The cost of groceries is on the rise, but your wallet probably isn’t keeping up. Maybe you’d like to eat healthier, but fresh fruits and vegetables just don’t fit well in your budget. If you recently got off active duty, you might be crying over the loss of easy access to the commissary. But there is something you can do to keep those fresh veggies in your diet.
Having a vegetable and herb garden does not have to be filled with backbreaking labor. Between raising two kids, freelancing and grad school, I don’t have the time or energy for toiling in the garden, but I want fresh veggies for my family and I have to keep my budget in mind.
I discovered that there are many vegetables and herbs you can grow with little effort. Here’s my guide to vegetable gardening without the stress, or, as I like to think of it — plant it, water it, eat it.
I filled a raised plastic bed with soil and sprinkled a packet of mixed lettuce on top. Best spot for these is where they will get morning sunshine and afternoon shade, or some indirect sunshine. Lettuce doesn’t like to be too hot. When I am ready for a salad or want to add some lettuce to my salad, I snip the lettuce about an inch or two from soil level. Leave the root intact, the lettuce will grow back and keep you supplied all season.
Everyone wants to grow a good tomato, but don’t fret, we aren’t trying to win any state fairs for growing the most massive beefsteak. Find a good spot that has plenty of sun and room and put in your tomato plants. I usually like to pick up baby plants at the home improvement store and transplant them into the garden as soon as it’s warm. I usually get two to three waves of massive tomato harvests before the plants die.
Plant them somewhere with plenty of room, a trellis and sunshine and they will reward you with prolific and constant fruit. Like tomatoes, I prefer to buy baby plants and transplant them to the garden once it is warm.
Got lots of cukes? You can reuse that brine from any refrigerated cucumbers you purchased at the grocery store. Once I finish a jar of store-bought cucumbers I take any extra from the garden, slice up and pop them in. Within 24 hours I have another batch of super fresh pickles with minimal effort.
The price of kale is getting a little ridiculous. While this health food fad has its merits, it gives the illusion that this veggie is something of a luxury. Hardly! Kale grows easily and quickly. I recommend using a raised bed to help with pest control, otherwise throw some seeds down and watch ’em grow. You’ll have kale growing out of your ears in two snaps and a circle.
The same goes for collard greens!
These can be some of the easiest plants to grow. Since their leaves and stalks are usually the part of the plant that is harvested, it is an easy thing to throw some seeds down, keep watered and have fresh herbs at your fingertips. Some of my favorites to grow are basil, thyme, dill, cilantro and oregano. I usually can’t keep up with how fast they grow!
Remember your veggies aren’t trying to win any beauty pageants here. You don’t have to grow the perfect zucchini. Even with the smallest veggie garden, I think you will find that both your budget and health will thank you.