Small Vegetable Garden, Yet Big Savings

By Adina Dosan

September 15, 2013

Vegetable Garden
Vegetable Garden

I am one of the lucky people who has a vegetable garden. Beyond the hard work of weeding and watering, during the hot summers we’ve had during the last few years, the satisfaction of having fresh, organic vegetables, grown with my own hands, makes all the difference.

Gardening pictureCabbage and sunflower in my vegetable garden Not long after I first started my vegetable garden I was almost ready to give up because of the huge amount of weeding I had to do. But when I realized what a fortune that land was, I continued to sow and plant, no matter how many weeds were growing between the vegetables. I’ve learned how to dig deeply into the soil in the fall and turn it to kill the weeds’ roots by freezing during winter. That helped a lot and now I find myself having a nice garden, with less weeds, yet enough to make me dig regularly between the plants. I’m not an expert, but I’m learning every day from my friends’ experience and from television shows,Picking up tomatoes in my garden books and magazines, which I avidly watch and read. It makes me laugh when I think of the time when I was living in Bucharest city and I was so frustrated Fall crop from my gardenby all the agricultural shows they showed on TV, and I would switch the channel immediately, feeling bored by all the talk about wheat and corn crops, spring or fall digging, raising cattle, chickens or pigs, pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers and so on. Now, both my husband and I eagerly await the “Village Life” to begin – a show we hated so much in the past, when we were city people and knew nothing about agriculture. We’re now very interested in all the talk about vegetables and other plants. We’re absorbing this new knowledge and apply it in our vegetable garden and I’m even taking notes. Who would have guessed?

Tomato and pepper seedlings on the sill of my bedroom windowThe best part of growing vegetables in my garden, besides eating healthy food, are the savings for the family budget. You may not believe it, but I’m harvesting enough to save us some good money. I’ve never made a total of how much I’m saving from my garden, but no matter the sum, just the thought of saving some money is enough to make me go on. I’ve been trying to have all the common vegetables in my garden, although I’m not so experienced. Some of the vegetables have to be sown inside, in February, such as tomatoes, eggplants and peppers, while the others are better sown in the garden. I’m using my own vegetable seeds which I collect from my vegetables or from trading with my friends, thus making more savings. I only buy onion sets, which are easier to buy than to grow in my garden. I’m also saving money by  fertilizing the vegetables with vegetable leftovers which Planting a tomato seedling with orange peel as fertilizerI save in plastic bags everytime I’m cooking. I bury them near the plants, for all summer long, keeping a strict order of where I last buried the fertilizer. I prefer to bury it and not keep it longer, to make compost. This way I can keep the mice and rats away from my home and  from my garden. When I’m planting the seedlings, I first make a hole where I bury a few vegetable leftovers, then plant the seedling.Garlic bulbs from my garden

Starting in the spring I first plant the onions, potatoes and garlic sets. I usually get two pounds of onion sets from the market, which cover about 1/3 of my vegetable garden when planted. On a good year, with normal rains, I can get about 20 pounds of onions, if not more. This provides us onions for a few months, not to mention the economical value. I don’t plant many garlic cloves, just from 2 or 3 bulbs, which I already have in my pantry. I choose those which are already sprouting (they usually do that during winter). I haven’t been getting good results with garlic, which hasn’t been growing well, like the onions, no matter the drought. Some bulbs grew faster than others, but they didn’t develop as many cloves as the original bulb. Most of the bulbs remained small, with very small cloves. Last summer I even let them grow till fall, yet they didn’t grow much bigger. Some remained in the soil and popped out this spring, like lots of green garlic stalks from one bulb. It made me very happy to have fresh green garlic for a tasty spring meal I cooked! It seems that I need to learn more about this and to find out how to make garlic grow better. One interesting thing I’ve recently learned about is that onions and garlic don’t do well together, so I’ll need to plant the garlic elsewhere than close to the onions.

Onions in a bag Onion sets and garlic bulbs

Cucumber on the vine on my fence

Potatoes and carrots cropI also plant potatoes around the same date, but not too many – about 8 or 10 hills. Although they grow well, I’m not so happy with what I harvest – just a bucket, with not such big potatoes. Still, it covers a few meals, maybe for a week or two.  Same time with the onions, but not later than April, when I’m ready to sow seeds from all the other vegetables I need. That’s when I sow red radishes, spinach, letuce, cabbage, peas, green beans, dill, parsley, carrots, squash, spaghetti squash, pumpkins and sunflower seeds. I also sow cucumbers, but later, starting May. Red orach is the only one I’m sowing in late fall to sprout the following spring. I’m planning to plant onion sets and garlic cloves coming fall, so I can have green onions and garlic next spring, for Easter.

