Growing vegetables can help you save money on groceries, but with a few simple tricks you can save even more. Some of them will even help you save a little time, too.
Start With Seed
The average cost for a pack of 100 organic seeds is $2.50. That’s 2.5 cents per plant. Even if only half of them make it to full plant-hood, that’s an unbelievably low price, especially when you compare it to the $3 or more many nurseries charge for a single organic seedling.
Share Seeds and Seedlings
Even if you’re planting one-seed-per-veggie plants like carrots or radishes, 100 seeds are probably more than you will ever use in a single season. Rather than buying a full pack of seeds for every vegetable you want to plant, go in with your gardening friends and have each of you pick a different variety to share. That way, if you want to grow three varieties of tomato, a zucchini, a pumpkin, two types of beans, shelling peas a sweet pea and a bell pepper instead of purchasing 10 seed packets at $2.50 each for a total cost of $25, you and 9 friends can each spend only $2.50 each and share the wealth. The same thing goes for seedlings. It’s just as easy to start several seedlings as it is to start one, so if you have space, considering growing a six-pack and trading plants instead of seeds.
Most commercially available seeds are hybrid plants bred for disease resistance and productivity. Unfortunately, hybrids cannot be reliably reproduced from saved seeds. That means you need to buy a new pack of seeds every season. Not so with heirloom vegetables. If you save a seed from an heirloom and plant it, you will very likely wind up with the very same plant. And since one pumpkin alone can contain hundreds of seeds, you’ll have plenty for you and your friends to share at a grand total cost of $0.
NOTE: Many heirloom seeds of the same type cross-pollinate with each other. For example, if you have a miniature blue corn planted next to a giant sweet white corn, your following year’s plants may be a giant blue, a miniature white or even a regularly sized yellow, depending on how they combine. With things like corn, you’ll need to stick to a single variety to ensure a consistent crop. Still, since the seeds are essentially free, it might be a fun adventure to mix things up and see what you get.
Plant a perennial once and it comes back year after year (provided you take good care of it)—usually bigger and stronger. And because many perennials can be dug up and divided into smaller plants after several seasons of growth, you’ll save even more. A few examples of fantastic perennial vegetables are artichokes, asparagus, and rhubarb.
Shop End of Season Sales
As planting season winds down, many garden centers find themselves with lots of seeds left over. And since seeds are marked for a single growing season, they are forced to put them on sale. Lucky for us, most seeds stay viable for years longer than their original date, so shopping for next year is almost a no brainer. Websites also use sales to clear out their slower selling stock. Check out the ongoing Seed Sale at Park Seed, Co. for great prices on excess inventory, many as low as 75 cents a pack. Not only will you get a great bargain, you’ll have your seed shopping done well ahead of next year’s planting time.