Free Food is Good!

Herbs, beans, patty pan squashSince I started gardening several years ago, my motto has been to create as much food for as little cash as possible. Don’t get me wrong – I’d love to own a few of those beautiful pre-fab, raised garden boxes, but I’m all about gardening to save money, not spend it. You need to grow a LOT of cucumbers to get a return on your $300 box!

You can grow on balconies, in planters if you don’t have a yard. If you have the luxury of some land, many hardy types of veggies will grow just about anywhere. After experimenting for years, I’ve discovered some easy ways to get growing and eating faster, and hopefully with better results.

Let’s start with how you can grow and eat your own food without even having a garden. I call this your “freebie garden”. Here are three examples:

Growing rhubarb1. Borrow from other gardens:
My cousin let me dig up some rhubarb growing at their summer home (thanks Sandra!). Rhubarb is a bit like a weed, so I just dug it up, found an empty space alongside some other plants, planted it, and it took hold! I’ll wait till this year to harvest it to ensure it has established itself, but it was free after all! Sidenote, I said “borrow”, not “steal”. NEVER, and I mean NEVER, steal from someone else’s garden. You are just asking for bad garden karma. And most gardeners will give freely if you ask.

Scarlet Runner Beans2. Start small and build:
Beans are pretty hard to mess up. I plant scarlet runners in the grass along my fence line and not only do they look great (the scarlet part is for the great red flowers they produce), but I get enormous beans that aren’t taking up precious garden space.

And I haven’t had to purchase the seeds for 5 years, as every year, I save a few beans and harvest the seeds for next year (more on harvesting your own seeds later).

3. Try some herbs:
Throw some herbs in on your balcony. They do fine in smaller pots, they will be handy, close to your kitchen, you don’t have to run to the grocery for a bunch of $3 cilantro every time you need a pinch for a recipe, and you won’t waste any as you can just snip off the amount you need each time. I think I’ve become a better cook just having lovely fresh herbs on hand. And as per point #1 above, herbs like mint are screaming to be shared. They are practically weeds, and a cutting from someone else’s plant can yield you several seasons of mojito fixings! More on growing herbs in later posts.

My motto is go cheap and only add equipment once you have gained some success, almost as a reward for your diligence (I ran a successful photography business this way too and no one ever knew my studio lights were homemade ;-).

Chris Guillebeau (author of The $100 Startup), who I’m a big fan of, would vouch for this. He writes small business advice books and recommends just “getting that first sale” before spending any real money. The same principle applies here. Just plant something, and if it grows, eat it, and then re-evaluate for next season.

Have a look around your yard and suss out if you have any “freebie space”. Before you know it, you’ll be reaping the benefits of free, organic, local food you grew yourself!

6 thoughts on “Free Food is Good!

  1. Pingback: More for your money, pumpkin | The Garden Next Door

  2. Cynthia

    Thanks Wendy! You’ve inspired me to grow my herbs. I have to agree, having them on hand for a recipe would save me loads of money! I hate buying a huge bunch of basil only to have them go bad in a few days. Cheers!

  3. Pingback: Guest post: It’s about more than saving money | The Garden Next Door

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