Recent news suggests that gardening is the top skill to learn for the over 50s. With summer well under way, many will be taking to their gardens to grow their own plants and vegetable crops in a bid to utilise new found skills and save money.
With this in mind, Savoy Stewart has offered some tips on the best foods to grow in your garden throughout the year, on a budget. Petar Ivanov, a gardening and plant expert from Fantastic Gardeners also shares his wisdom.
The best vegetable crops to grow on a budget
1. Leafy greens and herbs
Produce such as Lettuce is relatively simple for you to grow and can provide a harvest all year round. They often do not require expensive fertilisers in order to thrive. Investing in all year round lettuce seeds may help to save you money in the long run.
Spinach, and Kale are also simple options to grow at home preferring nitrogen rich soil and can thrive in cooler weathers too, meaning they can be harvested all year round.
These crops can provide both mini salad leaves and tasty greens for cooking. Alternatively, you can add these to smoothies for extra nutrients. They are particularly valuable in winter, providing fresh leaves in even the colder weathers.
Alongside your leafy green crops, growing herbs at home is both easy and rewarding.
Petar Ivanov comments: “Many herbs can be grown on a budget and they add wonderful flavours to any meal. Some of my favourites include basil, parsley, coriander and mint, which can be grown both from seeds or cuttings. They often don’t require a lot of space and can even be grown in pots on a windowsill.”
Tomatoes are a fairly budget friendly food to grow yourself. There are plenty of affordable varieties such as cherry tomatoes, which grow best in full sun and particularly well in a greenhouse. Naturally, they do need some care and attention to grow well, such as protection from frost, and regular watering, but they will be well worth the effort when you can reap the benefits of your fresh home-grown tomatoes all summer long.
Petar Ivanov says: “Cherry tomatoes are plentiful, easily grown and well-suited for small spaces. Growing them from seeds or small starter plants can be more cost-effective than actually buying mature plants.”
Radishes are perfect if you don’t have much space or simply need to fill a small area on a veg plot, as they can grow very easily in small spaces. Radishes can be planted from seeds and can be ready to enjoy in as little as four weeks.
Petar Ivanov states: “Radishes are an excellent vegetable to grow for budget situations. These root vegetables are quick to grow and are also perfect for beginners. They mature in just a few short weeks, can be sown directly into the soil, and are great for intercropping with slower-growing plants.”
Besides fruits, vegetables and greens, why not also consider growing beans if you’re looking for budget-friendly options? Varieties, such as bush beans and pole beans, are very productive and can be grown easily from seeds.
Peter Ivanov comments: “These plants fix nitrogen in the soil by forming a relationship with the bacteria in it, which can improve its fertility for other plants. They will certainly add more to your garden than they’ll take. Their seeds can be preserved easily through drying or canning them and they won’t take up much space both in the garden and in a storage room. Because they grow vertically, you can fit a lot of them in a smaller area.”
Peter Ivanov also offers tips on budget friendly gardening: “To keep your budget on the lower side, consider starting your plants from seeds, saving seeds from your harvest for the next season, making your own compost, and using organic and environmentally-friendly pest control methods. There are many easy DIY tricks and hacks for gardening things, such as potty mix, building trellis and container gardening online that can help you stay on budget.
“Consider also what you will actually eat, how much of it, and if you’ll have time to properly take care of everything before you make a choice. Many people tend to go overboard and plant as much produce as they can fit into their space, with much of it going to waste.”
The best seasonal foods to grow in your garden
Leafy greens, peas and radishes are all perfect for planting in springtime. Varieties of greens such as lettuce, spinach, rocket and Swiss chard are cool-seasoned and can thrive in the milder temperatures of spring before the heat of summer arrives.
Peter Ivanov says: “Peas enjoy the cooler temperatures of spring and they can be grown on trellises and provide sweet, tender pods. Radishes have a quick growth cycle and can be sown directly into the ground in early spring for an early harvest.”
In the summer, plant tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini and squash. Both hot and sweet peppers also flourish in the heat of summer but it is recommended to start them indoors a few weeks before the last frost and transplant them outside when temperatures are consistently warm.
Cucumbers also thrive in the heat and can be grown vertically on trellises to save space, while courgette and squash are fast-growing plants that produce abundantly in the summer months. For the best flavour and texture, harvest them when they’re still young.
Autumn is the perfect season for planting hardy root vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Carrots, beets, turnips, and radishes all prefer cooler temperatures too as these help to enhance their flavours, and they can be left in the ground longer without worrying about them bolting.
Peter Ivanov comments: “Broccoli and cauliflower crops can be planted in late summer for an autumn harvest because they appreciate cooler temperatures and can withstand light frost. Brussels sprouts take a bit longer to mature, making them a great selection for planting in late spring or early summer for a fall harvest.”
As the seasons change again to the winter months, you should begin to think about planting garlic, kale and lettuce.
Planting garlic during this time will help it produce bulbs the following summer, and the cold period will help it develop the right cloves. Secondly, Kale is incredibly hardy and can withstand frost and even snow, and in fact, its flavour actually improves with cold temperatures. Surprisingly, some lettuce varieties can also tolerate the colder temperatures making them suitable for winter gardening in milder climates.
If you found Gardening seasons: Expert tips for healthy vegetable crops helpful, you’ll find more tips for year-round vegetable crops or our Gardening channel.Last modified: August 18, 2023