How to Garden and Save Lots of Money
Grow Your Food
Editor’s note: If you want to save bucks and eat better, here is a good article to start with. I have known the author for decades, and he has walked the walk.
BEGINNING YOUR ORGANIC FOOD
As the gardener tends his plot and seasons pass, the more benefits he likely realizes. He or she may begin with the single aim of reducing food bills, then find the flavors are far superior to the supermarket's. With the extra vitamins and regular mild exercise comes a gradual improvement in general health and vigor. News of a trucker's strike brings no stress. The confidence and security derived from independence from expensive stale produce and killing frosts in far-off agri-biz fields cannot be estimated in dollar value.
As produce ripens so grows the pleasure in sharing lore with other gardeners, as gardeners have practiced since man evolved from hunter and gatherer to gardener and home builder. Now the garden begins to be recognized as a quiet and patient teacher waiting for the gardener to open to its subtle and profound lessons. One may begin to experience spiritual joys as the garden, once a mere work place for "digging in the dirt", evolves into a refuge, a retreat for mindful meditation.
The home gardener chooses to grow organically so his plants can feed on nutrient-rich, natural soil instead of artificial fertilizers, and he declines to play the fool by spraying poison on his food.
Site: The plants
require a reasonably level site with minimum six hours' sunshine, access to
water, and soil conditions that allow for deep-dug compost beds. Choose a
spot that is protected from strong winds, away from trees and large sun- and
water-hogging bushes. Southeast of the house is best, due south next best,
east is third best; forget west and north. In southern and southwest areas of
When the world wearies, and society ceases to satisfy, there is always the garden. - Minnie Aumonier
Soil: Gardening is like good parenting: you think first always in terms of meeting the needs of the garden. You take care of the soil, the soil provides for the plants, the plants produce food for you. So the three most important things in gardening are: Soil; soil, and soil.
In most areas there are three types: clay, sand and humus. It is good to have a mixture favoring humus, but in any case your soil will improve with compost. Be an extremist here; composting cannot be overdone. No need for home gardeners to test for pH. As a general rule, whatever the problem or deficiency of your soil, lots of compost will fix it.
Compost: The organic
gardener is not troubled with poor soil, because wherever he is, he makes his
own. I've raised gardens in
Layer a few inches of each: topsoil (humus), greens (grass clippings, raw vegetable kitchen scraps, leaves), manure (horse, cow, chicken, never dog or cat). No meat. Keep the pile moist but not wet, and aerate it by mixing (turning) it every few days. After a few weeks (composting is not an exact science) it will be ready to spade into your garden soil, or fill up garden beds, and/or use as mulch.
Behold this compost! Behold it well ...! It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions. - Walt Whitman
Mulch: Mulch is compost-type material used to cover the soil's surface after the plants have started. Other than compost, mulch is by far the best friend and work saver a gardener ever had, far better than any $1500 tiller. Apply two or so inches of grass clippings, peat moss, leaves, chipped Xmas trees, bark, pine needles, the list is nearly endless. People even use newspapers, old carpets and flagstone, but these do not feed nutrients to the soil as do the above.
TWO: THE METHODS
Why not combine the best gardening methods known today? You want practices that (1) produce the most abundant crops in the least space;  provide the most vitamins, flavor and economy; (3) require the least work, water and tools, (4) most effectively deter harmful insects, plant diseases, and weeds.
Organic methods deliver healthiest produce, most economically. The composted soil produces largest crops, and makes for the strongest plants - which insects like to avoid.
Raised beds, once built, are work-savers in many ways: more efficient use of compost and mulch, smaller garden to fence and shade, and more production per plant (because the soil is not compacted by treading between rows).
Intensive planting combined with deep mulch raised beds multiply food production per square foot many times over. The "shade mulch" keeps down weeks, keeps soil moist, saves water.
Companion planting has been proven to discourage predatory insects; basil among the tomatoes, for example. In fact, scattered plantings of French Marigolds, onions, radishes and any mint herb will do much to discourage the bad bugs, but keep good ones like Lady Bug and mantis.
Successive plantings can easily double your food production by extending the growing season alone. Beginning with starting seed flats of tomato and cabbage family in late winter, you can raise a spring garden, a summer garden, and a fall garden.
Gardening. In the late '70s, early '80s Sherrie and I pioneered a
method of producing vegetables all winter long in the outside garden in
northern climes, eliminating the need for greenhouse, root cellar, freezing,
drying or canning. Our New Years Day vegetarian meal consisted of 20
vegetables bursting with flavor, fresh-picked from raised
Natural foods will be the medicine of the future. - Thomas A. Edison
See my regular gardening column in back issues of Homesteaders News, and my article on winter gardening in Feb '85 East West Journal. The feature article in #45 Homesteaders News describes winter gardening in the North in detail. . Check out also TMEN's book, A TO Z HOME GARDENER'S HANDBOOK #7. For my planting instructions for all four seasons, see the color centerfold in The Mother Earth News #85.
THREE: THE PLANNING
Stage (1) of gardening is doing your reading; Stage (2) is creating the plan. These can be as enjoyable as the stages following: (3) digging in the dirt, and (4) plucking the harvest. This information below - indeed, for this entire article - is selected and condensed from Norm Lee's Book of Garden Lists [see end of article]:
The most common mistakes:
How To Avoid Work [List #59] The wise (and lazy) gardener plans a small garden, loads raised beds with deep compost, and plants intensively. This reduces losses from pests, diseases, and drought. The raised bed intensive planting uses the compost, water and mulch most efficiently, reduces the stooping and bending, and virtually eliminates weeds. There is no plowing, tilling, hoeing, cultivating, weeding, spraying, dusting, etc.
You can quickly spend $2,000 on tools, sold to you on the claim that they "save work". When you calculate the hours of work required for the money to pay for them, those expensive tillers and weeders, and sprayers are not so cheap. You need only four tools [List #67: shovel, rake, trowel, and a four-tine fork. In hotter climes, a hose for irrigation.
Tools that make work [List #68]: roto-tiller, hoe, cultivator, plow, harrow, seeder, chemical sprayer, sprinkler ...
To forget how to
dig the earth and tend the soil is to forget ourselves.
What to plant
1. Easiest to grow [List
#101]: radish; leaf lettuce; spinach; tomato; onion sets; sweet corn; summer
squash; beet green; bush bean; turnip; pea
When to plant seeds:
1. On Average Last Frost
Date [List #36: beans, corn, cucumber, pepper, cantaloupe, pumpkin, summer
squash, winter squash, watermelon
Space to allow:
requirements per plant [List #63]:
1. Plant per person: 20
radish, carrot, beet, onion, turnip
2. Normally potatoes, sweet corn, squashes and melons are grown in patches, not raised beds. See List #65 for plants per square foot.
"I consider this
collection of vital information one of the few essential tools for the back
yard gardener... [ Norm
Lee's Book of Garden Lists ] belongs with the trowel, the shovel,
and the compost fork."
NORM LEE'S BOOK OF
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