We can all agree that growing your own vegetables has many advantages. Nothing compares to home-grown for taste; growing your own means that your vegetables are very fresh, full of nutrients and taste delicious. Then there’s the satisfaction – that sense of achievement that comes with picking your first tomato, or better still, when serve your first salad to a group of admiring friends! Growing your own opens a whole new world to you and your family. Children learn where vegetables come from and are generally more enthusiastic about trying them. It creates a connection to nature that can be lacking in our modern world and it gets us all off the couch and outside!
Does it save you money?
Besides these obvious benefits, the question still remains: does it actually save you money? And I think my short answer to that question is: it depends. Definitely growing certain vegetables can save you money while others are so bothersome to grow on a smaller scale that buying them from larger organic growers definitely is the cheaper option.
Planning what to grow
When deciding which vegetables to grow it’s important to think about what vegetables you eat. There’s no point growing loads of runner beans if they go to the compost pile! Also you need to remember that it’s not just the cost of seeds or plants, but also factor in compost, fertilisers and probably organic slug pellets too.
It’s a good idea to have a look at the prices in the shops; for example, organic green beans and peas can be pricey and often difficult to find. These are really quite easy to grow, even for the novice. While organic carrots are relatively easy to find, not that expensive but can be tricky enough to grow.
The amount of space you have will also impact your decision; pumpkins and squashes are easy to grow but take up a lot of space.
My Top 5
As such what you choose to grow will be very personal so I have listed here my top five that I would start with
Herbs are about the easiest thing to grow if you want to save money. They are expensive in the supermarkets and very rarely organic. Even if you have a small windowsill you can grow Basil and Coriander on the inside. Parsley, Chives and Thyme will be very happy on the outside. Remember when growing in pots to keep everything well watered, especially in hot weather. It’s worth mentioning Microgreens and Sprouts here: They’re a great way to add organic greens into your salads when you only have a windowsill to grow on.
2. Salad Greens
Salad is another expensive organic vegetable which is easy to grow, especially the loose leaf “cut-and-come-again” varieties, such as Red Salad Bowl, Till or Lollo Rosso. Seed can be sown quite thickly, directly into a prepared bed and if leaves are picked from the outside, the plants will give you salad all season long. Do watch out for slugs, especially when you first plant them out!
3. Dwarf French beans.
Some people may find this an odd choice but again the things you choose to grow should reflect those vegetables that you like to eat. French beans are a real hit in our house, are difficult to find organic and generally have high food miles (often grown in Egypt or Kenya). They are easy to grow: start them in pots on your window in April/May, plant them out in a prepared bed in May/June. Keep picking and they will keep producing pods until it gets cold. It’s worth mentioning Peas here: they are also an easy one to grow!
Often these are people’s first choice because home-grown organic tomatoes are vastly superior in taste to their watery cousins found in supermarkets. However they will require a bit more investment: they do generally need heat (which means a glass house or a sunny window inside), they will need feeding to produce decent fruits (Vinasse liquid feed is ideal and goes a long way) and they need a little more tending (generally they need their side shoots pinched out).
For balance, I’ve chosen a fruit here. Raspberries are easy to grow and again expensive to buy in. There are summer and autumn fruiting varieties, so plant one of each and you could be picking raspberries from June to October. Plant in a prepared bed, cut the canes to the ground in January and mulch them (first grass cuttings if you have them or Strulch would be ideal too). Feed with OPF 4:2:8 when you see the first flower and again in the middle of the season. Be careful as over the years they can spread but these can be dug up and given away if your plot is too small.