Spring is here(yay!), and as always, I’m looking for ways to make our budget stretch a little farther. Food is expensive. Even more so if you choose organic. One of the best and most obvious ways to reduce that expenditure this time of year is through gardening.
If you’re new to gardening, it can seem overwhelming at first, but if you start small, you can do it. The biggest mistake new gardeners make (and even “old” gardeners if we’re any indication) is to take on too much, and spread themselves to thin. The goal here is to make healthy food more affordable, not stress ourselves out trying to do it all.
Even if you only have a tiny bit of space you can surely grow something, it’s amazing what you can do in a small space. Even if it’s just one pot on the kitchen counter – everybody needs a pot of basil, right?
If you’re trying to move toward a more self sustaining life style I say “hooray!” But remember, baby steps. Baby steps are key. Master growing just a few things, then move on to a few more. Trying to take it all on at once is a great recipe for crop failure and burn out.
If you have a brown thumb like me, you’ll want to stick with something easy. Here’s a list of my top four favorites for limited spaces.
- Salad greens. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Lettuce, spinach, and other greens are the easiest and best return on your space and time. Sprinkle the seed on the ground and Add water. In a couple weeks you start can cutting lettuce. The plants then begin to grow back for another cutting. Organic lettuce is expensive. Non-organic lettuce is scary. Homegrown lettuce is awesome. My current favorite is green ice. It’s a leaf lettuce, but has a lot of butterhead characteristics.
- Tomatoes. Even just one tomato plant will put a lot of tomatoes in your salad (or on your BLT!). Not only will those tomatoes taste a lot better (if you’ve never had one, you have no idea how much better home-grown tomatoes taste), but they’ll be alot healthier, and cheaper as well! Buying a healthy tomato plant will pay for itself over and over. All you have to do is put it in the ground and add water.
- Pole beans. When I was a kid, There was a little chain link fence corner next to our driveway. My mom dug up the dirt next to the fence and bought a packet of pole bean seeds. The bean plants grew up the fence and produced what seemed like a boat load of beans. We kids had a blast helping pick and clean them. If I remember correctly, they were the best beans I ever tasted too.
- Sweet potatoes. This probably seems a bit of an odd pick for and “easy gardening” list. Gabriel and I were actually just discussing last night how sweet potatoes have consistently been one of our best crops. Why? Bug resistance for one. I don’t ever remember having significant bug damage on sweet potato plants. They’re also really low maintenance. The biggest drawback is that you need to have relatively loose soil to accommodate the tuber growth, however, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks in his case. Lettuce, tomatoes, and beans don’t store well without a lot of preparation (canning or freezing), but sweet potatoes… you can pull sweet potatoes out of the ground, dust off the excess dirt, and store them under you bed all winter. I don’t think we had a single sweet potato go bad this year. They still look just as good now as they did the day we dug them! Just few days ago, Gabriel took a box of them out to his sweet potato starting bed to sprout. How’s that for sustainable food?So, slightly more complicated than the other three, but not more work.
You may notice the absence of many very common garden veggies on this list. There are quite a few other easy crops, In my opinion though, these four are the easiest, best return on your time and space.
If you’re a gardener, drop me a line in the comment section, I’d love to know what your favorites are!