FELDER RUSHING: Growing Your Own Vegetables Doesn’t Always Save Money | Way of life
I totaled up the cost / benefit of growing food at home, and while it certainly improves my morale, it doesn’t look good on the wallet.
Although many of my neighbors have to fend for themselves now or have physical limitations, I’m grateful that I can justify spending a little here and there, and being able to play in the nice sized yard.
But as I shelled and frozen the last English peas of this spring, I realized that I could have bought several cans of better quality peas at the store much cheaper, with much less effort, time and anguish. .
Yeah, the first dozen vines were sweet and flavorful, like nothing but a hot sun-ripened heirloom tomato with juice dripping from my chin. Or a freezer full of super nutritious peppers that cost two dollars apiece in the store.
Who doesn’t feel a little satisfied when cutting flowers for a bouquet, lining a well-mowed lawn, giving squash, or even chopping a little sprig of oregano for a homemade soup?
Yet I’m always looking for ways to cut costs, like occasionally renting a tiller, powerful pressure washer, or shredder as needed rather than owning and having to store and maintain an expensive personal product, or make compost. rather than buying it. . And I use recycled containers for planting and alternative materials for flower beds. I even made my own large birdbath out of a three dollar bag of ready-mixed concrete, and my bottle trees are as glorious as any store-bought statuary!
There are several approaches to growing small amounts of food at home, each with their pros and cons. The first is to use the fruits as regular garden plants; even though squirrels get most of the harvest, they still function as flowery or textured landscape beauties.
Easiest fruits for me include figs, blueberries, crabapples, self-fertile oriental pears, pomegranate, Japanese persimmon, muscadine grapes (need a fence or one-wire trellis and ‘an annual pruning), and even the winter fruit tree. Others require too much pruning, cross pollination, pest control, or you need to know the specific varieties that do well in our mild winters and scorching summers.
I grow a lot of edibles in large containers that are expensive to fill and require regular watering, but are easy to plant and harvest. And I plant all year round in a small raised bed four feet wide, constantly replacing what is harvested (yes, you can garden non-stop all year round in Mississippi).
Because I don’t try to fill a freezer, I rarely plant much in lean rows, which invites weeds, pests, and disease; instead, I mix in pretty flowers that are attractive to pollinators, ornamental vegetables that look great even when not producing food, and culinary herbs. Bonus: if something dies or is harvested, who can tell? Just pull up the old one, put something else in the hole and move on. All year round, little by little.
By the way, lasagna gardening – just covering the grass with layers of non-smooth cardboard, leaves, cut grass, a little fertilizer and bark mulch – creates an almost instant garden, without a tiller. Even in clay soil.
But back to the peas. I won’t plant that much anymore, just enough to have a few cheerful little bites. No more corn, beans, carrots, potatoes and other things that I can buy cheaper. From now on, I make the most of my small spaces by sticking to higher yielding products that are more nutritious or produce more over a longer period of time. Peppers, tomatoes, okra, sweet potatoes and culinary herbs are my small space edibles.
FELDER RUSHING is an author, columnist and host of the Mississippi Gestalt Gardener on MPB Think Radio. Email your gardening questions to [email protected]