Rising food prices and a growing recognition of the importance of fresh food has spiked interest in home gardening. Seed companies are enjoying sales growth, which isn’t surprising when the Burpee Seed Co. estimates $50 in seeds and fertilizer can save a family $1,000 at the grocery store.
To help you save money at the grocery store, we’ve featured easy veggies to grow, sprinkled liberally with herb suggestions. Although herbs may be more expensive, they are perennial. Your investment can bring years of rewards. Add herbs fresh from the garden, or invest in a dehydrator and make your own dried blends.
So if the only thing holding you back is confusion over what’s easy to grow and makes the best economic sense, just read on — and then get planting!
Green beans provide a wealth of nutrients: Vitamins A, C and K, potassium, folate, manganese, iron and more. Plant your seeds in well-drained soil with lots of sunlight, and sow them every few weeks to enjoy a continual harvest through the summer. The plants need roughly a month to begin producing, and they must be harvested regularly. As soon as you pull a bean off, another will start growing in its place.
Beets are a cool weather crop, a harmonious mixing of sweet and earthy flavors. They can survive frost, which makes them a good choice for northern gardeners and an excellent long-season crop. One half cup of cooked beets has only 29 calories, 2 grams of fiber and provides 19 percent of the daily value for folate and B vitamins needed for the growth of healthy new cells. Beets also contain a phytochemical that bolsters immunity.
Cilantro is a flavorful herb prominent in Mexican and Southeast Asian cookery. Try it as an alternative to basil in pesto, or stir it into your favorite salsa recipe. The stems are as flavorful as the leaves — just discard any that are tough. Plant cilantro early in the season and sow new seeds regularly for a continued harvest.
Cucumbers are the rabbits of the vegetable garden. Many beginning gardeners are overwhelmed by their yields, so plant sparingly after the danger of frost has passed. Pick them when they are 4 inches in length. Pull pickle cucumbers at 2 inches. The cucumber isn’t a nutrition powerhouse, but at 95 percent water, it is refreshing.
Garlic’s growing demand has resulted in higher prices at the supermarket. But garlic is easy to grow, and it can be planted in the fall, after the summer season is over. Just add a little water. Since garlic doesn’t generate its own seeds, save a few bulbs from your initial crop to plant again next year. In addition to keeping vampires away, garlic contains health promoting phyto-nutrient substances. These substances can help protect you against coronary artery diseases, certain cancers and more.
There are few things as tasty as a fresh garden salad. And with the high prices for premium varieties that turn bad in a few days, growing your own is a smart investment. Plant seeds every 7-10 days beginning in early spring and grow the lettuce until the first frost. Nutrients differ with each variety of lettuce, but all varieties supply vitamins A, C, K and folate. As an added bonus, it’s also low in calories.
Kale is enjoying a huge surge in popularity and prices for the leafy vegetable have risen accordingly. It’s an excellent source of vitamin B6, calcium, iron, dietary fiber, potassium and more. Kale is also low maintenance — it only needs water and a shot of fertilizer before a second planting. Being a cooler weather crop, you should plant the seeds in late summer for a second harvest before winter arrives.
Parsley made its name as a garnish, but it also has delicious flavor, an enjoyable aromatic quality and loads of vitamins A and C. Plant it in fertile, moist soil that has been combined with a little organic matter.
Zucchini, yellow, acorn, butternut, spaghetti — squash is available in seemingly endless varieties of sizes, colors, and flavors. Squash is high-yielding and flourishes in sunny, well-drained soil. One packet of seeds should feed a family for the summer, with enough leftovers to share with friends.
Start your summer squash indoors in mid-March or purchase starter plants from a nursery. Plant outside after the last frost, and water them deeply but infrequently at the base of the roots. Then, harvest your summer squash when it is 4-6 inches long. For winter squash, the harvesting time varies by type. Typically, it’s safe to pick when the squash has a dark, rich color and is firm to the touch.
Best known for its supporting role as additional flavor for stews and soups, thyme’s contribution to poultry and meat dishes should not be overlooked. Thyme also pairs well with apples and pears. It grows best in fertile soil and full sunlight.
This obliging fruit will flourish with very little water. Just give tomatoes lots of sun. Try growing some of the black, green, or purple varieties – all of which, like the familiar red species, have incredible phyto-chemical properties and more healthy compounds than an apple! Cherry or grape varieties have better disease resistance than their bigger cousins and offer the most savings because they start producing early and keep going all summer long.
No matter what vegetable or herb you want to grow, a garden is one of the best ways to enjoy fresher, more affordable food.