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Grow Veggies while Growing Your Savings

Fresh, organic vegetables are good and good for you. But are they good for your budget? Prices for some organic vegetables can be as much as 75 percent more than regular store produce. But thrifty consumers don’t have to resign themselves to paying sky-high prices for good food. They can grow it themselves and save money at the same time.

Growing Savings: By the Numbers
For example, if you were to buy a $1.95 pack of tomato seeds online from Gurney’s Seed and Nursery Co. in Greendale, Ind., and plant them in a 100 square foot garden, you could expect to grow as many as sixteen tomato plants on the plot, according to Anu Rangarajan, the director of the small farms program at Cornell University.

Within six months you could harvest as much as 20 pounds of tomatoes from each plant, depending on the weather, says Ranagarajan.

That harvest would cost you $99.80 if you bought the tomatoes from Whole Foods Manhattan, where they retail for as much as $4.99 a pound.

Hey, if First Lady Michelle Obama can start a garden on the White House lawn, you can start one at home.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Plot in advance:
    Think about how much space you have and what makes sense to grow. The Old Farmer’s Almanac says vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, squash and corn grow best in the warmest part of year and need to be planted from late winter to early spring. Vegetables such as peas and lettuce tend to grow best in fall, so their seeds should be planted April or May.
  2. Follow the sun:
    Your garden is going to need six to ten hours of direct sunlight or your yields will be lower, according to Virginia Tech’s guidelines for planting. If you can’t plant your garden in direct sunlight, vegetables such as beets, carrots and celery can tolerate partial shade.
  3. Seed your investment:
    Try buying seeds online. You can find seeds for less than two dollars a pack by visiting nurseries such as Gurney’s or The Etowah Seed & Nursery Company.
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