How to Start a Food Garden

Learn how starting a vegetable garden can help you save money on fresh produce

Eating healthy doesn't have to be hard on your wallet. Starting a vegetable garden is a fun and relaxing way to get healthy food for your family on a budget. In fact, a 2013 article by Bottom Line Publications states that starting a vegetable garden can help you save nearly $1,000 a year, depending on what you grow. If you're thinking of planting a food garden, it's good to prepare and plan ahead. You may also want to make plans for the money you'll save by considering your savings options at Citizens Bank. Learn more about how to start a garden with the tips below.

Use these gardening tips to plan before starting a vegetable garden

Before you start planting a food garden, it's important to find the best place in your yard for your fruits and vegetables to thrive. Most crops need at least five hours of sunlight a day, so it's best to orient your garden facing south if possible. If there are trees or structures on your property, consider how they may shade your garden plot and plan accordingly.

Vegetables need soil that is soft, light and full of nutrients so they can grow to their full potential. If your soil is rocky, sandy or full of clay, you will need to prepare the soil before you start a vegetable garden. Your local garden supply store or the American Horticultural Society's Master Gardeners can offer gardening tips for working with the soil in your region. They can also help you choose plants that will be a good fit for your climate and seasonal conditions. If it's your first time growing a food garden, ask for crops that are fairly easy to grow and produce good yields. Some examples include:

  • Salad greens.
  • Cherry tomatoes.
  • Sweet and hot peppers.
  • Herbs.
  • Green beans.
  • Garlic.
  • Winter squash.

Food gardens usually need more room to grow than flower gardens, but even small gardens can yield impressive results if they are planned for and planted properly. Above all, remember to work with your land - use terraced beds to control erosion in sloped areas and consider raised beds in areas with dense or poor soil.

Increase yield by strategically planting your food garden

Different plants have different needs - some like to climb, some spread out along the ground and others grow down into the soil. When you are starting a vegetable garden, take a look at your space and see how much room you have. You may have more space than you think, especially if you plan on growing climbing plants like tomatoes or cucumbers, which grow upright.

In addition to space, the vegetables in your food garden may crave different nutrients. A good gardening tip to extend your yield or growing season is to consider rotating your crops to adjust for an abundance or deficiency of nutrients. For example, legumes and their nitrogen-fixing bacteria enrich soil for future plants that crave nitrogen like broccoli or cauliflower. So for best results, you should plant beans in the spring and broccoli later in the summer. Composting leftover vegetable matter or growing cover crops and working these into your soil each spring can also improve your garden. Know your plants' needs and ideal time of year for growth before you start planting.

Keep reaping the benefits of your harvest long after your garden stops growing

Eating homegrown produce can help you save money through the summer months, and you'll probably see savings as soon as your first crops are ready to harvest. However, the savings don't have to stop there. Many gardeners choose to build greenhouses or cold-frame planting boxes to continue growing heartier vegetables like squash and leafy greens into the early winter months. Plus, you can save and store your harvest by freezing, canning or drying your bounty for use throughout the year. You may even be able to add a little variety by joining a canning club and trading with other growers in your area.

Grow the savings from starting a vegetable garden by opening a savings account online from Citizens Bank

When you plant a food garden, you want your plants to yield a bountiful harvest. It's the same with your finances, which is why Citizens Bank offers a range of savings options so you can watch your money grow. With the funds you save from starting a vegetable garden, you can open a savings account online and contribute money toward next year's garden, an emergency or retirement account - or just start a rainy day fund. Review Citizens Bank savings accounts online or contact one of our customer service representatives to open an account today.


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