Grow Your Own Food
By Tamara Martfeld
One of the easiest money-saving techniques is frequently forgotten until it is too late – plant a garden!
Regardless of where you live, you can plant a garden. If you own your home, you can dedicate a portion of your yard to a garden and maintain it throughout the growing season. After the first year, it actually takes less money to get the garden growing in future years. If you do not have a place in the yard to dedicate for a garden, you can plant fruits and vegetables in containers. Last year I planted sweet potatoes in the bottoms of 1 gallon milk jugs (I was told that potatoes would take over the yard and wanted to keep them contained).
When you plant your own garden you are rewarded with fresh produce which taste significantly better than anything you can buy, even from a farmer’s market. You know what chemicals you used in the garden or if you use them. You can choose to keep all chemicals out of the garden and know that it is truly free of chemicals. I put slug poison on the perimeter of my garden away from the plants and small flat cans of beer in the garden for pest control.
The initial cost of the garden will include seeds or established plants from a store. If you are planting a container garden the cost might include soil and containers depending on what you have around the house. Seeds from previous years can be used, but the older the seed the less likely it will grow. In the first year you can harvest some of the seeds for the next year and eliminate that expense for the future. You can also harvest seeds of some fruits and vegetables from what you get in the store (if the seed is there, you can use it for most produce).
When you get an overabundance of fruit or vegetables you can give them away, barter with neighbors to exchange for something you did not grow, or preserve it for your future use. Preservation can be done via freezing, drying, or canning. The type of product you have and how you plan to use it will determine what is best for you. If you have a drier, I suggest drying tomato slices – they are a great snack!
One item I still hear cannot be successfully frozen is zucchini. This is incorrect – it can be successfully frozen. I have taken the raw zucchini, sliced it, and frozen it in bags with the air sucked out (using a sealing machine) in serving sizes (I live alone). To use it I simply steam it like any other vegetable as a side dish and spice according to my whim or simply add a little butter. Another way I freeze it is by making a dish containing about equal parts of zucchini, tomato, and yellow crook-neck squash (original recipe also calls for onion in equal parts, but I am not a lover of onion). Chop up the vegetables and then cook until tender. Add salt and pepper to taste if needed. The tomatoes have enough juice that water is generally not needed. This is a great side dish. I freeze it in serving size containers for the side dish, and in larger portions to add as vegetables to soup. I have also heard that if you make items such as zucchini cake, brownies, or bread, that you can prepare the zucchini for the recipe and then freeze it, straining it before using it in the recipe. I have not tried this, but if it is something you make, it would enable making the recipe off-season.
Some garden items may take a bit of patience. I bought artichoke plants about four years ago and am getting my first artichokes off one of the plants this year. The second plant has not produced, but I am hopeful. My strawberries have produced very little until this year, and right now it looks like a bumper crop. Trees may also take a year or two to produce.
I am a lazy gardener – I plant, set up a watering system, then look at the garden about a month later to see what is happening. Even being lazy I get decent results from my garden. Invest one or two days to get a garden planted, then enjoy the tasty results at a fraction of the cost in most stores.
Gardening is noted for being a stress reliever, so there is an added benefit.