Growing Your Own Produce – Does It Save Money?

Burgeoning broccoli. Photo: Penny

The short answer is no. At least not for us, because we eat an enormous amount of vegetables. We’re certainly not vegetarians, but we can devour a steamed head of broccoli within a few minutes. We love vegetables.

So, we decided to grow our own. For a few reasons:

  1. We were curious to see if we could do it.
  2. David was eager to build planter boxes.
  3. We have a huge, largely unused, backyard.
  4. Our neighbors have an awesome vegetable garden and we were jealous.
  5. We wanted to support our local nursery.
  6. Watching plants grow is really fascinating and engrossing.
  7. We were thrilled with the idea of cooking with food that we had grown from seed.
  8. We were curious how different from store/FM-bought the vegetables would taste.

Before embarking on the project, we took a look at our only living edible plant, a sturdy rosemary bush.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love rosemary.  But we wanted more, and the other herbs we had planted had died long before.  Herbs are the one exception if you’re attempting to save money.  They are expensive to buy, and you often just need a tiny bit.  I’ve had many bunches of herbs go bad in my fridge.  Rosemary can pretty much survive in any environment.  Other herbs are more of a challenge.

When we shopped for our vegetable seeds, we also picked up some herbs from seed (already growing), a meyer lemon tree (which, months later, STILL isn’t planted but somehow surviving) and a quarter wine barrel.  We planted our herbs – parsley, dill, chives, thyme and basil – in the shallow wine barrel, and placed it adjacent to the planter boxes.

They survived about a few weeks.  Cause of death: drowning.  We had forgotten to drill holes in the bottom of the barrel and a rain storm had submerged the poor little plants.  It was a sad, sad day.  We removed the dead plants and added some holes to the bottom for draining, but we are holding off on planting another batch until Spring.

The fall vegetables we chose were broccoli, broccoli rabe, cauliflower, carrots, onions, shoot peas and an assortment of greens (spinach, red leaf and mesclun).  After filling the planters with soil, I geared up for seed-planting.  I thought it would be so meticulous and cater to my OCD, a Martha Stewart project.  I had planned on placing each individual seed into the soft dirt according to the package directions.  Well, have you seen how many seeds are in those little folded packages?  Lots.  I started according to my plan, but ended up just tossing the seeds over the dirt haphazardly.  They would be fine, I imagined.

Now we could sit back and wait for our vegetables to grow.  It would be so fun!

The first problem was squirrels.  They’re cute, but they like to bury nuts.  And they buried lots in our garden.  They zoned in on the planter boxes like a cat would a fresh litter box.  Every week I would wander over to the boxes and find 20-30 little squirrel holes, along with nuts and pieces of oranges.

The second problem?  Weeds.  We decided to forgo any pesticides for our first round, and it was certainly a mistake.  As we were not exactly on top of monitoring the garden, they overwhelmed the boxes fast.  We spent a good deal of time pulling them, but they always came back, so we gave up.

It’s been about 2 months, and nothing is ready to harvest, aside from the greens.  The red leaf lettuce leaves are as big as my head, and I’ve never seen spinach leaves so huge!  The broccoli is just beginning to sprout, and just about everything else has taken root, but are not producing.

For now, we’re just letting our wild, unkept garden do its thing.  We’re not expecting much, and we know we’ll do better next season.  But, we look forward to steaming that first head of broccoli that we’ve grown ourselves.

Mesclun ready for salad.  Photo: Penny

Red leaf lettuce.  Photo: Penny

Cauliflower greens.  Photo: Penny

Pea shoots.  Photo: Penny


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3 Responses to “Growing Your Own Produce – Does It Save Money?”

  1. Maeg Says:

    I highly recommend going with cucumbers on your next foray into gardening, come spring. Those bastages are nearly impossible to kill, and a full mound of plants (usually three, we do four seedlings a mound) will keep you well into the fall with the things.

    We devoted a corner of the yard to them, did one mound, and it took up the full corner, producing lovely flowers and big fat cukes for months. Well worth the money for salads, pickling, or just with a dash of salt and pepper – nom!

  2. pennyplastic Says:

    Oh, we will! I am addicted to cucumbers!

  3. Sarah of a Lesser God Says:

    I am impressed you gave this a try! Living in the city it’s impossible for me to do so but my parents grow all their own produce and I think they find it rewarding. (Plus they actually sell some of their zucchini, asparagus, and tomatoes.)

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