10 great reasons to start a garden this year

Katie Bulmer is a former junk food addict turned into one of those green freaks that used to get on her nerves. She “does weird things like cloth diaper my kids, garden organicaly, make my own laudry detergent and other tree hugging type adventures”, but don’t worry, she still takes showers and eats cheetos. You can find her blogging at Imperfect People.

Katie Bulmer (11)

So you want to have a garden but need a little extra motivation to get started this year? Spring is here and if you ever thought about gardening now is the time to get started.

harvest

I compiled the top 10 reasons to get out there, get digging, and grow your own produce this year!

  1. Cost/Savings: The average family with a vegetable garden spends just $70 a year on it and grows an estimated $600 worth of vegetables. (source) Thats a 850% return on your investment!! Try getting that at the bank!
  2. Nutrition: Produce is at it’s peak nutritional value when ripe. Fruits and veggies that have to travel to the super market are picked well before they are ripe. While it may become ripe by the time you eat it, the nutrition comes from the stem of the living plant. Once harvested, a vegetable is as nutritious as it is going to get. Nutritional value actually decreases each and every day past harvest.
  3. Organic: When you grow your own, you decide what goes in the dirt, what goes on the plant and more importantly WHAT DOESN’T. Organic famers do a great job, but with all the politics surrounding the term “organic”…you never really know exactly how it is grown UNLESS you do it yourself.
  4. Education: Gardening is an incredible activity to do with kids. Many kids have no idea watermelons don’t grow on trees! What’s more YOU learn a lot too! Did you know lemons are ripe in december? And Brussels sprouts grown in the winter?
  5. Exercise: Gardening provides all three types of exercise: endurance, flexibility, and strength. burning up to 500 calories per hour! (source)
  6. Convenient: Yesterday I was in the middle of making dinner when I realized, “I have no cilantro!!” But then…Eureka! I realized I have some outside in the garden! Having fresh ingredients in your backyard beats a trip to the store every time!
  7. Immune system booster?: Joel Salatin mentions in his book that getting in the dirt can actually help boost your immune system! A little dirt don’t hurt!
  8. Taste: Due to many of the reason listed in #2, homegrown taste SIGNIFICANTLY better than store bought.
  9. Variety: At the grocery store and even at many famers markets there are maybe two varieties of every type of fruit/veggie. But when you grow your own you can choose seeds from an endless list. Do you know there are over 100 varieties of squash?
  10. Put your yard to use: Don’t let precious real-estate go to waste. Grass takes water and nutrients and gives very little back. But herbs and veggies earn their keep like none other. They produce a bountiful harvest for you to enjoy!

Spinach storage

I hope these reasons convinced you to get out there this year! What do you love most about gardening? Do you plan to have a garden this year?

What You Really Do and Don’t Need for Gardening

This is a guest post from Katie at Imperfect People. She’s a blogger friend who lives a debt free life and has many great frugal ideas. Here are her thoughts on frugal gardening. You can subscribe to her RSS Feed here.

I find it amusing there are so many different ways advertisers are trying to get you to spend money to make your garden beautiful. People have been gardening for centuries without all the fuss.  Over the years in the garden I have learned a few tips on what you really do need and a lot of things you don’t.

1) You DON’T need commercial fertilizer, you DO need compost.

  • Compost has all the nutrients you plants need, plus it is free!  I collect all my kitchen scraps (most anything but meat or dairy) in an empty coffee container on my countertop.  But any container will do the job.

  • When it gets full, I take it outside to my compost container. A.K.A  a trash can with holes drilled in the sides and bottom. I also add a shredded newspaper about once a week.   I put the lid on and roll it around the yard a few times a week and there you have my $12 compost container that works way better than anything else I have ever tried.  Instructional video here.

2) You DON”T need landscape fabric, you DO need mulch

  • Black landscape fabric is designed to go under the mulch to prevent weeds.  While it is effective, it is also aggravating and expensive. A green and free alternative is newspaper and or cardboard.
  • Spread several layers (about 10) of damp newspaper, or cardboard over the surface of your garden.  This is a great chance to reuse/recycle your waste.  If you are anxious to get started and don’t have that much newspaper or cardboard on hand you can ask some friends for theirs,  or contact the local newspaper as they often have end rolls of paper without print that they discard with LOTS of paper left.  FYI cardboard from cereal and cracker boxes work great too.
  • Make sure you overlap every piece because grass is RELENTLESS!   Then cover it all with mulch.  I use pine straw since I can rake it up for free but crushed leaves, bark, or cedar mulch is all great too.  When you are ready to plant just tear a hole in the paper/cardboard, and plant.  As a bonus the cardboard or newspaper will eventually breakdown making great food for earthworms!
3) You DON’T need Sprinkler Irrigation, you DO need drip irrigation.
  • Drip irrigation is MUCH cheaper to install and uses way less water than a sprinkler irrigation system.  It is also very easy to do yourself…no really it is.  Step by step instructions here. Most garden centers sell everything you need.  All my hose outlets look like this:

