Eating organic produce can be expensive; it might even feel like the cost outweighs the benefits! However, if you plant your garden strategically, you will be able to produce and enjoy bountiful, organic produce from your own backyard. Not to mention, save yourself some hard earned dollars! Here are five easy-to-grow crops that will set you on the path to growing your own organic, dollar-saving produce!
Garlic that isn’t grown in China is hard to come by, and when you find it in the store, it costs around three dollars per bulb! Six years ago, Mr. Green Thumb and I invested in some beautiful bulbs of organic Red Russian garlic from the farmer’s market, and haven’t spent a cent on garlic since (except a bit on fertilizer :)). We save ourselves around $240 each year just by growing our own garlic!
We estimate that we use about one to one and a half bulbs per week, so each year we plant roughly eighty cloves of garlic, making sure that we have enough to replant with the following year. They fill about one and a half of our raised beds, which are approximately three feet (90 cm) by six feet (180 cm). While they take nine months to mature (mid-October to mid-July), they are well worth the wait. In the meantime, the hard neck varieties, such as Red Russian, produce scapes (the long shoots that produce the seed pods), which can be sautéed, or used to create a lovely pesto.
Potatoes are another crop that multiply easily, and store well. Considering that potatoes are conventionally grown with many different chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, they should always be purchased organically. Our favorites are fingerlings, purple potatoes, and red skinned potatoes. From our experience, each plant produces on average, ten medium sized potatoes (between two and three pounds, or around one kilo). This sells in the grocery store for an average of five dollars for an organic bag.
We estimate that our family eats around ten potatoes (one serving) each week, and so we need to plant almost sixty plants, in order to have enough for seeds and eating for the year. So far we haven’t had the space to plant this many potatoes, but this is roughly what we would need. We have been able to plant approximately half of what we need in about one and a half of our raised beds. This is an estimated savings of $145, or $285 if we grew a year’s worth ourselves!
Kale is an incredibly versatile vegetable, and practically grows itself once you seed it! It produces throughout the summer and fall, and then lays dormant through the coldest months; it comes to life again though, once the temperatures come up above freezing. Many times, my Mr. Green Thumb or I ran down to the garden in the snow to pick a bunch of kale for dinner! Our favorite variety is Tuscan or Black kale; the leaves are dark and smooth, and washing goes much quicker than with the curly variety!
Kale is loaded with nutrients and fiber, and can be added to almost any dish, or eaten on its own. If you are looking for inspiration on how to incorporate this superfood into your meals, check out this article. Organic bunches cost an average of four dollars in the grocery store, (for roughly eight-10 large leaves), and we probably eat the equivalent of one bunch every week. The estimated savings for this vegetable is $208 annually!
Tomatoes produce an abundance of fruit with just a little bit of effort. If starting your plants from seeds indoors seems intimidating, purchasing small plants is an inexpensive, and easy way to get tomatoes started. Heirloom varieties are uniquely beautiful, but we have found that they don’t always produce as much fruit, and can be finicky. Trying several different varieties, either heirloom, or more modern organic varieties is a great way to ensure that you will get a good harvest, and learn what varieties do best in the growing conditions in your garden.
We have found that four tomato plants produce a substantial amount of fruit, although in the future, we hope to have more. We eat to our hearts content throughout the six-eight week season, and any extra we freeze along the way. In September, I make a big batch of sauce with our garlic, basil and oregano, and freeze it into around three cup portions. It is hard to say just how many pounds of tomatoes a plant will produce, and to be honest, I’ve never weighed the amount of fruit we have harvested. However, I would estimate that we have made at least 20 tomato sauce portions which would cost around three dollars a jar. I estimate that we save approximately $60 in sauce, and around $40 in fresh tomatoes.
Winter Squash are easy to grow and store. It isn’t a given how many squash each plant will produce, but one to two is a safe estimate. We have grown Sugar pumpkins, and Butternut squash with success, and while we have tried other squash, such as Spaghetti, Delacotta, and Acorn, pumpkins and butternut seem to be the favorites in our family.
Often these squash can be two to four dollars a pound and an organically grown pumpkin or butternut can easily cost eight to ten dollars! If you have the space to let these vines roam, or don’t mind your yard being taken over for a couple months, these are easy to grow and can stock your pantry with winter squash to last the entire year. We grew six butternut squash and four pumpkins last year, for a savings of at least $60.
This is a savings of $753 for five simple vegetables grown in a garden about the size of around two hundred square feet! Not too bad! And if you had a bit of space to plant a few blueberry bushes, within a couple of years you’d be able to harvest and preserve several hundred dollars worth of antioxidant rich berries to last all year round!
What will you be planting this spring?
You can check out this post at Nourishing Joy’s weekly blog round-up, Thank Goodness It’s Monday.