Thursday, April 7, 2011

What if you can't grow a garden?

There are a lot of people that would love to grow a garden but they may not have room or they just don't know where to start or they are just way too busy.  Now, I am all for gardening.  I love gardening.  I think everyone should garden if they can.  It is so rewarding and enjoyable.

If you don't have at least a little land, gardening is not easy so I wanted to give you some alternatives so that you could get quality produce in season.  If you also wanted to lower your grocery budget it pays to buy extra when the produce is in season and preserve it in some way - whether freezing or canning.

Now, everyone knows about farmers markets.  I do love farmers markets but honestly, they are not always cheap.  Here are some ideas you might consider this year.

  • Craig's List - usually in the "farm & garden" section - I found a person who sold organic tomatoes for $0.40/lb. for canning or freezing.  I bought 40 lbs. 
  • Orchards - Call around to your local orchard once every few weeks and ask if they have any "seconds".   Seconds (usually referring to peaches or apples) just means the fruit is almost past its prime and is ready to be made into jam, jelly or in the case of apples, applesauce.
  • Local Farmers (at farmers markets) - I know I said they were sometimes expensive but if you find a farmer there and talk to them about buying produce in bulk you can save quite a bit.  I have a farmer (two really) that I ask if I can get green beans by the bushel or half bushel.  I am able to save a lot buy buying in bulk and I am able to can the green beans (or freeze them) to have all winter long.
  • Roadside Stands - there is a couple that set up a roadside stand near us and sell mainly sweet corn.  I have talked with them quite a bit and know where they grow their corn (very close to us) and if I buy over 10 dozen ears, I can get them for $2.50 per dozen.  It is easy to blanch and freeze corn.  You don't really need any special equipment to do this and if you have ever had frozen sweet corn in the middle of winter - you know it will be worth all the work!
  • Driving Around - I was on my way somewhere and there was a sign up at an older couple's house that allowed you to pick your own blueberries.  They grow 27 or more blueberry bushes and allow people to pick their own for a fraction of the cost you pay at stores and blueberries freeze very well!
  • Your Local Paper's Classifieds - My sister was reading the classifieds in our local paper and called me because there was an ad for free apples if you would come and pick them.  I called him and made arrangements.  I went during the day and took some friends (for safety) and it turned out it was an older gentleman who was widowed and he had several apple trees that he didn't want to get rid of but he did not use the apples so he allowed us to pick them for free if we would clean up after ourselves.  I ended up baking him a pie and taking it back to him for his generosity.  My friends and I made applesauce and apple pie filling with our apples.
  • Pick Your Own - You can find local places to pick your own produce and you usually end up paying a fraction of the cost because you do all the work.  Last year, my cousin and I picked our own green beans and we paid about $0.49/lb.  We picked enough for us to can and we enjoyed the time of being together (even though it was pretty hot).
  • Just ask - I haven't exactly done this myself, but my friend's husband did it for us last year (and my friend Joyce does it a lot).  He knocked on a neighbor's door and asked if we could pick apples from his tree if he wasn't going to use them.  He said yes!  So we were able to get about 3 bushels of free apples for applesauce and apple butter.
The key to all of this is buy quite a bit and preserve it as I stated above.  If you are nervous about canning - don't be!  It is enjoyable and it is not that difficult, trust me.  But honestly, you could freeze most of the above produce as well, you would just need to have enough freezer space.  And you can always ask the person if they spray their produce or if they use organic practices.  And obviously, if you are uncomfortable with what they do, then don't buy the produce from them - just keep looking!

This is a great guide to preserving your harvest if you are interested.

You don't have to have your own garden to get produce at a good price.

What about you?  What creative ways do you use to get in-season produce at a good price?


  1. Very good ideas my friend and don't forget co-ops. There are a lot of co-ops around here. Basically if you get a certain amount of people together to buy in bulk you can order directly from farmers and grocery stores.
    Also before we moved here we lived at the beach and couldn't plant a thing in the ground without it dying. (Well at least veggies.) So we did a lot of container gardening. Tomatoes and Bell Peppers do well like that. Green beans do too. Just a thought.
    I think I'll go check Craigslist for someone who sells eggs.
    Have a super day.
    Oh and the acupuncture actually didn't hurt. And I HATE needles. LOL!

  2. Great resources listed!

    I grow some of mine in pots because I don't have much room. It's called "container gardening" and takes a lighter soil. But it works. I plant in the dirt down the side of the fence... everywhere I can.

    There's also a magazine called "MaryJanesFarm" that gives a ton of helpful tips for those low on space.

  3. Kim and h. rae,

    I did container gardening too (and still do some) especially my tomato plants. And I love MaryJanesFarm magazine (absolutely LOVE IT!).

    I haven't exactly tried co-ops for produce but I might look into it - thanks.


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