Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Veggies for Free!

With the cost of food rising more and more people are starting a garden - even Michelle Obama has gotten into the spirit and planted a garden at the White House with a group of children.

Go to any garden center or nursery and start adding up the cost to grow you own food and you might rethink the process.

I have some tips that will help you save a money and get expert, face-to-face advice for free. And we can all use free expert advice.

Most garden centers reduce seed packet prices after April 1st. Resist the urge to buy your seeds prior to April. Want to get even better prices? Buy seeds at the end of the season. Most seeds are good for one to three years if kept in a cool, dry place.

A more cost effective way to get seeds is to save seeds from plants you have grown or food you have eaten like red peppers or tomatoes. If you liked the food, set aside some seeds on a paper towel until the seeds are dry. Once the seeds have dried, place the seeds in a clean container and store in a cool, dry location. When you are ready to plant, (I plant in mid-April) sow the seeds in small containers of soil.

The easiest way to have enough containers for your seeds is to save yogurt cups or other small plastic food holders. If the container held food stuffs then it will be safe to grow a plant in that same container. Remember to create small drainage holes in any sealed container so your plants won't rot. Of course, you can always buy the expandable peat pots or large, plastic shallow seed flats with the clear plastic cover. Keep in mind that buying materials takes away from your bottom line savings.

Want to go all natural? Save the egg shells, rinse them, insert a small hole in the bottom of the shell and fill that with soil.

For my money, I save egg cartons and place moist potting soil in section. Once the soil is filled to the top of the individual container, make a hole and place the seed in the soil and cover with additional soil. Mark the outside of the carton with the name of the seeds you planted.

For instructions as to how to germinate the seeds, (if the plant germinates in light or dark for example) search your State's land grant college or university web site. I live in Michigan and MSU has an excellent horticulture program - many universities throughout the country share that distinction.

Want to talk to someone in person? Contact your county's horticulture extension service. These are the folks farmer's contact about insects and soil tests. They are also available to homeowners, apartment renter, or any citizen that wants to know the answer to questions like, "How do I get rid of grubs from my lawn" or, "Why do my tomatoes get black spots on the ends"?

Another great resource is a Master Gardener. Every county in the United States has a Master Gardener organization. Participants of the program have undergone intense education and volunteer activities and are available to help the general public with gardening and turf questions. (Full Disclosure: I am a Master Gardener)

Most people don't realize that their county extension office offers a wide range of information and experts ready and willing to help you succeed in your gardening adventure. And the best part is it's free!

Learn more about saving money and financial strategies at Wise Bread.

1 comment:

Stacy said...

Great tips! Gardening is fun and growing your own food is very fulfilling.