Introduction of Family Gardening
Growing veggies in a garden felt overwhelming to me years ago as I watched my garden fail and others seemed to turn their garden beds into food sources that saved them money. It all seemed too difficult to do, especially as a homeschooling mom who was fostering a baby and in the middle of adopting.
Coming up with a way to garden, especially when I didn’t know how to start, overwhelmed me. Since then, I have learned tips, techniques, and strategies to make gardening easier, especially for a family in starting a new garden, feeding a family, and saving money. In this blog post, I will share a 4 part-simple garden guide to feed your family and save money.
In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:
Importance of gardening for families
Planning your family garden space
Starting a budget-friendly garden
Maintaining your vegetable garden
Preserving fresh food
Importance and Benefits of Gardening for Family and Finances
Gardening has so many benefits for families, especially when it comes to food and finances. Not only does gardening provide access to fresh, nutritious foods and produce, but it also offers the average family the following benefits:
Cost savings: Growing vegetables can save you money on grocery bills in the long run.
Quality control: When you grow food, you have control over the growing process and can ensure that your produce is free from harmful chemicals by using your compost pile.
Environmental impact: By growing food, you are reducing your carbon footprint by minimizing transportation and packaging costs associated with store-bought produce.
Teaching opportunity: Gardening is a great way to teach children about where their food comes from and how to care for plants.
Stress relief: Gardening has been shown to reduce stress and promote relaxation, making it a great activity for the family year-round to garden.
Part 1: Planning Your Family Garden Space
Identifying your family’s favorite vegetables, herbs, and fruits is a great place to start when planning your garden. This will ensure that you are growing produce that your family will enjoy and eat.
Other important factors to consider when planning your garden space include:
Location: Choose a spot in your yard that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day.
Soil quality: Test the soil in your chosen location to ensure it is nutrient-rich and has good drainage.
Space limitations: Take into account the size of your yard and how much space you have available for a garden. If space is limited, consider using containers or vertical gardening techniques.
Water source: Make sure there is a nearby water source for easy access when watering your plants.
How Much Space is Needed?
The first step in starting a gardening journey is determining the size of your initial garden and envisioning how many plants and the size you’d like it to be to sustain your family.
It does not matter how much land you have as much as the experience you have to garden. It’s crucial to note that beginning with a smaller garden can yield significant benefits, providing room for learning and growth through trial and error. By starting small, you commit less time and resources, allowing for a more manageable learning curve.
I know a woman who was eager to provide fresh produce for her large family of 12. She had ample space, fourteen raised beds built by her supportive husband, a convenient irrigation system, and an abundance of sunlight. She assumed gardening would be straightforward. However, she has been struggling with seasonal changes, deciding on what to grow, and pest control. Her discouragement has grown to the point where she’s considering giving up. While I see potential in her sun-soaked garden beds, she sees them as a symbol of her perceived failure, visible to all her visitors.
Had she started with just a couple of raised beds and gradually mastered that smaller space, I believe she would have gained confidence. This confidence could then fuel her to apply her newfound knowledge and skills to additional beds. My advice is to start with a small space and gradually expand. Add a few more beds as you gain experience, try gardening in different seasons, or incorporate a few fruit trees or shrubs into your landscape.
In every gardening season, there will be challenges and adjustments to be made. Having a smaller garden allows the family of four to tackle these issues one at a time without feeling overwhelmed, fostering a sense of achievement. The mysteries of gardening begin to unravel as you navigate through these smaller spaces.
Once you’ve honed your gardening skills, start planning how to expand your garden. The ultimate goal should be to increasingly rely on your garden to have enough food to feed your family regularly. You will have a better understanding of how much you need as you expand your garden with experience.
Part 2: Starting a Budget-friendly Garden
Planning Saves Time and Money
Creating a garden plan in the correct season not only saves time and energy but also significantly reduces costs. Starting your garden too early or too late in the season can result in poor plant growth or even failure, leading to wasted resources and effort. By mapping out a garden plan ahead of time and aligning your planting schedule with the optimal growing season for each plant, you can ensure that your plants thrive and yield a great harvest.
When you plan, you can streamline your gardening tasks and prevent unnecessary work. This saves you time and energy that can be better utilized elsewhere. For instance, grouping plants with similar water, light, and soil needs together can make maintenance easier and more efficient.
Budget-wise, a well-designed garden plan as shared HERE, allows you to maximize your space and grow more food, minimizing the need to spend money on store-bought produce. You can also plan to propagate plants from seeds or cuttings, which is far cheaper than buying mature plants from a nursery.
Moreover, planning enables you to anticipate potential issues such as pests or diseases, and intervene early. This proactive approach can save money in the long run by preventing extensive damage to your garden that might require costly solutions.
In essence, a well-planned garden is an investment that pays off in the form of healthier plants, bountiful harvests, and fewer unnecessary expenses. It’s about putting your resources—time, energy, and money—in the right place at the right time to maximize the family year-round garden.
Eventually, you will learn more about what the family likes, and what is easy to grow to provide enough food per person from the garden. Growing food for a family of four or more in all seasons, including early spring or winter will not feel so hard with experience and confidence as you try a new crop in more space.
Buying Seeds vs. Young Plants: Cost Comparison
When initiating a garden on a budget, one crucial decision is whether to buy and plant from seeds or young plants. Seeds are typically more cost-effective. They offer a wider variety of plant options and the satisfaction of growing your garden from seed to scratch. However, they require more time and care to germinate and grow.
On the other hand, young plants and tomatoes, though more expensive, can provide instant gratification and a head start on the growing season of crops.
DIY Options for Planters and Tools to Save Money
To further save on costs, consider DIY options for planters and tools. Repurpose items like old containers, pallets, or tires as planters.
