I have some sort of edible garden every year and it is always on a budget.
Vegetables that you have grown yourself taste delicious, are healthy and can help you save on your grocery bills.
In our house, it is a tradition to have a BLT, with the first tomato of each season.
However, growing an edible garden can be an expensive business.
Here is some helpful advice if you want an edible garden on a budget.
What to grow in your edible garden
Before you can pick which edible delights to grow, you need to carefully consider the resources you have available.
In fact, there are two particularly important factors to bear in mind here.
The first is how much space you have.
Of course, you would naturally think that when it comes to growing crops, the more space you have, the better.
However, this is not always the case. In fact, for beginners, working with a small budget, it is a much better idea to create a manageable vegetable garden.
Try to strategically maximize the space you have, such as creating a spiral garden or planting vegetables in containers.
Almost any type of container will suffice. Just make sure it has holes for good drainage.
Next, consider the temperature and amount of sunlight your garden gets throughout the year.
This is because a south-facing garden with more light will be able to successfully produce a broader range of crops.
Whereas the plants in shadier spots will need to be considered a little more carefully.
Similarly, if your garden tends to frost over in the winter, it will affect the types of crops you can expect.
Start small and see how you like it.
Eventually, you may want to invest in equipment such as greenhouses, sprinklers, and propagation trays which can be expanded.
Although, if you plan to recreate an edible garden year on year, they will be a good value for money in the long run.
In particular, look out for seeds that can be easily germinated outside such as peas, spinach, and peppers.
Maintenace and equipment
With your budget in mind, buying seeds may seem like a more affordable choice, however, soil or seed starting trays can become expensive.
Starting from seed requires a little more work and will take longer to reap a reward.
Seedlings cost a little more than seeds but they give you a jump start on your edible garden.
Just make sure you are planting at the appropriate time.
Check your hardiness zone and choose vegetables that can thrive in your climate.
When growing an edible garden, you will need to make sure that you complete regular maintenance.
Keeping track of rainfall and proper watering is essential to a prosperous garden.
The best way to tell if your edible garden needs water is to just feel the soil.
If the soil is dry and crumbly, it probably needs some water. If the soil is damp, the plant is just fine.
This technique works for container and yard gardens.
Unfortunately, many pieces of gardening equipment like lawnmowers, weed whackers and even sheers have a tendency to break down from time to time.
Fortunately, it isn’t necessary to buy a new item every time this happens.
This is because you can purchase the supplies you need to fix popular outdoor equipment and make each piece as good as new.
Something that will save you a great deal of money, and is way better for the environment.
My husband still uses his zero-turn mower, weed-eater, edger, and back-pack blower he used while owning his own landscaping company.
That equipment is over 15 years old, thanks to him taking proper care of them.
Fertilize or not to fertilize?
Fertilizer can be one of the most expensive resources you buy for your edible garden.
That is why it’s best to avoid it unless absolutely necessary.
Luckily, plants are clever things.
They will show you if they are not receiving the nutrition they need, usually, by unsatisfactory growth progress and yellowing leaves.
With that in mind, as long as your plants have sunlight, water, and the right kind of soil, skip the fertilizer until it becomes necessary.
In fact, by doing this too will not only save money, but your crops will be healthier to eat as well as they will not be coated with chemicals.
Pest Control for your edibles
Since you are growing food or herbs for your family to eat, pest control needs to be handled very carefully.
I never apply poisons or any chemical harmful to humans directly on my edibles.
For larger pests, such as deer, you can try different “home remedies,” such as sprinkling cayenne pepper along the perimeter of your garden.
For slugs and insects, I sometimes use a basic insecticidal soap mixed in a pump sprayer, like this.
My herbs attract whiteflies and aphids, which seem to be my biggest pest.
Alternatively, I use Bonide Thuricide which is an organic pesticide for controlling caterpillars, larva, and other pests.
I can spray it directly on my herbs and just wash it off before prepping them for the kitchen.
Either of these methods requires a reapplication if it rains.
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After watching your beautiful edible garden grow, it is time to take your harvest to the kitchen.
Make sure to buy some perfect Perdue chicken to accompany your garden herbs and vegetables.
Baked Chicken Zucchini Rigatoni
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for the pasta
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion sliced
- 1 pound medium zucchini peeled and sliced into 1/8" slices
- 28 oz. whole fresh tomatoes, stem removed crushed in a bowl, using your hands
- 1 loosely packed cup fresh basil leaves roughly chopped
- 1 package of Perdue short cut chicken
- 1 lb. rigatoni
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- 8 ozs. shredded Fontina cheese
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese the good stuff
- Preheat oven to 400º. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet, 12" non-stick if you have it, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
- Add the onion and cook just until it begins to soften (about 5 minutes).
- Add the slices of zucchini, spreading them out in the pan. Cook just until it begins to soften, another 5 minutes.
- While the onion and zucchini are cooking, use kitchen shears to crush the whole tomatoes inside the can.
- Make sure to take scissors all the way to the bottom of the can.
- Add salt to the zucchini in the skillet, add the crushed tomatoes. Bring the sauce to a boil.
- Toss in chicken that has already been cooked. I chopped the chicken into bite-size portions.
- Simmer just until it thickens, about 8-10 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, add 1/4 cup water, bring back to simmer. I did not add any additional water to my sauce.
- Don't let the zucchini begin to fall apart. Turn off heat. Toss in chopped basil.
- As for the pasta, only cook the rigatoni until al dente, a few minutes LESS than the package directions.
- Drain the pasta. Mix drained pasta with your sauce. I used the same pot I cooked the pasta in.
- Butter a 9 x 13, large baking dish. In a medium bowl, toss and mix up the two kinds of cheese.
- Spread half the pasta and sauce mixture into the baking dish.
- Top with half the cheese mixture.
- Layer remaining pasta and sauce, then remaining cheese.
- Bake, uncovered, until browned and bubbly, about 20-25 minutes.
- Remove from the oven. Allow to stand and rest for 5-6 minutes before serving. Serve with bread or a simple salad.