One of the best ways to save bit growing vegetable is to grow your own plants from seeds. Buying vegetable plants may seem like a great shortcut but trying to purchase enough plants for an abundant producing garden is expensive. It’s far more economical to grow your plants indoors and transplant then in your garden once the weather is warm enough.
Compare Costs Factors
Even a small garden can run into a lot of money when you buy plants instead of growing them from seed. A packet of organic, heirloom, non-GMO seeds can run as little as $2 to $4.50 depending on the vegetable, organic or non-organic, hybrid or heirloom, and the number of seeds included. One plant can cost this much or more, depending on the vegetable, organic vs non-organic, etc.
Cost of Fresh Vegetables in Grocery Stores
It’s easy to see the cost-savings of growing your own vegetables when you check the grocery store prices of fresh vegetables. How much do you pay for a fresh organic cucumber? $1.18? $.62? Consider one organic cucumber plant in your garden and how many cucumbers you’ll reap.
You Save Big Growing Vegetables from Seeds
How many seeds do you need? When shopping for seeds, some packets may only have 10 or 20 seeds. These are plants that produce bumper crops. Some plants like squash plants are very large and prolific producers. At first, you may think $2.50 is too expensive for 20 seeds, but when you consider how many pounds of vegetables one plant will produce, you’ll quickly realize the price is nominal.
If you have a large family garden, chances are you want to buy in bulk. These seeds are sold by the ounce or in larger amounts by the pound. You may want to team up with neighbors and family to purchase seeds at a bulk rate for even greater cost-savings.
Succession Plantings Require More Seeds
A succession planting will require more seeds than other vegetables. These are usually planted two weeks apart to ensure you have a continuous harvest.
Vegetable Plants that Produce Only Once
Some popular vegetables that are one-time producers and must be replanted include, head lettuce, cabbage, Brussels sprout, Bok choy, radish, beet, corn, carrot, leek and onion. These vegetables will need to have succession plantings. A few of these can be planted as often as once a week, if you have the garden space. Seeds for most of these are smaller and the packets have a higher quantity of seeds, such as 100 or 200 seeds per packet.
Early and Late Gardens
Some people who live in regions with long growing seasons have an early and late garden. It depends on how much space you have for your garden. Some people have land prepared for the second garden while others replant on the same plot of land but making sure they add enough organic material to replenish the nutrients. You want to start your second garden as soon as you’ve finished harvesting the first. If you practice square foot gardening, you can easily plan successive planting of squares.
Square Foot Gardening
Square foot gardening is a great way to utilize your garden space to the maximum. You can create a grid of 12” x 12” squares for your plantings. Square-foot gardening produces higher yields since there is less run off and the nutrients are contained in the raised bed.
Succession Plantings in Square Foot Gardening.
Plant one square of radishes and two weeks later plant the square beside it. As you begin to harvest the first square, plant a third square. When the first square is fully harvested, you can sow more seeds. You can use more than two squares if you need a bigger crop.
Other ways to plant succession square foot gardens is to rotate the next crop you sow in the square. Be sure you use companion planting principles to prevent stunting or thwarting the vegetables. It’s safe to continue with the same vegetable for the next planting.
Some vegetable plants are ideal for vertical gardens. If you have a patio garden, raised beds or simply want to increase your growing ability, going vertical is a great space-saver. Check the seed packet to determine if the plant variety is a bush or vine.
What Vegetables to Grow in a Vertical Garden
There are many plants that are available as a vining plant. You can use a teepee form made from bamboo, create your own or purchase a tripod. Some of your choices include peas, beans, cucumbers and even tomatoes.
Many beans are available either as a bush plant or a vine plant. Bush bean plants often produce more. However, if you go with a red or green Chinese bean, these are available as vining plants that grow 20’ or longer. The pods average 16” to 21” long. They make great stir fried beans or you can cook them like you would green beans.
