Garden savings - MoneySense

Garden savings

Living in Canada means we pay big bucks for fruits and veggies during the winter. I cringe as I plunk down $4 for a small container of grape tomatoes.


Summer rolls around and we watch prices drop as local growers get their goods on the shelves. Or we wander out to a farmer’s market and pick up huge baskets of the most beautiful produce for a pretty good price.

But what if all you had to do to save money all summer long was commit a small piece of your garden (or some pots on your balcony) to fresh produce? You can easily grow basil, thyme, tomatoes, lettuce, and green onions, just to name a few. And since you’re in complete control over the conditions of your garden, you have the additional benefit of not having to pay “organic” prices to have fresh, healthy food.

I’m not the best weeder, so I’m not over-ambitious. But I do grow some of my most oft-eaten and easily managed produce in the summer. I love to reap my own produce; there’s no better taste. Besides I have to do something with all that fabulous “dirt” I’ve grown in my composter. And gardening gets me out in the sunshine and replenishes my Vitamin D!

I’ve found it easy to start and reap herbs, beans and zucchini from seed. I’m always happier with my tomatoes when I use established plants to start my garden. You don’t have to buy a lot of plants. In fact, you shouldn’t. Choose carefully and limit how much you plant because you don’t want produce to go to waste, and you don’t want to overspend to start a garden. Three tomato plants gave me a whopping amount of produce last year.

Don’t grow what your neighbours are giving away. If Sue stopped buy with zucchini the size of baseball bats last year, chances are you’ll be able to batter up again this year. Grow something in exchange (basil is prolific and is always a hit). And stagger your plantings. You can only eat a couple of heads of lettuce a week, so plant new seeds every few weeks to carry you all through the summer.

I don’t grow anything that takes up too much space because I have a limited amount of room. If you’ve got lots of space, try growing your own potatoes (or you can use a barrel if space is an issue, and reap them when they’re young), corn, and even pumpkins for the spooky season. Involving kids not only makes them learn about where food comes from, it passes on your sense of personal sustainability, while you teach about frugality.

Stretch your garden into the winter. I do this by turning tomatoes, basil and garlic into the best sauce ever and freezing it so I have a taste of summer and my garden all winter long.  Find out if neighbours have raspberries, and make jam. Turn your cukes into pickles. Turn your basil (yes, I have to admit to being an addict) into pesto sauce. Whatever you grow for yourself means savings at the grocery store now and down the road.