I've been wondering lately if any of you grow your own vegetable garden. I've been thinking about doing that whenever I get my own house which should be in the next two years. What are things that are easy to grow but are usually expensive in the grocery stores? I've really noticed how expensive produce is at grocery stores since I've started eating healthier. I do not have produce or farmer markets readily available at all days of the week around here as far as I know. There is only one major one and they are only open certain days of the month usually Saturdays and Sundays and way downtown in Dallas.
07-27-2007, 02:09 AM
I don't have a produce garden now, but grew up with a large one. We grew and "put up" all of the family's vegetables for the year... in Alaska!
I don't think a garden is a huge money saver, by the time you pay for topsoil, compost, rototilling costs, extra water, fencing to keep out the critters, and, most of all, your time. Maybe fresh herbs, because those are so ridiculously expensive in the stores. Or tomatoes. Or if gas prices continue to rise.
The real payoff to a garden is in the *tasty* fresh vegetables you'll have available, the fresh air and exercise, and the satisfaction of knowing that you grew your own food. And if you have young kids, gardening is both entertaining and educational. I just wouldn't plan on saving a bunch of money, especially in the first year.
As for what's easiest, herbs tend to be fairly easy because insects don't care for them (but not as satisfying -- it's hard to make a meal out of a rosemary bush). Zucchini is so easy you'll wish it was harder, because you'll end up with too many. Anything that needs to be staked or fenced (e.g., peas) is a bit fussier, but even these aren't difficult to grow as long as you invest in good soil and lots of compost. And the weather cooperates.
Check out your local cooperative extension service. They can tell you which varieties grow best in your area, what the local pests are and how to identify and manage them, what the local soil tends to be like, etc. All this info should be free.
07-27-2007, 02:28 AM
Oh I kind of knew that doing my own veggie garden would cost me money. But I had several relatives that did veggie gardens and to me their vegetables always tasted so much better than what was available in the grocery store. I'm really picky about freshness. Also it would give me a hobby. Thanks for all the information!
07-27-2007, 02:36 AM
Farmer's Market (http://www.dallasfarmersmarket.org/)downtown is a trip in itself and can be worth the Saturday trip even for someone like me who lives out in the sticks. I love to go down there and have been buying from certain vendors for years.Fall is really pretty with all the pumpkins down there and it's not really dreary downtown anymore !
Produce prices are higher !You are not the only one who noticed.What ever happened to 39 cents a pound for onions ? I buy mine at Sam's.
The vegetable garden can be tricky though. This year it was grasshoppers.They ate everything but three tomato plants, four strawberries and some cucumbers.
Dallas Soil is sometime called "black gumbo". I compost to get decent results.Many of the suburbs such as Mesquite have programs to offer composted much to home owners for free.
I made a nice stand of early corn ( 5x5) and it produced- but due to the invading grass hoppers most of the crop got sent to the horses for a treat.The little devils literally stripped the husks to get to the almost ripe kernels. I am sure that the crickets will come next along with a plague of locust.
The three tomatoe plants have produced abundantly ( the plum tomato not as much- but he looks like he is gearing in for fall production). Last year I did great with egg plant and bell pepper. A big bonus for me each year is fall and early spring onions. I am going to plant some spinach this fall. My tomato crop lasted up until a couple days into December last year. I had picked them at the threat of frost and they ripened nicely in my window sill.
The big thing you can do now is just read. Texas A&M (http://plantanswers.tamu.edu/tamuhort.html)has great web resources with their horticultural program and many counties provide " Master Gardener (http://dallas-tx.tamu.edu/hort/Programs%20&%20Events/Programs%20&%20Events.htm)" programs that can be useful to the public.
I recommend "Neil Sperry's" Complete Guide to Texas Gardening (http://www.amazon.com/Sperrys-Complete-Guide-Texas-Gardening/dp/0878337997) as a basic home owner's guide to Texas Gardening. It is not structured for as much veggies- but understanding growing things in your yard with crummy soil and the heat( with invading grasshoppers every few years). Check out a copy at the local library.