You can either use a trellis or make one by lashing bamboo poles together in a teepee or to support trellis netting. A cucumber plant when well fed will produce more than most people can eat fresh. That’s when canning them into pickles is advantageous. It’s a very easy process and great way to use every cucumber. Some plants are more prolific than others depending on your soil, hours of sunlight and water.
- On an average one cucumber plant will produce 2 to 3 pounds.
- A rule of thumb is to plant 2 to 3 plants for one person.
- For a family of 4, you’ll need at least 12 cucumber plants.
Versatility of Tomatoes
Tomatoes are another prolific producer. There are so many varieties, you’re sure to find the ones your family will love. There are two types of tomatoes you can grow. One is determinate and the other is indeterminate.
A determinate tomato plant will only grow so tall. The average tomato plant you purchase at a nursery or Big Box store is determine.
- Determinate tomatoes grow about 3’ to 4’ tall.
- These tomatoes are compact plants.
- The tomato stops producing once tomatoes set at the top of the plant.
- All tomatoes typically ripen at the same time.
If you want tomatoes that will produce until the first frost, then select indeterminate. Unlike determinate tomatoes, these produce vining plants typically grow to 6’ tall, but some reach 10’. These plants are ideal vertical gardening choices with a trellis or tied off to bamboo poles.
Hybrid Versus Heirloom
Hybrid seeds are created by cross pollinating two varieties. These are engineered to produce more vegetables and often created to be resistant to certain diseases. A major drawback to choosing hybrid seeds if you wish to harvest seeds for next year’s crop since you can never know what you’ll end up growing.
Heirloom seeds are harvested from favorite old-time vegetable. These are open-pollinated and have been passed down from one generation to another. There are seed collectors who have preserved these valuable seeds to prevent them from becoming extinct. You can harvest seeds from these varieties for next year’s garden.
The Joy of Heirloom Seeds
Saving seeds from your harvest means next year you won’t need to purchase any seeds. You want to save seeds from the best vegetables. Except for those wishing to save dried beans, you want to harvest seeds when the vegetable is at its prime and best condition.
Most gardeners prefer to leave the bean pods on the vine and harvest only when the pod is yellow/brown and dried out. This requires close attention, so you don’t end up with soggy beans due to an overly wet summer. The ideal is when the pods dry out so when you touch them, they rustle like paper or leaves.
Picking, Shelling and Winnowing Dried Bean
You can cut the beans from the vine using a pair of scissors. Most gardeners allow the beans to continue drying for 3 to 6 days by spreading them out on a table or flat surface that is well ventilated.
Use a Pillowcase to Shell the Beans
The most common method of shelling beans is to place them in a pillow case. You will then thrash the pillow case on the ground or a flat sturdy a to open up the pods. Pour the bean into a bowl and remove the shells (pods).
Once you’ve removed the bulky part of the shells, you need to finishing cleaning the bean. The method for doing this is called winnowing and is best done outdoors. You can use a handheld fan, or a hairdryer set on cool. You will use the hairdryer to blow air over the beans to remove the rest of the bit of shell.
You can pick the pods and spread out to dry in a well-ventilated area. It will take about two weeks for the pods to dry out. The pods will become thinned out and brittle. You can easy free the beans from the pod. It’s best to allow the beans to continue drying out or you can place in a food dehydrator for 8 hours with the temperature setting of 145°.
Storing Dried Beans
You can store dry beans in canning jars for easy use. Some people like to vacuum seal beans, but it isn’t necessary since beans last a long time. If you cook the first year of storage, they will cook quicker than beans you’ve had for three years. That’s because the moisture continues to be depleted. As with any dried bean you do need to soak them overnight before cooking.
Planting Dried Beans
You don’t need to soak beans prior to planting like you do okra seeds. Soaking dried beans runs the risk of the bean splitting open and no longer being viable as a seed. Plant beans about an inch deep and be sure to water regularly. Beans sprout very quickly.
Always Save Big Growing Vegetables from Seeds
These are just a few pointers about how you can save big growing your vegetables from seeds instead of purchasing vegetable plants every year. Read labels or website descriptions on the seed variety so you have a clear understanding what to expect.