Saving Green by Growing Your Own Vegetables

Photo (cc) by gardener41

Of all the hot topics in the news, gardening is rarely one of them. But small gardens made big headlines last week in The Washington Post, when it ran a story on “guerrilla gardens” and “seed bombs.”

It’s not nearly as violent as it sounds, although it’s probably illegal. The story describes how, in big cities, “guerrilla gardeners” have for decades been secretly planting flowers in vacant lots through an ingenious technique.

“Since the early 1970s, these latter-day Johnny Appleseeds have been lobbing the clay-wrapped, compost-rich spheres onto unsightly vacant lots, into alleyways or around sidewalks, where they’ve exploded into bloom,” the Post reported. Nowadays, these “seed bombs” can be purchased online or even from vending machines.

The success of these guerrilla gardens on vacant lots – without the owners’ permission – should inspire anyone who thinks that gardening is too hard. Heck, if they can get flowers to grow by tossing some seeds around, you can cultivate fruits and herbs in your own yard with ease.

Backyard gardening, like guerrilla gardening, is easier these days thanks to the Internet, which offers all the free advice you’ll ever need. And with food prices at record highs, it’s worth your time too.

Most home gardeners looking for food opt for the usual suspects: tomatoes, beans, potatoes, salad greens. In fact, a survey by Mother Earth News revealed the most popular crops. There were no big surprises, other than perhaps the fact that garlic ranks No. 1. The rest of the top 10…

  • Bush snap bean
  • Pole snap bean
  • Slicing tomato
  • Cherry tomato
  • Paste tomato
  • Potato
  • Snow/snap pea
  • Shallot
  • Shell pea

Also on the site is a handy list of the easiest to grow (radishes are No. 1), best use of time and space (scallion), and easiest to store (garlic again).

As a longstanding gardener myself, I can attest to the popularity of several of those crops. I’ve grown tomatoes, cukes, basil, mint, and, in a patriotic bent, red, white, and blue potatoes. (Actually, the blue were more of a light purple, but still.) And I am not alone.

Charlotte Trim of Boston has been gardening at her current home since 2004. After spending 12 years in France, she just wasn’t going to accept the offerings of her supermarket, which she saw as flavorless at best and laden with toxic pesticides and who knows what else at worst.

“I try to grow as much as possible,” Trim says, “starting with spring greens, then carrots, broccoli, kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, leeks, tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, eggplant, cucumbers, melons, beans, and potatoes. For the root cellar, more potatoes, onions, winter squash, rutabaga, carrots and parsnips, sometimes endives. Every year I like to try something new – this year it is fennel.”

Gardening can be hard work, but it isn’t hard to understand the steps: Plant, water judiciously, and use some fertilizer of your choice. With one huge caveat: You’ve got to keep the garden free of pests. That means weeds, bugs, and critters. It’s in the latter-most category that I typically have failed miserably. Without a fence, I’ve relied on various sprays and treatments to try to keep deer and rabbits away, to little avail.

The result: Tomatoes with the tops gone, or half-eaten fruits. Still, the allure of growing your own always prevails. This year, with an anticipated late summer move to a new house, I opted for planting just a few crops in containers: purple basil, three varieties of tomatoes, and a couple of pepper plants. So far, so good. But hey, it’s still early.

Despite the fact that summer is half over, you can still find success planting late summer crops. A great resource is Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Fall carrots, herbs, and zinnias will still sprout and be harvested before the first frost. Other great resources for those who want to start from seeds are Totally Tomatoes (which offers a cornucopia of types, colors (yellow, orange, black, white), and flavors, and Seed Savers Exchange (which offers seeds for numerous heirloom varieties).

Heirloom varieties are plant types that were grown previously but have fallen out of favor with the advent of mass marketing, where uniform color and shape are of paramount importance. But the variety of flavors and shapes of potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and more is amazing.

The benefits of all this are many. From an economic standpoint, the more you grow, the more you save, particularly if you preserve your yield over the rest of the year. Trim estimates she saved about $4,000 in food costs in 2009, and she says each year they save more as their garden grows and the soil improves.

“However, the benefits are far more than [just] economic,” she says. “The flavor is so superior that my little girls love their vegetables, and the nutritional attributes of the food are so superior that one does feel greater energy and we certainly enjoy good health.”

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
5 Monthly Bills You Can Easily Negotiate Down
5 Monthly Bills You Can Easily Negotiate Down

Here’s how to bring down recurring expenses and save hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars each year.

5 Common Medical Expenses That Medicare Won’t Pay For
5 Common Medical Expenses That Medicare Won’t Pay For

Don’t let these health care costs catch you off guard in retirement.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

9 Foods You Should Never Buy Again
9 Foods You Should Never Buy Again

Make the wrong food choices, and you can ruin your health — and possibly shorten your life.

10 Ways Retailers Trick You Into Spending More
10 Ways Retailers Trick You Into Spending More

Think you’re a savvy shopper? Find out how retailers persuade you to dig more deeply into your wallet.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020
The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020

Based on dozens of metrics tied to affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous
11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous

When you get the impulse to stockpile these everyday items, pay close attention to their expiration dates.

Why Cloth Masks May Increase Your Coronavirus Risk
Why Cloth Masks May Increase Your Coronavirus Risk

A new study finds that wearing a cloth mask can backfire if you don’t clean it properly.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

This Is the Cheapest Place to Buy a Used Car
This Is the Cheapest Place to Buy a Used Car

Looking for a good deal on a set of wheels? This should be your first stop.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value
7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value

You can add value to your home without hiring a contractor to do expensive renovations.

5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees
5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Retirees agree: These are the things that give them purpose and fulfillment in their golden years.

15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.