There is something about eating your own stuff or sending it to family members who like my Dad look at it and " ahhhh home grown". Just start small and add a bit each year.You want to be able to manage it unlike my friend who planted 12 squash plants and suddenly was overrun by the killer yellow squash ( great grilled BTW).
Good luck on home ownership and having a great garden !It can be done !
07-27-2007, 02:57 AM
I'm a gardening geek. We always have a garden and do it on the cheap/free, practically no time spent watering/weeding, etc. We have put in quite a bit of time and planning, though, in getting it set up that way. It takes work to be so lazy! :p
Our absolute favorites are tomatoes and summer squash (we never have too many!) but also grow/have grown northern peas, southern peas, eggplant, cucumbers, melons, berries of all kinds, both culinary and medicinal herbs, various greens, potatoes, carrots, peppers, alliums, etc, etc. What is "easy to grow" is whatever the bugs/rabbits/rats/critter-of-the-day doesn't get. We had a much easier time gardening when we lived in town -- not as many animals fighting us for the loot.
There is no meal quite so wonderful as one grown with your own hands, in my opinion. :)
07-27-2007, 03:13 AM
Thanks everyone for all the information! I'm not too concerned about fighting scavenging animals since it is unlikely we will be moving out to the sticks and most likely a outlying suburb with just a large backyard. So I guess I was correct in thinking about doing summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes and potatoes and melons for the future. Thanks again everyone.
07-27-2007, 06:20 AM
I'm a gardening geek too!! I have a tiny house on a large (for los angeles standards anyhow!) lot so I can garden 10 months a year here.
In summer I do mostly salsa ingredients (tomatoes, cilantro, peppers, jalepenos.) There is nothing like fresh salsa from your own garden!
In the winter we have swiss chard, spinach, and mesclun salad mix. I also grow flowers and herbs. I have no grass whatsoever....I find it a complete waste of water!
Like any proud parent, I have pictures of my babies, LOL,
Another big gardening freak here -- it's such a gratifying activity!
When I lived in California, we grew produce in every nook and cranny of the yard and had something happening year round -- lettuce, spinach, herbs and onions always, with tomatoes, squash and corn in the summer. Now we live in Oregon and have a MUCH larger garden space! We do save money but not time. It's a very worthwhile trade-off so far as I'm concerned.
My summers are taken up with hours of canning and preserving whatever we don't eat fresh. I haven't purchased prepackaged tomatoes, jams, peas, corn, berries or fruit for years. We also grow asparagus, cantaloupes, squash, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes, garlic, onions, leeks, peppers, beets, arugula, lettuce, spinach, chard, carrots, herbs, celery, cucumbers and rhubarb -- just about anything you can think of. We also grow plums, pears, figs, apples and grapes. It sure makes eating healthfully a lot easier. Pulling weeds and digging around keeps me more active as well.
We're lucky to live on acreage and raise most of our own food... in addition to our vegetable garden, we raise our own beef and keep chickens/ducks for eggs. Now, if only I can learn to eat much less of it all!!
Good luck with your garden. Growing in Texas is obviously very different than growing in Oregon, but if I can give you any tips, just say the word. :)
All the best, Rae
07-27-2007, 10:26 AM
I am a gardening geek as well. At our old home, we grew tomatoes, carrots, radishes, and green beans and they always did very, very well. They also tended to be ready at slightly different times. We also grew jack-o-lantern large pumpkins as well. (If you want them for Halloween, read the seed packet and try to plant so the harvest of them will fall in October.)
Our children thought that growing our own pumpkins was the greatest thing EVER. :lol: I also had them help me with weeding, watering, and picking the beans, etc. It was good for them to help me with it, and then help me bring in some to wash/cook for dinner during harvest times.
Right now, I am not growing food (new house with a homeowners association) but I have converted over to grasses, plants, shrubs, trees, and flowers-and putting my gardening energies into that instead. :D