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Cost-Cutting Tips for Starting a Vegetable Garden

The Garden Harvest
The Garden Harvest

Let's face it. The price of fruit and vegetables at the supermarket keeps a lot of families wondering how they can maintain a healthy diet without going over budget week after week after week.

For many, the answer lies in growing those necessary comestibles at home in a backyard garden. Home grown fruits and vegetables, provided the gardener can produce them economically, will go far toward sustaining a healthy menu while reducing expenditures on groceries. Certain common sense labor-saving practices and techniques can help the amateur horticulturist save money and advance the effectiveness of his or her efforts at the same time.

Getting Started

If you have not played the role of gardener before, avoid beginning by turning your backyard into a farmstead. Block off a small patch feasibly maintained by one person; though you may have luck in recruiting help by other members of the family, don't count on it — at least not initially. A second reason for starting small: even minimal expenditures for needed material (fertilizer, tools, seeds and seedlings) will unavoidable increase with the size of the plot.

You want to avoid wasting money on items that do not do well where you live.

Cultivation

Assuming the chosen site has not seen previous development, you will first have to prepare the ground for planting. Let not your thoughts turn to the purchase of a garden tiller; though extremely efficient soil conditioners, these mechanical wonders can cost a bundle at the local hardware or garden gadget outlet. If initial testing of the ground indicates a need for motorized cultivation, plan on renting a tiller or borrowing one from a friendly neighbor. You may need to take this advice on trust: once tilled, a small garden plot should need little more than seasonal turning with a shovel or spading fork. Your first purchase, then, should be one or both of these implements, likely available cheap at a second hand store. Remember, you're trying to save money here.

Seeds

Next on the list of things to purchase, seeds and/or seedlings, need some thought. It will pay to do a walkabout (about the neighborhood, that is) and consult with local gardeners as to the plantings that have proven most successful. You want to avoid wasting money on items that do not do well where you live. Seeds and seedlings can prove the most expensive elements for the budget garden. Pay close attention to the fruit shrubs and bushes growing in neighboring gardens. Chosen carefully, these plantings should serve you well for years of prolific harvesting; selected unwisely, they can prove expensive, unproductive time-wasters.

Composting

Garden vegetation requires lots of fertilizer — NOT. You may need to give your new plot an initial dressing of nourishment, but you should make every effort to avoid commercial fertilizers. Instead, plan on turning your kitchen waste and plant cuttings into compost. Well prepared, compost can prove an effective, low-cost means of feeding your plants. If you haven't much kitchen waste, check with local grocery store produce departments. They usually have lots and lots of vegetable cuttings you usually can have for the price of asking. Combine these cuttings with a bit of top soil, layer upon layer, to turn the mix into a nutriti

ous compost you can work into the ground around your vegetables. They will thrive on it.

A poor man's approach to gardening can prove just as successful as the more expensive kind.

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