Is One Tomato Plant Worth $50?
Bankrate.com had an article recently about the advantages of growing your own vegetables. It was pointed out that not only do people waste less food by being able to go pick fresh vegetables when they need them, but the cost of having a small garden compared to buying fresh produce from the grocery store can save us a lot on food.
When asked if it was true if one tomato plant can really save consumers $50, Thomas Bewick, national program leader for horticulture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service told Bankrate, "If you harvest 30 pounds at $2 per pound, that plant is worth $60. But it only cost $2.90 to buy the plant, a few cents for water and 15 cents for the fertilizer."
Reading that motivated me to turn my small backyard space into a garden. So, about eight weeks ago I began searching for ideas on how I could grow a nice garden in a limited amount of space and with limited sunlight.
Plastic Tub Gardening
I read about Earth Boxes and liked the idea, but the price tag (almost $50 a piece) was a turn off. Then a friend emailed an article on how to make my own container garden out of Tupperware containers for about $12 a piece. Now that I could handle. Worse case scenario, I'd lose the garden and store stuff in them in my attic.
Motivated with the idea of picking my own vegetables from my own garden, I headed off to get my supplies.
- Two 20-gallon Sterlite containers with the lids.
- A long piece of PVC pipe 1 1/2 inch in diameter.
- Two small plastic baskets from a dollar store. Pond baskets are recommended but I was unable to find them.
- Garden Soil to fill the containers.
- A variety of a dozen vegetable bedding plants around four to six inch tall.
Within three hours I had a small vegetable garden which I could place in the area of my yard which got the most sun.
Eight weeks later I had all the tomatoes I could eat and have since enjoyed cucumbers, banana peppers, yellow peppers, eggplant and yellow squash all produced from my small garden.
As a first time gardener, I definitely made mistakes. For example, I bought one string bean plant and it produced about eight beans. I guess you need more than just one plant? I'll do more research about that next go around. Also I do not like pesticides so I did lose some things, mostly peppers, to bugs. But the good definitely outweighs the bad, plus it is fun to watch it all grow.
Along with the vegetables I also picked up a few basil plants which were quite prolific although recently I stripped the plants and made a wonderful batch of pesto which we have enjoyed over our fresh tomatoes and also mixed with pasta and shrimp. Already I see new growth popping up in the basil planter, so I am hoping to get another batch in a few months.
Other herbs I am growing include fennel, bay leaf and green onion as well as mint for iced tea. I also had room for a small tree and decided on a lime tree which, I am happy to say, is producing several limes. It looks like I will be making lime ice-cubes to use after the limes are gone.
Space Is Not An Issue
The do-it-yourself Earth-type boxes are perfect for roof-top gardening, apartment balconies, small courtyards or a yard without a lot of sun. Another benefit is that when the growing season ends, it can all be taken down and stored until next year.
The garden has been a wonderful addition to my summer days and my summer food budget. I can't wait to start my fall garden.
For instructions and how-to pictures on how to build your own container garden, read: How to Make Your Own Container Garden
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See Also: Plant a garden, harvest savings