Instead of buying new gardening tools, see if common household items could serve the purpose. For instance, a spoon can double as a small shovel, or a water bottle can be used as a watering can. Creating garden labels using popsicle sticks or cutout plastic containers can also save money.
Part 3: Maintaining Your Vegetable Garden
Regular Watering and Fertilizing Schedule
One of the keys to maintaining a healthy vegetable garden is keeping a regular watering and fertilizing schedule. Vegetables generally need an inch of water per week, but this can vary depending on the type of plant and the climate.
Overwatering crops can lead to root rot and other diseases, while underwatering can stunt growth. As for fertilizing, it’s best to test your soil to see what nutrients it may be lacking. Generally, a balanced fertilizer applied in the early spring and again mid-season is a good rule of thumb.
Pest Control Methods That Are Safe for Families
Pest control is crucial in maintaining a productive vegetable garden. However, many commercial pesticides can be harmful to both human health and the environment.
Safe alternatives include using homemade sprays made from mild soap and water, introducing beneficial insects like ladybugs or lacewings that prey on harmful pests, or planting companion plants that naturally deter pests. Always remember, the goal isn’t to eliminate all insects but to maintain a balanced ecosystem in your garden.
To learn about organic gardening practices, check out this blog post.
Pruning and Harvesting Tips to Maximize Yield
Pruning, or selectively removing some plant parts, can help improve your garden’s yield by directing energy towards fruit production. For most vegetables, remove dead or diseased leaves and branches to allow for better air circulation and light penetration.
As for harvesting, picking vegetables as soon as they’re ripe often encourages more production. Keep in mind that some vegetables, like zucchini, peas, tomatoes, carrots, or green beans, should be harvested young to ensure the veggies’ best taste and texture as shared in this blog post with common vegetables for planning.
Part 4: Preserving Fresh Food and Using Your Own Food
Simple Methods for Preserving Fruits and Vegetables
There are several simple methods for preserving fruits and common vegetables to extend their shelf life and enjoy your garden harvest year-round.
These include canning, freezing, canning, and drying. Each method has its advantages and is best suited to certain types of produce or different varieties of crops. Canning is great for making jams, jellies, and preserves while freezing works well for most vegetables. Drying, on the other hand, is perfect for herbs and some fruits like apples and pears.
Family-Friendly Recipe Ideas Using Your Garden Harvest
Having a garden provides an excellent opportunity to create delicious, family-friendly fresh eating recipes using fresh produce.
From zucchini bread and homemade tomato sauce to stuffed bell peppers, green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, peas, carrots, hot peppers, and vegetable stir-fry, there are countless ways to incorporate your garden harvest into meals. Not only will these recipes be healthier, but they’re also a great way to teach kids about the importance of eating fresh, homegrown food.
One of my favorite things to do is to go out to my garden each week to harvest and plan my menus around what is in the harvest basket. It makes it a time for more vegetables to be used in creative ways.
How Much Money You Can Save by Growing and Preserving Your Food
Growing and preserving your food can lead to significant savings. The cost of seeds or starter plants is often much less than what you would spend on the same amount of produce at the grocery store.
Plus, by preserving your harvest, you can enjoy fresh eating homegrown fruits and vegetables all year long, avoiding the high prices of out-of-season produce. It’s not just about the money, though. Growing your food also means you know exactly where it came from and how it was grown, adding an extra level of comfort and satisfaction.
In this simple garden guide, we covered the basics of starting a vegetable garden, from planning and budgeting to maintaining and preserving your own food to feed a family. By following these steps, you can create a thriving garden that not only provides fresh produce for your family but also saves you money in the long run.
Beyond the financial advantages, having fresh eating from a vegetable garden also has numerous other benefits. It promotes healthier eating habits, reduces your carbon footprint, and provides a sense of accomplishment and pride. Gardening is also a great way to relieve stress and connect with nature outdoors.
Encouragement to Start a Garden
I hope this guide has inspired you to start your vegetable garden. Remember, gardening doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. With a little planning, creativity, and dedication, you can grow your food and reap the many rewards it brings.
What is a family garden?
A family of four can create a garden that is a shared space where members can come together to grow and maintain plants, fruits, and vegetables. It promotes teamwork, communication, and healthy habits while providing fresh produce for the entire family.
Family gardens can also serve as a way to connect with nature and teach children about the importance of sustainable living. So, it not only has nutrition and helps in saving money but also creates a sense of community and togetherness within the family.
To find out 8 important life skills that come with gardening with your kids, see this article.
What is a good size garden for an average family of 4?
The size of a family garden can vary depending on the needs and preferences of the family and how much garden space is available. Normally, you will need 150-200 square feet of garden space per person for year-round gardening according to Garden Betty to feed a family.
This should provide enough space to grow a variety of vegetables and herbs to feed your family throughout the growing season. But I would start small, get confident in a few plants, and then add little by little with each coming season so that you don’t get overwhelmed and can build your confidence throughout the whole year.
What is a good layout for a vegetable garden?
The layout succession planting of a vegetable garden should be carefully planned to maximize space and efficiency. A common layout is the “square foot gardening” method or intensive planting, where crops are planted in 1-foot by 1-foot grids to make the most of limited space. Another popular layout is the traditional row-style garden, with rows of plants spaced evenly apart.
Some general guidelines for a well-designed vegetable garden layout include placing taller plants on the north side of the garden to prevent them from shading smaller plants, grouping similar plants for easier maintenance and harvesting, and leaving enough space between rows for walking and tending to the plants.
You want to maximize the space by adding how many plants you will need to feed a family during that season. And if you want some great gardening books as resources, check out this list.
Check out this FREE resource to show you what you can plant in a square foot method in all 3 seasons of gardening.