Digging out potatoes Carrots crop from my garden

The first harvest from my garden is at the end of April. I pick up the red orach, growing here and there, where the seeds fell, or where I sowed them. I usually sow lots of seeds because we like the red orach sour soup. After making three or four sour soups, I freeze the rest for the winter. Next I Red orach in my gardenSpinach pick-up in a bucketharvest radishes, a bunch every day. I don’t sow more than two rows, but I have more than enough for my family’s use, for two weeks. Letuce and spinach are next, at the beginning of May, also two rows of each. If they get enough water, I have at least 2 dozens of big letuce heads and a few pounds of huge, tender spinach leaves.

Fresh pick-up radishes Letuce patch in my garden

Spaghetti squash vine spreading in the vegetable garden Squash in the gardenAfter harvesting the radishes, letuce and spinach, I can clear the ground for the pumpkins, spaghetti squash and squash, to expand. I always sow all these vegetables together because letuce, radish and spinach grow faster and they get harvested just about when the pumpkins and squash vines are starting to grow and expand their vines. I can get lots of squash during summer, also at least a pumpkin and many spaghetti squash in the fall.

Pumpkins and other vegetable pick-up in the fall Spaghetti squash harvest in my pantry

The next crop I pick in May are the peas. I usually sow about 10-12 hills and get about 6 pounds of peas. This means I can cook at least a couple pea casseroles and even put some bags in the freezer for the winter.

 Peas crop Peas plants with flower and pods in my garden

In June I start picking the green beans which are flowering and fruiting all summer long if I water and fertilize them regularly. I gather almost 10 pounds of green beans from the 10 hills I sow. I’m growing two species of green beans from which I’m harvesting lots of pods, almost every day, for cooking in casserole, salads or sour soup. When we’re stuffed with green beans, I will freeze the rest of the crop.

Chinese beans pick-up Fresh pick-up yellow beans

Dill in my gardenI always sow dill through my roses and basil and parsley between the tomatoes. These herbs – thanks to their strong scent – are known to attract predators which feed on the bugs, flies, hornworms and nematods that would attack my vegetables and plants, especially the tomatoes. This way I’m protectig my roses and tomatoes and have herbs for my meals, for free. Another herb I have in my garden for free – lovage, is a perennial, used for giving flavor to our sour soups. I grow it in the flower garden, where is close to the house and easier to get, whenever I need it. Lovage can be easily damaged by freezing, but having it close to the house makes it much easier to protect during winter.

Parsley and tomatoes Lovage in my garden

In July I dig the onions out and plant the cabbage seedlings in their place. With a thorough watering and regular weeding and fertilizing, I get about 50 cabbage heads, enough for eating during summer and for making sauerkraut in October.

Cabbage in my garden Cabbage heads harvested last October

Tomato vines in my garden

Giant tomatoes in my gardenBy the end of July, tomatoes are starting to ripen and provide me all the tomatoes I need for cooking or eating fresh. I’m not buying anymore tomatoes for the rest of the summer. I can’t say how many pounds of tomatoes I get for sure, but considering that we’re eating at least a salad and about a pound with cheese for breakfast or dinner every day – let’s say, 2 pounds a day – in 2 months, until the end of September, it would be about 122 pounds of tomatoes. I’m also giving tomatoes to my friends and family, especially when I harvest more, so imagine how much money I’m saving!

Tomatoes pick-up Full bowl of cherry tomatoes from my garden

Eggplant in my gardenEggplants aren’t many, just a few plants in a row, but I like to see them growing and ripening. Their taste is amazing and I can save a few bucks by making an eggplant salad or a casserole for my family.Hot peppers in my garden

Sweet bells, kapia and hot peppers are more than enough for my family’s use, fresh or cooked. I always cook stuffed bell peppers during summer, with the bell peppers I get from my garden. I always have a good crop of sweet, hot and kapia pepper in the fall, for the sauce and ketchup I cook for the winter, and also for pickling.

Sweet peppers, bell peppers and kapia peppers pick-up last fall Sweet peppers in my garden

Speaking of pickles, I also don’t need to buy green (unripe) tomatoes for pickling because I pick up all I need from my garden. How about that?

Green tomatoes pick-up for pickling Tomatoes, basil, peppers and green tomatoes pick-up

Saving money is good, but growing organic vegetables for my family is what counts more. My heart sings when I see my grandson eating my cherry tomatoes and cucumbers, which he likes to pick himself from the vine! In fact, the best saving of all is my family’s health and this is what I’m gardening for in the first place. Courtesy Daves Garden

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