I distinctly remember spending time in the garden with Grandma Vi, exploring the vegetables she grew, and plucking carrots from the garden, washing them off and taking a bite with the green top still on, and exclaiming “What’s up, Doc?” like Bugs Bunny. While I’m sure I was never actually helpful, I loved spending time in the garden with Grandma Vi.
Ever since then, I've been lucky enough to have access to homegrown food. My parents and Josh’s parents have pretty robust gardens and over the years have sent me home with armfuls of fresh fruits, veggies and herbs.Now that I am a homeowner, I can’t wait to get started on my own garden. In fact, garden space was one of the “must-haves” during our house search. And while our backyard needs a little more TLC before we can start landscaping, I haven’t let that stop me. We have a great deck with plenty of space for a few container gardens, so that will be our makeshift garden for the year.
And because I have been so excited about my own garden, I am pleased to announce that I have officially finished planting the last of my herbs so with a little luck I should soon be harvesting my crops (well, if this rain ever goes away)!
Here’s what I’ve planted so far:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Brandywine heirloom tomatoes
- Sugar snap peas
- Chives (that we found growing in our front yard!)
There are many reasons I wanted my own garden, taste and freshness being the most important. You can’t beat the flavor of a just-picked tomato, and I want that taste all summer long.
But there are also other great reasons to grow a garden:
- Freshly-picked food is healthy and more fun to cook with
- You can save money (usually – I’ll explain how I think I’ll save money below)
- You can share the bounty of your crops and make everyone want to be your best friend
- It’s a great way to incorporate more veggies into your diet
- You can control what goes on your food (i.e. pesticides)
- You can encourage others to grow a garden, which will help others eat healthier too
- Growing your own food helps lower your carbon footprint (think food miles)
- It allows you to connect with nature and spend more time outdoors
- Gardens can be beautiful and don’t have to be limited to food!
- You can buy starts with food stamps, so having a garden is open to everyone
- A garden can be any size and be placed anywhere, big or small, to meet your family’s needs.
Before the garden I just created, I had only grown herbs, and with varying levels of success. So before I got started I wasn't sure what to do. I knew I needed soil, something to plant everything in, and some equipment. But I also knew I didn't want to spend a lot of money so I started asking around and shopping on Craigslist for containers and I asked se at the Portland Farmers Market for some advice on what to plant. And I am pleased to find out that the start up costs for my garden are fairly low.
I also chose to go with starts, rather than seeds. I chose to do this mainly because there are so many great varieties at the Farmer’s Market, but also that it seemed like less work for a first-time gardener. I know there are many people who prefer to do it a different way, but I think that gardening is an experiment so you just have to do what you’re comfortable with, and starts is where I felt most confident.
- 40 gallon galvanized tub for tomatoes: $50 (Craigslist find for half of its retail price!)
- Planter for peas: Free (from work)
- Planter for herbs: Free (from Josh’s dad)
- Soil: $45
- Gloves and shovel: $6
- Tomato starts: $6
- Basil: $2.50
- Parsley: $2.50
- Cilantro: $2.50
- Mint: Free
- Chives: Free
- Sugar snap peas: Free
- Garlic: Free
- Onions: Free
- Peppers: Free
=I’m not factoring in the cost of water here, but we are planning to install rain barrels eventually so ideally we’ll be watering our garden for free. So for now, I’m just counting the cost of the materials and plants.
I still need to do some comparison shopping to calculate my potential savings, but for now I’m not too worried. I’m just excited to get outside and see if I can actually keep my plants alive!
What about you? Do you have a garden? If so, what's your favorite part?