Step by Step: How gardening can save you money

May 9, 2011 (CHICAGO)

    Step by Step: Gardening Instructions
  • Be sure that your garden or balcony has full day of sun (minimum 6 hours)
  • Select "crops" - based on what you and your children like to eat: most popular are tomatoes, sweet peppers, cucumbers, green beans, zucchini, basil
  • Start small - 10' x 10' maximum at first
  • Get basic tools: shovel, rake, garden trowel, watering can (or hose with watering head)
  • Decide whether to start from seed or to buy plants already started (beginners often have more success starting with plants - see cost comparison attached)
  • Know the "Frost-free date" - May 15th in Chicago, the average date of the last frost of the season = safe to plant
  • As soon as the ground has thawed and drained - cut the grass (sod) off of the surface of soil (better than digging it into the soil)
  • Use a shovel or garden fork to turn over the soil, breaking the clots of soil up, rake smooth
  • Plan where the plants will go in the planting bed based on the mature size of each plant - most require 2-3 square feet, placing the tallest ones on the north side decreasing in height to the south (the sun is shining from the south during the summer- avoid shading the short ones)
  • Plant the vegetable plants into the soil, watering well after planting
  • Water every other day for the first 6 weeks as the roots get established, watching the rainfall - plants need 1" of rain at 75 degrees F each week add an additional ½ inch for every 10 degree increase in temperature
  • Fertilize monthly with a good quality fertilizer
  • Remove weeds in between the plants and put mulch around them to prevent more weeds.
  • Plants produce flowers first and with pollination (usually by insects) the crops develop
  • As the crops develop, harvest when small and tasty, continuing throughout the growing season. If any get too mature, hormones are released that will stop the flowering and end the production

    Most cost effective = cheapest, with moderate success
  • Start from seeds, 5 packets of seeds at $2.49 each =$12.45
  • Use plastic egg cartons as seed starting trays , see example with holes cut in the bottom of the cells for drainage = cost of a dozen eggs $3.50
  • Fill with seed starting soil mix = $8.99
  • Window with sunshine 6-12 hours per day
  • Plant starter fertilizer liquid = $12.99
  • Use paper cups to transplant seedlings before planting into garden
  • Shovel, garden fork, rake, trowel
  • Watering can and rain gauge
  • Yard with garden area in sun for minimum 6 hours
  • Fertilizer like Garden-Tone = 4 pound bag $7.99
  • Approximate cost to start $35

    More expensive = also more success
  • Start from seeds, same as above 5 packets at $2.49 each = $12.95
  • Seed starting trays with ready-to-use water absorbing cells, 12 pellet at $6.99,
  • 25 pellet at $9.99, or 36 larger pellet size at $19.99
  • Same tools as above
  • Plant starter fertilizer liquid = $12.99
  • Plastic 4" pots to transplant seedlings into 12 at $1.49 = $17.88
  • Watering can and rain gauge
  • Yard with garden area in sun for minimum 6 hours
  • Fertilizer like Garden-Tone = 4 pound bag $7.99
  • Approximate cost to start $55.00 to 75.00 (many items are re-usable)

    Best for beginners = highest success rate (selection is not as great)
  • Buy already started plants in 4" containers; 3 tomatoes, 3 peppers, 1 basil and start the green beans and cucumbers from seed (plants $2.99 each, basil $4.79, seeds $2.59 each = $27.73
  • Same tools needed as above
  • Fertilizer is Garden-Tone - 2 bags for the season at $7.99 each = $15.98
  • Approximate cost to start $45.00

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