Affording Organics Part 7: Plant a Garden Big or Small

Contrary to what you may believe, it doesn’t take a lot of space to grow organic vegetables in your own backyard. When one pictures a garden, rows and rows of green, lush plants may come to mind. If you have the time, money and energy, then yes. For the majority of us, a few plants in the ground or in pots will suffice quite nicely.

Last year, we decided we no longer needed this raised bed to be full of flowers. Colorful arrays of blooms are very beautiful…until the weeds take over. It just didn’t seem practical anymore. After a bit of contemplation, we knew it was time to plant a vegetable garden again. Due to busy schedules, it had been years since we grew anything edible. So, we retrieved our work gloves and tackled the area.

I’m not going to lie, first-time prepping of a garden area does take some time and effort. We transplanted flowers, pulled massive amounts of English Ivy and removed a tree stump that was hiding in the center. Next, we loosened up the earth and enriched the soil with cow manure. At this point, we stepped back and couldn’t believe we had the beginnings of a real, life vegetable garden. Hard work pays off.

Choosing your plants carefully is a very important step in planning. Do you have lots of sun all day? Tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers all do well with all day sunlight. Is most of your yard shaded by trees? You’ll definitely need some shade loving plants such as salad greens, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, beets, brussel sprouts, radishes, Swiss chard, leafy greens or beans. Do some research to find out which types of vegetables will thrive in your particular area.

Also, pay attention to the quality of the seeds or starter plants you are buying. Last year, we had a problem with a tomato blight. After consulting some friends and doing some research, we found that the disease originated in the seed, which meant we were silently doomed from the start. After fretting over the time and money spent raising the plants, we fortunately ended up with a bumper crop. This year, we are going to try to purchase organic plants grown from organic seed. We might even consider starting a few plants inside ahead of time.

For those of you who live in town homes or apartments, you should consider a container garden. We grew herbs, leaf lettuce and green onions in containers on our back patio. Other vegetables, such as peppers, tomatoes, spinach and beets all do well in pots. You will be surprised at how much produce you can get from one container or plant.

If this will be your first garden, try not to overwhelm yourself. Choose two or three types of vegetables and just grow them. In our little garden, we had five pepper plants (2 green pepper, 2 jalapeno and 1 banana pepper), butter crisp lettuce and five tomato plants (several different varieties.) In containers, we had chives, basil, leaf lettuce and green onions. It may not sound like much, but there was enough weeding, watering and work to keep us happily busy each day. An abundance of produce was grown for us to eat all summer, give away to friends and pressure can for the winter.

Gardens provide a variety of benefits:

  • You know where you food is coming from
  • It tastes better than anything you can find at the grocery store
  • You are aware of the conditions in which it’s being grown
  • Children learn valuable lessons about plant growth
  • Priceless family time working together
  • Saves money on the weekly grocery budget by not having to buy certain produce
  • Feelings of accomplishment

Whichever garden type suits you best, get planning today!

It’s good for the body and soul.

The entire Affording Organics series:

Part 1: Using Coupons

Part 2: Store Brands

Part 3: Make the Best Decisions

Part 4: Join or Start a Co-op

Part 5: Buy Local

Part 6: Lower Other Costs

Part 7: Plant a Garden Big or Small

14 Responses to Affording Organics Part 7: Plant a Garden Big or Small
  1. Kathy Sipple
    July 13, 2012 | 2:43 PM

    Toni, this is a great article. Are you or any of your readers interested in showcasing their Indiana gardens in the August 18th statewide Garden Party event, organized by Sustainable Indiana 2016? I’m holding one in Valparaiso and there is at least one in LaPorte and Lake Counties, but so far none in Starke County.

    I just did an interview with John Gibson, Executive Director of Sustainable Indiana 2016 today. Here’s the link if you’re interested: Registration link to host a party is

    I’d love to do an interview with you some time too. Let me know.


    P.S. Hope to see you at Green Drinks on Monday. The focus in on local food!

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