The frugal gardener

Vine plants like zucchinis are a good starting point for a new gardener.

To be able to step outside to your garden and pick the evening meal's salad is a wonderful fantasy -- and a frugal one, too. But not every budget-conscious person can make a garden grow and save money. Meg Favreau of WiseBread.com says that if you can't keep your own room clean, most likely, you won't be able to take care of a garden. Just go grocery shopping.

But for those of who can maintain a clean living space, Meg suggests starting with a small garden, preferably one you can just keep in pots. Herbs such as chives and basil are particularly hardy and easy to grow. And if you want to make the leap to vegetables, vine plants like zucchinis and cucumbers are great options. After all, there's always that one person at work who is desperately trying to unload their zukes and cukes all summer. Meg shares a recipe for garden-fresh chilled cucumber soup to help you use up that produce.

For more, click on the play button on the audio player above.

About the author

Tess Vigeland is the host of Marketplace Money, where she takes a deep dive into why we do what we do with our money.
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I'm not surprised this piece provoked disappointed responses, but I AM surprised that all of these - extremely helpful, lots of good advice! - commenters have been so comparatively mild mannered about it. My own somewhat crankier reaction is to the basic analogy of gardening to housekeeping. Short version: Oh good grief; that's one of the silliest things I've ever heard. Longer version is at http://leslieland.com/2012/05/on-starting-a-garden

I was rather offended by the guest speaker's discouraging messy people from gardening. I'm a TERRIBLE housekeeper, and don't care as much about appearances than many in society believe I should. But I have a very green thumb and produce a great deal of edibles from gardens and containers, indoors and out. I know many other messy people who are awesome gardeners as well. (And I know a great number of fastidiuous people who loath the thought of working with dirt!) Tess, your interview with Meg mentioned nothing to encouraging newbie gardeners to learn about inexpensive and sustainable organic methods, which can produce beautiful and highly nutritious produce without much investment. Too bad! A frugal person can create highly productive soil (in pots, buckets, "lasagne" garden beds, etc.) using organic matter collected from kitchens (non-meat food scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, etc.) and the outdoors (fallen tree leaves and grass clippings, etc.), or even seaweed, strawbales, and more! There is so many clever urban gardeners out there, and the truth is ANYONE can do it!

I agree with Satriani92's comment about the spirit of the story perhaps sounding a bit discouraging. I have a north-facing balcony that gets no direct sunlight for 6 months of the year.

And yet, for about 9 months of the year, I am able to grow plenty of leafy green veggies and herbs like mustards, parsley, chard, kale, arugula, basil, sage, green onions, mizuna, misome, amaranth, sugar snap peas, cresses and even fruit bearing plants like eggplant (during the summer).

For the really challenged, you can grow edible weeds: yes, the name says it all. These are plants like winter purslane (miner's lettuce), mustard greens, summer purslane (has omega-3's), mache', mint, etc.

In the wintertime I use a small hydroponic setup (made from a couple of 3 dollar buckets and aquarium pumps) to increase yields when the sun isn't very strong. If people don't have space they can do things like grow microgreens and pea shoots in the windowsill.

I even have a small compost outfit, again on the balcony, which uses the heat from the summer sun.

I do admit that container gardening has become a passion of mine. When you are able to walk outside and pick your dinner, it's very rewarding.

I know that it was not your intent, but the piece came off as discouraging people from gardening when it should be doing the opposite. Many small gardens don't take much space at all and can produce a great deal. Granted I am not a newbie at this but last year I moved to a new home and didn't have time to get a modest garden in until July. I planted 3 pepper plants, 3 tomato plants and 3 basil plants. I got several pounds of basil, which is $19.99 a pound (organic), 141 tomatoes, which I made into sauce a froze for the winter. It lasted me until March, at $3.99 for 16 ounces, and I got 14 red peppers which are $6.99 a pound organic. I saved approximately $142.00 and the cost of the plants was a grand total of $14.00 at my local farmers market. Really don't see where you can lose money on this? My garden this year will be full sized, 27 feet X 20 feet. I will be growing Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries, Basil, Oregano, Parsley, Asparagus, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Eggplant, Red Peppers, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Green Beans, Edamame and lettuce. The grand total of my investment for this will be about $135.00, given what I saved last year and what I am investing this year it is hard to see where I will be losing money and stand to save quite a bit.

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