Many of us want to lose weight and find ways to save more money.
One solution to improve health and save money lies right in our backyards. Home vegetable gardens are great fun, and not as difficult or time-consuming as you might think.
We’ll take a look at some benefits and offer up a few tips to get you started.
Benefits of a Backyard Garden
1. Improves Health
Starting and maintaining a backyard garden is an excellent source of aerobic activity and provides you with vitamin D. It can be a great way to relieve stress, and you’ll eat a more nutritional diet that you’ve had a direct hand in creating. In fact, veggies plucked when ripe from a home garden can provide more nutrients than the store-bought variety, which are often picked before they’re ripe and must travel long distances to get to your table.
Furthermore, children who eat fresh vegetables are likely to continue the trend as they get older. Young children are more likely to eat their veggies when they can pluck them directly from the garden themselves.
2. Saves Time
Having a stock of fresh vegetables on-hand can cut down on last-minute trips to buy groceries. If you get home from work only to find there’s nothing in the fridge, you can just step out back, do a little picking, and throw together a quick pasta primavera dish bursting with flavor.
3. Saves Money
Every tomato you eat from your backyard garden is one less you’ll have to buy from the grocery store. Depending on the size of your garden, this could translate into some pretty significant savings, especially if you usually buy organic. If you can handle a larger garden, you could even sell your produce to put some extra cash in your pocket.
4. Good for the Environment
Growing your own food lessens your carbon footprint as you no longer contribute to the long transport of conventionally grown vegetables. Furthermore, you no longer contribute to the heavy use of pesticides that is typical with conventionally grown produce.
Tips to Get Started
- Start Small. Don’t go too crazy in the beginning. Set aside an area of about 8 by 10 feet for your garden.
- Choose Your Location. Pick a location that receives sunlight throughout the day.
- Work the Land. Consider renting a tiller from your local home improvement store. You won’t be using it very often, so there’s no need to purchase one. When tilling, dig in and don’t remove the grass – work it into the soil instead. (Find other gardening supplies here.)
- Analyze Your Soil. Take a sample to your local nursery and share your plans. The experts there will let you know if you’re good to go or if you need topsoil or compost.
- Choose Your Crop. Some of the easier veggies to grow from seed are peas, onions, and zucchini. For tomatoes or peppers, you may need to start the process indoors, normally about eight weeks before you’re ready to plant outside.
- Buy Seeds. When it comes to seeds, don’t buy the cheapest available. Even high-end seeds don’t typically run more than a few dollars per bag. You can find top of the line seeds at websites such as Victory Seeds and Gourmet Seed.
- Plant. Read and follow the individual instructions on the back of your seed packets. Generally speaking, you do not want to plant your seeds too deep. Unless directed otherwise, you usually won’t want to plant them any deeper than three times the length of the seed.
- Water. Some suggest watering once every day, while others say you only need to water once per week. But what it really comes down to is the climate, the weather, the soil, and the time of year. Keep an eye on your plants – if they start to wilt even slightly, or if the soil is very dry, give them water.
- Maintain. Watch out for insects, as they can destroy your garden. Spacing your vegetables appropriately and weeding can help prevent pests, as can adding fertilizer. If you encounter problems, decide whether you want to keep your crop organic – organic pesticides and traditional insecticides are readily available at most hardware stores.
- Harvest. There is no set of rules as to when you should harvest, as all vegetables are different and mature according to climate and location. You can get a rough gauge from the back of the seed packet on when plants will be ready. But mostly, you’ll rely on how they look and taste. Once you eat a few, you’ll know just when to pick.
Your garden will require regular maintenance, but this can be relaxing or even meditative. Weeding and helping in the garden is also a great activity for children. Grab a good pair of garden gloves for you and the kids and get started; they will love growing, harvesting, and eating food they helped grow.
Be sure to water your garden in the morning or evening hours to conserve water.
If you have more garden tips for those looking to get started, share the in the comments below.
David Bakke lives in Atlanta and is a regular contributor for Money Crashers Personal Finance. In addition to his green thumb, David has a strong interest in topics such as money management, health, and green living.