Guest blog by Tina Martino Starting a kitchen vegetable garden is not easy, but it is not rocket science either. But before you rush to the nearest Home Depot and purchase a ton of seedlings, fertilizer, and dirt, here is a cheaper way of embracing home gardening without breaking the bank. 1. Step One: Analyze your Backyard's Sun Availability Before anything, do an extensive analysis and survey of the total number of sunlight hours your yard gets every day. Contrary to the common misconception, you don't actually need exactly 8 hours to have blooming and healthy vegetables for your kitchen's delight. In anything, there are a couple of vegetables that do best when grown in part shade or less than 4 hours of direct, consistent sunlight. A good pick of these includes broccoli, beets, radishes, swiss chard, beans, cauliflower, leafy greens ( spinach, mustard greens, kales, leaf lettuce, endive, arugula, cress, etc . ) and peas. You can save a significant sum of money by purchasing your seedlings from independent farmers or small-scale nurseries. You can even start the seeds yourself. Big franchise stores such as Lowes and Home Depot typically have the most expensive plants; you may want to look for other cheaper alternatives if you're on a slim budget. 2. Step Two: Make the Best out of Your Space It is no secret that most of us can only give up a few square yards of our compound's space to start a small vegetable garden. So you might as well want to make the best out of this. A good option is to take up container gardening in place of regular and conventional row planting. On this note, you can save a decent wad of cash by shopping for these containers at discounted garage sales or thrift stores. On the other end of the spectrum, if you're not partial to container gardening, you can consider vertical gardening to optimize the little space you have. So instead of planting your vegetables in the ground, which requires a lot of arable space, you go up. In other words, you make use of creative, frugal and unconventional ways of creating extra space around your yard. You can attach gutters, for instance, around your house and plant dozens of seedlings of shallow-rooted crops such as herbs and lettuce. Similarly, your backyard's fence can also come in handy in growing climbing veggies like cucumbers and peas. Outdoor shelving is also an excellent idea of creating extra space in a small-sized kitchen garden. 3. Step Three: Have a Watering Plan The first few months of your vegetable garden are going to be water intensive. So it is important to have a comprehensive plan on how you are going to water your garden even before you plant the first few seedlings. Speaking of which, this is the best time to think about investing in a good rain barrel especially now that summer is around the corner. 4. Step Four: Planting your Garden So you have now analyzed the total sunshine hours, selected a suitable site and done the ground for your new vegetable garden. The next logical step is to start planting. For starters, ensure that you water your seedlings thoroughly before you physically plant them into the ground from the nursery. This reduces transplanting shock and increases the chances of surviving the first three days in the new garden. Remember to incorporate a decent helping of well-prepared compost manure a few days before transplanting the seedlings from the nursery bed to the main garden. Compost is cheaper ( almost free ) than commercial inorganic fertilizers. The new vegetable bed will need water regularly - at least thrice a week. But, of course, the frequency depends on the average amount of rain your home area receives per month and the vegetable species you have planted. In line with this, do a comprehensive research how much water your preferred crops need per week. That said, the best time to water your seedlings should be either at the crack of dawn or later just before dusk. Watering at the height of midday can burn your prized vegetables. The Bottom line If it possible, try to start your own seedlings from scratch instead of spending a ton of money sourcing them from Home Depot, Lowes, and the likes. Otherwise, your local farmer's market is also another cheaper alternative when looking for veggie plants. Also, save your money by making your own plastic labels from old milk cartons instead of purchasing overpriced garden labels.
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