But is my own veggie patch really going to save me money? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, yes. Check this: every $100 spent on vegetable gardening yields roughly $1,000 to $1,700 worth of produce. Holy shiitake, that's a lot of green smoothies!
The National Gardening Association says you can expect a half-pound of edibles from every square foot of ground devoted to backyard crops. Even my modest 15x15 foot garden, can produce more than 100 pounds of garden-fresh tomatoes, salad greens, vegetables and herbs. Bonus: better flavor and bragging rights come with the harvest.
Planting and maintaining a veggie plot isn't that hard if you start small and keep some basics in mind:
Location – A sunny, well-drained spot is ideal. Leafy greens tolerate some shade, but most crops want eight hours of sun daily.
Soil – Adding organic material is key. It not only loosens hard soil, but helps to retain moisture as well. The "good stuff" includes manure, humus and chopped up leaves. Spread a 4-inch layer on your plot and till into the top 9 to 12 inches.
Fertilize – All edible plants remove some nutrients from the soil and can exhaust the soil without the help of a fertilizer. There are lots of organic fertilizers sold in garden stores and home improvement centers, but two of the best are easily available to most of us and they're free: grass clippings and kitchen waste compost.
Water – One inch of water weekly is adequate for most vegetables. Soaker hoses deliver water efficiently and keep foliage dry, fending off leaf diseases.
Pest Patrol – 67 million pounds of pesticides are used in American gardens every year. Yikes! Monitor insect damage but keep your crops pesticide-free. Hand-pick pests or dislodge them with a jet of water, then let natural predators do the rest.If you're ready to try your hand at creating your own backyard grocery, here are 10 easy (and delicious) crops to plant:
- Beans: bush beans are easier to pick, but pole beans have higher yields.
- Bell peppers
- Chard: this leafy green tolerates cool temperatures well.
- Eggplant: thrives in hot weather.
- Parsley: rich in vitamins and a breath freshener too.
- Summer squash: try zucchini or yellow crook-necked squash.
Seeds of Change: order certified organic seeds and live plants.
GrowVeg.com: an online garden planning tool with grow guides.
Square Foot Gardening Foundation: let Mel Bartholomew show you how to plant a luscious vegetable garden with no weeds and no hard work.
joegardener.com: Joe Lamp'l shares tips and tricks to help you garden and live in a more environmentally responsible way. Follow along on his quest to create the $25 Victory Garden.
So, tell me, what groceries are you going to harvest from your backyard this year?