Reaping Summer Savings, One Plant at a Time

With food prices steadily rising, families are looking for ways to save on groceries. Consider this: would you rather pay about $1.50 per pound for tomatoes each time you shop, or spend about $10.00 for tomatoes all summer long?

Planting just a few vegetable plants can provide you with the ingredients for delicious, healthy meals during the summer months. Don’t click away yet, shuddering at the thought of labor-intensive gardening or snorting at the thought of gardening in an apartment or condo — you don’t need an acre of land, or hours of time to dedicate to gardening to grow vegetables for your family. I recently spent about $20.00 on three tomato plants and three cucumber plants, including the bags of potting soil I planted them in. Yes, you read that right – all I did when planting the first part of my summer garden was to punch a few holes in the back of a bag of potting soil, lay that side on the ground, then cut holes in the fronts of the bags just big enough to plant my tomatoes and cucumbers in. Let’s tally that: $20.00 for plants and soil, less than 20 minutes for planting.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash, even cabbage and lettuce can be successfully grown in containers, small raised beds, or, if you’re really lazy, like I am, in bags of potting soil. Selecting varieties of plants that are recommended for container growing will result in more successful plants. As for the containers, whatever you have handy will work; generally, “patio” plants, as most varieties sold for container growing are labeled, can be grown one per one-to-two gallon container. That container doesn’t need to be a fancy planter – upcycle plastic ice cream buckets, cat litter containers and other containers you’d otherwise throw away. If you don’t like the looks of your new vegetable containers, wrap them in burlap or spray paint them before planting. If you, like me, want to use potting soil bags to plant, you can cover the bags with dark weed barrier material or burlap, cut to allow for the plants, just to make them look better.

The number of plants you’ll need will depend on the number of people in your household. Garden Gate magazine can help you determine how many plants of the vegetables you select you should plant per person. As a rule of thumb, two plants per person is recommended; if your growing space is limited, remember those one-to-two gallon containers – you need very little room for a few planters or buckets that can provide a space for growing your produce.

Follow the instructions on your plant’s container or label for care. Remember that most plants need lots of sunlight, and place your containers or potting soil bags where they will get full sun for all or most of the day. Water each day you don’t have considerable rain, fertilize according to your plant’s needs, and enjoy your vegetables – and your savings – all summer long.

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