Crystal Financial Solutions: Gardening to stretch your food budget

Here in Nebraska, we’re still in the midst of winter. While the days are getting longer and some days the temperatures are little warmer, we are often still shivering with cold temperatures. Here’s a thought to warm your spirit and save some money: gardening.

Like late fall brings Christmas catalogues, February and March bring seed catalogues. Seed catalogues mean spring will be coming soon. And, what better way to spend a cold winter evening than dreaming of that lovely garden you will have this summer, not to mention the money you will save by growing your own vegetables.

If you have never planted a garden before, be careful not to start too big or the work may overwhelm you and you will get discouraged. Start small; pick three or four of your family’s favorite vegetables.

Folks who have gardened for many years get a jump start by starting seeds indoors in February and early March. Examples of vegetables to start early from seed are tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower, and broccoli. Others choose to purchase the plants right before they plan to plant.

Either way, you will want to prepare the plants for being outside. Set them out on your porch or patio for a few days before planting to get the plants used to being outside before the stress of being moved into the garden.

Other vegetables, such as peas, beans, beets, and corn, are just fine being planted directly in the ground outside. Peas prefer cooler weather so plant them early before it gets too warm. With any seed or plant, be sure to follow the directions on the package as far as depth of planting and space between the seeds or plants.

Some vegetables provide double blessings. For instance, beet tops can be eaten in a salad just like lettuce while the root part of the plant is growing. Of course, you would not want to cut all the leaves off the top of the beet plant but you can certainly cut off some of them for your salad. If you like green onions, plant your onion sets a little closer together than the directions suggest. Then when the onions get about the size of green onions, start pulling every other onion for eating. Leave the rest to grow through the season for use as regular onions.

Looking for a seasoning plant that gives and gives? Plant chives. Chives are part of the onion family and can be used in many recipes for flavoring. You can also plant them near your fruit trees to protect the trees from damaging insects and some diseases. Chives are perennial—they come back year after year without replanting. And, they reproduce themselves to the point that you may find yourself providing your extended family with chive plants.

Think spring!

Judith Ackland has more than 26 years of experience in accountancy and financial planning, including seventeen years as a CFO of a diverse business. She started Crystal Financial in 2010 to help a wide array of individuals, families, and business owners better understand their finances and how good financial management could help them achieve their goals. Judith has an MA in Professional Accountancy from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln as well as a Certified Public Accountant Certificate and a Certified Financial Planner designation.

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