In an attempt to cut costs, many are turning to gardening this summer. Local businesses are reporting a 300% increase in sales of gardening products. Seed potatoes have been unobtainable for weeks. Onion slips are few and far between. And the gardening season is barely underway.
Gardening is not cheap, nor easy- especially if you are starting your garden from scratch. You will have to have ground plowed, fresh dirt and manure brought in, purchase plants or seeds, fertilizers, gardening tools, and pay a higher water bill. Many gardens will require the purchase of a tiller. If you decide to can or freeze your bounty, that can be quite time consuming and expensive also. If you have to buy jars and seals, you are probably better off to purchase canned veggies at the grocery store.
So, why should you garden? If you already have supplies and the time to devote to your garden, it can be very rewarding. Nothing will ever compare to the taste of home grown produce.
I’ve not had much luck with gardening before, but this year, the kids and I are starting a small raised bed. I was inspired by this guest post by Beth. She has graciously agreed to document this year’s progress with photos and regular posts. I will be doing the same with our small garden.
Guest post by Beth:
As a kid growing up in the 60’s and 70’s gardening was a way of life, not a hobby as it is for most people today. If we didn’t grow it, can or freeze it, we did not eat. I grew up in rural Southwest Missouri, the youngest of 4 siblings. My dad owned a sawmill and was a logger. My mom taught school in a one room school house until my brothers and sisters started coming along. Looking back, I suppose we were poor, but I never really realized it at the time. We always had plenty of food, clothing and a warm place to live.
Mainly the reason we had food was because my Mom worked from daylight til dark in the summer growing everything we needed to survive the long winters. She had an amazingly green thumb and could grow anything. Now, I too garden, but mostly for fresh summer produce. I do not can a lot of things, a few jars of salsa and we always freeze corn. I am not sure it saves us money, but the flavor is what keeps me doing it.
Last summer we decided to make our gardening lives a little easier. We have wanted to try raised bed gardening for years, but could never muster up the time and energy to get it going. Building the beds is work! We are lazy! Anyhow, we decided on a plan of action, borrowing ideas from books, magazines and websites. We decided to use cinder/concrete blocks for the outside. I checked the price of new block and it was going to be a costly endeavor. Next, I checked on the price of dirt. Yes, dirt is expensive. Luckily we found ways around the cost. Our neighbor had used concrete blocks and gave them to us, just to get them out of his field. My sister, who is a very generous soul, shared dirt that she had gotten with us. The cost…. Zero dollars, just a lot of work.
We hauled the blocks a few at a time, because they are very heavy. (No need to overload our old farm truck and have costly repairs) We stacked the blocks 2 deep and each bed is about 10 feet long and 3 feet wide. Next we put black plastic in the bottom to keep the weeds from coming through. One mistake we made was that we should have put the plastic under the concrete block, but we didn’t so now we do have weeds or grass that come up through the sides. We lined the bottom with some gravel from the creek, maybe 3″ deep. We did this for drainage and to reduce the amount of dirt we needed. We managed to do all of this in a weekend, even though we had to clean the old mortar of the blocks.
Next it was time to plant. We just haphazardly planted. Another mistake. Think about the sizes of your plants and how they will exist with one another. Ideally, I think a raised bed for each variety would be great, but that is a lot of beds. We had tomatoes in one. We put a steel post on each end and then wired a cattle panel to it, to suppor the tomato plants as they got bigger, we used old nylon panty hose to tie them with. The hose stretch and will not break your plants or cut into them as they grow. We planted way to many plants in our space, but I like a lot of varieties, so we had 12 plants. After planting our plants we put down a thick layer of cottonseed hulls for mulch and we had very little weeds. It was great. I would spend about 15 minutes per day gardening. Another great idea for mulch that is a green way to go is to use layers of old newspaper. I have used it and it works great to keep weeds down, but I had problems with it blowing away. I think our cottonseed hulls cost less than $20.00. We thought it was worth it.
Our raised beds were a huge success last summer and in my next segment, I will tell you how we planted the beds and how we maintained them. It was a wonderful way to have fresh produce right out the kitchen door and I did not have to work hours and hours to achieve it. Be sure to look for “Green” ways to recycle products to use. We were very lucky to find the used blocks, that saved us around $200.00. We are going to add 2 new beds this spring, a project we will start on soon. I plan to take pictures, so you can see the whole process.