It’s starting to get a bit chilly these days, so we’ve been harvesting the last of our garden veggies. Last night I picked all the remaining oregano and basil and made it into a pesto-like mixture that’s now in my freezer, ready for whatever Italian dish I feel like making. I got the idea from a friend, and it was very easy (sort of like growing basil and oregano – I literally never did anything to them except pinch off the seed heads on the basil, and water them on an automatic timer sprinkler). I rinsed off the plants, and pulled the leaves off the stems. Then I put all the leaves in the food processor with a little olive oil. Just enough oil so that when I chopped it all together, it made a thick paste. Then I divided it into ice cube trays, and froze it. Now I have a zip top bag full of basil/oregano mix in my freezer. I thought this was a great way to use up herbs before the first frost kills them, and you can’t beat the price!
Gardening seems like a good idea for pretty much anyone looking to save money on groceries. Some people are like my friend Nicole, who has the greenest thumb of anyone I know except maybe my mother. Nicole’s entire backyard is a perfectly manicured garden, with flowers, trees, veggies, herbs, roses, etc. and weeds don’t last more than two days. Her garden looks like a magazine picture. She also spends several hours every week working on it. Luckily that’s not a requirement for having a garden. Nobody said they have to look great, as long as your plants produce food and your neighbors don’t turn you in to the covenant police for having a jungle in your backyard, the whole garden experience should be a winner.
J and I compost all of our kitchen scraps, leaves, and grass clippings. J also goes to coffee shops to get their leftover grounds, and saves manure from a friend’s horse bard, but that’s another story. The end result is that we always have lots of rich, fertile compost to use on our garden. This is the only fertilizer we use, and it works great. Each spring, we dump all the finished compost onto the garden and dig it into the soil. Then we plant the seeds and seedlings, and turn on the automatic sprinkler. If you have a tendency to forget to water plants, a timer on your faucet is a lifesaver (they’re not too expensive, and definitely worth it for all the plants they save). I usually pull weeds once, when the vegetable plants are still small, so that the weeds don’t choke them out. After that, our plants are big enough that the weeds don’t do them any harm, and there are lots of things that we enjoy more than weeding the garden. So from July until October, we just let the garden do its thing. This summer, we’ve harvested about $150 worth of tomatoes, endless swiss chard (seriously, we’ve eaten it about four times a week since June), and of course a few zucchini. We’ve had fresh basil and oregano whenever we wanted, as well as bell peppers and squash. All this, for one day’s work in the spring, digging compost into the soil and planting the garden. We all know we should be eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, but they aren’t the cheapest things at the grocery store. Having a garden makes it much more affordable to eat produce. And you know what you’re eating (during the e-coli spinach incident, J and I happily munched away on our garden spinach).
And size doesn’t matter. Our fence is six feet from our house – seriously. We have three feet of garden wrapping around the east and south walls of our house, and then three feet of grass between the garden and the fence. So no matter how small your yard is (or your balcony if you’re in an apartment – you can plant stuff in 50-cent garage sale pots), or how many house plants you’ve killed, you can still save money on groceries and get your daily veggies by having a garden. And by April, most of us are so tired of being indoors that a day digging in the dirt sounds fantastic.