Which Vegetable Give The Most Bang for Your Buck?
Planting a "Recession Garden"
With money as tight as the pants we women squeeze into every day, it's no wonder that many people are planting what have been dubbed "recession gardens". From apartment porches to suburban backyards many people are setting aside a space to grow vegetables and herbs this year, and many people do so to save money. But before you plant a garden, think about the investment it will require initially, and then use your space wisely. Would you rather grow a vegetable that cost you $.25 per pound at the store, or one that cost $1.00 per pound? Not all veggies are cheaper in your backyard, so before you plant your money saving recession garden, think about which of the following plants are really worth your time, labor, tools and water costs.
One of the cheapest veggies at the store, I have personally found that root vegetables take up a lot of space, but don't give you a wealth of pricey produce in return. Onions and brown potatoes are two of the cheapest items in any grocery store, with a five-pound bag of potatoes running under three dollars in my area. A slightly smaller bag of onions also runs about the same price. Even carrots are relatively cheap; a two pound bag of baby carrots runs me two dollars at my local store.
If you do love your root vegetables though, there are a few varieties which are worth the space they take up. Red potatoes can be quite pricey at the store, but are quite prolific when grown at home. For the gourmets out there, why not try some tender and mild shallots, which look like small onions but are much milder. Before you dig up the roots you can also use the green tops like chives. Root veggies are great staples in your pantry, but not necessarily in your recession garden
Leafy Greens, Beans and Peas
Greens, beans and peas are some of the best items to plant in your recession garden. Green beans often run more than $1.50 per pound at the store, but in your garden regular bush beans are compact but prolific producers. Plus, green beans are great because you can can and freeze them, prolonging their use. The same holds true for peas, which are wonderful even after freezing in dishes such as stir fry.
Lettuce can also be a great investment. I usually get two years use out of one seed packet, filled with expensive types of lettuce like butter and romaine. Trim the leaves regularly, and keep the lettuce from bolting in order to enjoy leafy salads for a longer period of time. On the other hand lettuce doesn't keep for any period of time and can be prone to leaf-chomping bugs of all varieties. Still, nothing goes with a juicy steak after a long hard day like fresh cuts greens from your own garden.
Cukes and Zukes
Ahh, go forth my veggies and procreate! Wait...no...STOP! The prolific proclivities of the zukes and cukes make them well worth the planting, two cucumbers in my local store cost $1.00, to a $1.00 packet of seeds which can produce dozens if not hundreds of vegetables. The only thing you have to do is figure out how to use them. If you don't like pickling (for the cukes) or baking and cooking (with the shredded zukes) then you might only want one to two of these plants in your garden. But if you're looking for a wealth of veggies, these two plants will not disappoint.
Ah, the juicy red balls of doom. I must confess that I don't grow tomatoes because I hate them raw, and can't be bothered to process bucket after bucket into homemade sauces. But for some people, tomatoes are the pinnacle of gardening. Certainly tomatoes can be pricey at the store, and often they are bruised and not at their freshest. If you like tomatoes, raw or cooked, in all their juicy glory, then they can be a gardening joy! Plant regular sized one for cooking, and small ones for salads. Just be certain you are going to eat them, otherwise they can be a drag on the cost of your garden.
Exotics and Herbs
Of course, then there are more exotic vegetables like peppers and eggplant and kiwis. This year I'm adding to my garden cold-hardy kiwis and bush cherries for pies, there's always something fun and new to grow! Exotic veggies can be a great investment, if you eat what the plants produce. Why, green and red peppers alone can go for $2.50 a pound plus in my local store. But if you just let the produce rot, obviously your space, water, time and money have been wasted.
I also love to plant herbs. They smell sweet, make great plantings next to my foundation, choke out weeds, and best of all, save me money! Some herbs, like parsley, are dirt cheap at the store, but others, like basil, have cost me $1.50 for a few meager leaves. Some of my favorite plantings include basil, rosemary, dill and cilantro. Lemon balm is also a favorite, but I use it in tea or to smell as a quick pick-me-up. If you have ackward spaces that need to be filled, herbs are thrifty and tasty.
Recession Gardening-to Last a Lifetime
Hopefully, if this is your first time planting a garden you'll be smitten and never want to stop. One of the most exciting times of the year for me is when I stand anxiously over my starter plants, holding my breath with anticiaption for those first green shoots (either that or spreading the cow manure, I can't really decide). Maybe you're planting a garden to save money, but hopefully you'll gain a lot more that just cash.