Organic Gardening to Save Money on Food
Organic gardening can be a great way to save some extra money in your budget. Imagine cutting your grocery bill in half or more! With a little planning and preparation, this is easy to achieve. In this article I will give you an idea of how much effort is involved and will explore ways to save money in your garden.
How Much Effort is Involved?
In the beginning, learning everything you need to know can be a challenge; however, when money is involved this becomes less of an issue. Most of the physical effort with organic gardening is in the bed preparation and the harvest. In all fairness this should only account for a couple of weeks out of the gardening season, although it may involve other activities (for example, maintaining a compost pile).
Other chores that require some time and effort, such as weeding and watering, can both be reduced through the proper use of mulch. Walking through your garden for a couple of minutes every day will help you identify your gardens needs quickly, before they become a problem. About one hour twice a week should be enough to maintain a substantial garden.
Finally, if your goal is to produce a large portion of your food requirements for the year, canning may take several days of time and effort. This can be minimized by planning ahead to grow items that can be dried or stored in a root cellar.
Where Does All the Money Go?
One reason to start organic gardening is for the money you can save. By paying close attention to the health of the soil, organic gardens are more productive. Plants fed through proper soil management require less additional fertilizers. They are also more disease and pest resistant, therefore they use less pesticides. More vegetables and larger vegetables mean less food you have to buy!
To save money on gardening in general, let’s take a look at all the things in a garden that could cost you extra money. You could pay for seeds. You could pay for manure and compost. You could pay for additional fertilizers. You could pay for pesticides. Finally, you could water your garden with city water and run up your water bill.
How Do You Save Money Gardening?
With your first garden you may find it necessary to buy seeds. In order to save yourself this expense, you can save seeds from tomatoes, cucumbers and other garden produce as you use them. However, it is not exactly that simple…
Over the years greedy seed companies have genetically modified food crops to produce seeds that are sterile. Saving seeds from any of these varieties will just be a waste of your time. They key is to purchase heirloom strains, also known as heritage strains.
Heirloom varieties have not had insect DNA spliced into their genes, nor have they been modified to produce sterile seed. So far seed companies have not been able to modify potatoes to make them sterile… simply grow 10% more than you intend to eat and save them as seed potatoes for the following year.
Saving Money on Mulch, Manure, and Fertilizer
The secret to healthy, organic soil is compost. While some plants might enjoy the addition of manure, the truth is you can grow a very healthy and productive garden without manure or mulch if you have properly made compost. If you want to save money on all three (plus use less fertilizer), it is easy to learn how to make your own quality compost! Add plenty of it to your garden bed, and wherever you need mulch use sifted compost instead.
Organic gardening itself will save you money on fertilizer, but if your plants need a little extra during the growing season you can make your own compost tea. While there are many different recipes, the general idea is to fill a sock with compost and suspend it in a 5 gallon bucket of water for several hours. The resulting liquid can be watered down if needed and will contain humus, beneficial microorganisms, and nutrients that are immediately available to your plants.
Saving Money on Pesticides
Every garden needs some form of pest control. If you look through an organic gardening guide, again and again you will see the same item mentioned: Rotenone with pyrethrins. A plant called purslane is the commercial source for pyrethrins, and rotenone breaks down in 24 hours to Nitrogen and Phosphorus (making it one of the safest of all insecticides).
If this is your first year gardening than buy some rotenone with pyrethrins, but also plant some purslane. Next year you can make your own pyrethrins- simply use 1 tablespoon freshly ground dried purslane flowers, 2 liters of hot water, and a few drops of dish soap.
Also plant a few extra cayenne peppers and garlic plants. A couple peppers and a couple cloves of garlic ground up and soaked in a liter of warm water will make a spray that keeps bugs away.
Saving Money on Water
A lake or pond can be helpful for saving you money on your water bill. Otherwise, a very low cost modification to your downspout can divert rainwater to a barrel or cistern for use in your garden. Not only will it save you money on your water bill, but this water contains no chlorine and is much healthier for your plants.
One Final Thought
Let me just say that gardening should be thought of as a long term solution. If you buy a hoe and a rototiller and a pressure canner (and other items) and you only use them for one season, than you are probably spending more money than you are saving. It is only when you purchase these items (once) and use them season after season that you are truly saving yourself money on the food you produce. Keeping this in mind will help you save the most money with your garden.