Gardening on a Dime

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Apple blossoms.

Apple blossoms.

The weather outside is frightful, but spring will be upon us before you know it. Start planning now for ways to save in the garden to enjoy home-grown veggies and gorgeous flowers.

In some climates, plants you might consider annuals can actually give you several seasons of food. Cut the first head from a broccoli plant, and then cut the side shoots that appear afterward. Cut them all, even if you don’t use them all. This prevents the plant from going to seed. Keep your broccoli well-watered and add a little compost. The plant can go through very cold weather. Even if some of the top is killed by a severe freeze, it will start to grow again in spring. I’ve kept broccoli going for three or four years in a Zone 8 garden. Swiss chard is a frost-hardy biennial plant that also does well in the heat. It might need protection if the weather gets into the teens or below, but it will regrow from the roots. Harvest by cutting off individual leaves — up to half the leaves at one time.

Green onions are a great way to recycle. That bottom half-inch you would normally cut off and throw away can be replanted, and will grow another onion. They will also hold well in the garden, and come spring, will often either develop a small bulb like a pearl onion or grow a thick stalk that you can use as you would a small leek. You can continue to replant green onions in this fashion each time you harvest, although some will not resprout. In many cases you can get four or more onions from the one you initially purchased or grew yourself from seed. Store the cut bottoms in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to two weeks before planting or plant immediately, which tends to improve regrowth.

When it comes to flowering plants, you might be drawn by the colorful displays at the garden center. They can be pricey, however, and many are root bound from being forced to grow and flower in cramped quarters. Grow your own for a fraction of the cost. Use recycled containers, such as cans with holes in the bottom, milk cartons or even toilet paper rolls stood on end and filled with soil. If you buy your seeds, look for sales on last year’s seeds, which are often sold for half price or less. With the exception of allium varieties most seeds are good for several years, although germination rates might be slightly lower. Many garden plants produce their own seeds, so plant to collect ripe seeds next fall. Marigold, zinnia, calendula, petunia, impatiens and morning glory seeds are all easy to collect. Collect ripe seeds and dry them in a warm place for about a week. Store in paper envelopes in a glass jar to keep them dry and warm until next year. Make sure you label the envelopes!

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