it's good for you or the person next to you bought it? Of course not! Only buy plants or seeds that you know your family will eat.

With that in mind, don't be afraid to experiment. We try one or two new vegetables each year.

This year we're saving space for "vegetable spaghetti" winter squash it has long "noodles" inside that you can substitute for pasta. It sounded like a fun food to try!

The seeds cost about $1, so we didn't invest much in our little experiment.

Enough is never enough

It may seem counterintuitive, but we've always found that it's best to plant more than we need. This year, we've already planted about 20 tomato plants and 15 green peppers. We'll also sow four 20-foot rows of corn.

We usually go a bit overboard, and this year is no exception. But as past growing seasons have shown us, growing "enough" is never enough!

Last year's tomato blight meant an awful crop of tomatoes but because we had planted a large number of plants, we were able to harvest enough to make tomato soups and sauces. Drought, rainy seasons and excessively hot or cool weather can have the same affect.

Don't worry about having a bumper crop, because you can always share with friends or neighbors. And if you've got the freezer space or the ability to preserve foods, use it and plant accordingly.

Many families are relearning the art and science of food preservation, and it's saved us a lot of money.

Why should I spend 50 cents on a can of over-salted green beans when I could buy an entire packet of green bean seeds for $1?

My husband has become so used to the taste of fresh green beans that he won't eat store-canned beans!

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