  • I have my drip irrigation on a $30 timer that automatically waters my garden everyday, and a hose on the other end for watering plants not on the drip.  A hose splitter like this is less than $5.
  • This makes watering much less of a chore and gives my veggies the water they will need EVERYDAY during the heat of the summer.
  • If a drip irrigation is for some reason not possible, make life easier for yourself and plant your garden on a regular route you walk everyday.  The walk to the car, the walk to the mailbox etc.  Above all, CLOSE TO THE HOSE!
4) You DON’T need a green house, you DO need an egg carton and a plastic bag
  • Egg cartons are the perfect size for seeds.  The plastic bag (an old bread bag is perfect) keeps the soil moist.  Once seeds have germinated remove the bag, when they plants are strong enough you can transfer to the garden.

Do you have any gardening questions?  I love to help!  I would also love to hear ways you save money in the garden.

Mulberry Cobbler

There is something I probably haven’t shared with you much before. I am married to a man that is obsessed with growing food. Here in Florida, it’s not the easiest undertaking to plant and care for a garden full of food in the heat of summer. We have had occasional success with growing jalapeno peppers, strawberries, and green peppers in our raised beds, but by the time we are picking and eating from the garden, it feels like we put a lot of time and energy into a garden that gives us little reward. Good thing we mostly do it for the hobby part of it, to have something to do, to teach our kids about where foods come from, and to make one less trip to a store to buy fruits or veggies from a plastic container.

One thing we have had great luck with planting is fruit trees. A new part of his planting obsession, I have to be careful letting him go out anymore because he always comes home with new trees to plant. We have the usual orange, lemon, grapefruit and lime trees that we all enjoy watching bloom. Also, our yard is full of not so usual olive trees, a fig tree (that was here and huge and well established when we bought the house), some blueberries, and last weekend we added 6 kiwi trees to our yard. I can’t wait for those. Kiwis are one of my favorite fruits but I never buy them.

There is something so completely charming to me about stepping outside my house and walking to a tree to pick fruit from it and to feed my family something yummy from it. I love that my kids can go from swinging on the swings or playing soccer in the yard to stopping all of that and wanting to have a snack from our yard. And it makes my husband happy to think he’s one step closer to feeding us the day that there is no more food in the grocery store. I sort of joke, but he really does worry about such things.

Two years ago, I took the kids to a local nursery and let them each pick a tree that they wanted to bring home. They could pick anything. My daughter picked a mulberry tree and my son, who does everything she does, chose one too. We came home that day with two scrawny mulberry trees and I was told we’d get berries from them in about 7 years. Imagine my delight when it was blossoming last year and this spring we have had more mulberries than I knew what to do with. We are picking new ripe berries from the trees every day right now. While my kids love just snacking on them and throwing them into their yogurt, I had so many that I realized I’d have to start baking with them to use them up.

Last week, I was inspired by Alicia when she made a yummy looking baked treat with some that her family picked recently.

Last week, I was cleaning out my kitchen cupboards and found that I have 5 pie dishes. FIVE. I have never in my life baked a pie. Or used one of those glass pie plates. Why do I have them? Where did they come from? Probably just another example of something someone gave me and I kept because I am supposed to have pie plates. So, yesterday, I put one to use and made a mulberry cobbler.

To get started, I sent a helper outside to pick a bunch of mulberries for me

Then I gave her a bath!

Here’s what you’ll need to make one of your own:

  • 2 cups mulberries
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk

What to do:

  • Rinse the mulberries with water. You do not need to remove the stems.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a bowl combine the mulberries with the sugar. Mix well.
  • Melt the butter and pour it into a pan. Cover the bottom of the pan with the melted butter.
  • In a seperate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Add the milk to the mixture to make batter.
  • Pour the batter evenly into the glass pan. The butter will come up around the edges, that’s okay.
  • Spoon mulberries evenly over batter.
  • Bake for 40 minutes.

I am sure this would be delicious served with vanilla ice cream. We had our servings yesterday with French Vanilla yogurt and that was quite yummy as well.

Enjoy!

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