Home gardening can save money

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 25, 2011

With today’s economy very tight these days, homeowners are trying their best to cut expenses.
Growing your own garden may be a way to help reduce spending and actually have fresh fruit and vegetables.
Research by the Atlee Burpee Seed Co. suggests that “home gardeners can realize a 1 to 25 cost-savings ratio, or, in layman’s terms, $50 dollars in seeds and fertilizers can result in $1,250 of fruits and vegetables purchased at the local grocery store.”
Of course this is only an estimate but there are many ways to save money if you grow your own garden. Below are a few tips:
• Have your soil tested. Substantial amounts of time, effort and money can be saved with testing. It can also protect the environment from such problems as improver fertilization. Fertilizer prices are directly related to oil prices. Fertilizer prices are climbing. Make sure you’re fertilizing correctly by having the soil tested.
Soil test kits are available from Cooperative Extension on Old Concord Road in Salisbury. This is a free service offered by N.C. Department of Agriculture. Go to www.cals.ncsu.edu/agcomm/publications/Ag-614.pdf for more information.
• Have a plan. Decide now what you can grow and what isn’t feasible. If your garden is challenged for space, grow the vegetables with the most bang for the buck. Squash, tomatoes, peppers, peas, green beans are prolific vegetables producing an appreciable crop in a relatively small space. Sweet corn is best grown by those with large, open spaces.
• Compost. Composting is a great way to use spent garden and kitchen refuse and convert it into a natural fertilizer. Composting leaves and spent vegetable material also aids in conserving moisture, improves the physical properties of the soil and reduces weed competition. Go to www. ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-8100.html for more information.
• Save your seeds. Many heirloom vegetables, including tomatoes and beans, can be saved for next year’s garden. Be sure to plant extra crops with the intent of saving seeds. Avoid saving hybrid seed cultivars. Look for vegetable varieties that are open pollinated. Go to http://www.seedsave.org/issi/904/beginner.html for more information.
• Plant an edible landscape. Many people are integrating small fruits as part of their landscapes. Small fruits such as blueberries, brambles, such as blackberries and muscadine grapes adapt easily in landscapes with ample sunlight. These plants generally pest free and bear fruit quickly.
• Make your gardening effort a teachable moment. Consider a place in the vegetable garden for the little ones. A children’s vegetable garden may spark interest that could last a lifetime. Young children are fascinated by the growth and development of vegetable plants, especially if given a chance to have a garden of their own. A garden of their own is also the perfect educational laboratory for plant science and ecology.
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Darrell Blackwelder is the county extension director with horticulture responsibilities with the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Learn more about extension events and activities on Facebook or at www.rowanextension.com