Use your tiny garden to grow big savings

Michele Brosius
Midlife Healthy Living

Spring comes in like a lion, with its blossoming trees and chirping birds welcoming the warmer temperatures and bright sunny days. It is the perfect time to join in nature’s celebration, rebirth and renewal; from spring cleaning and organizing to stocking the pantry. April is National Gardening Month and a great time to connect with nature while saving money at the grocery store.


Combat rising food costs

Any opportunity to cut costs by growing your own food is a welcome one. The square-foot gardening plans and victory gardens popular in generations past have been replaced with social media posts touting the benefits of container gardening and installing backyard raised beds. Growing food is accessible to all, whether you have land or a big backyard or are making it work from a condo balcony overlooking the city.

Incorporating home-grown produce into your meal plans is a great way to offset the cost of rising grocery prices. In the last year, the cost of fresh produce at the grocery store has risen exponentially. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, food costs increased 2.7% overall between December 2022 and December 2023. Through 2024, that percentage is expected to increase — albeit at a slower rate than previous years — to 1.2%, according to the latest forecast from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).


Home garden ideas for all situations

No matter your living situation, there’s a garden for that, even if you have limited space or aren’t interested in going all out to grow your food. There are a variety of choices available depending on your space, interest level and needs. A home garden is a great way to ensure you’re getting all of your fruits and vegetables in; imagine having fresh salad ingredients ready to go in an instant.


Container gardening

Five-gallon food-safe buckets provide enough space to accommodate many types of plant roots like tomatoes, peppers, several varieties of squash, cucumbers, lettuces, cruciferous vegetables, onions and a variety of berries.

Containers don’t take up much space and are easily buildable with tiered frames that allow for anywhere between 10 and 12 individual buckets/plants. If you don’t like the look of five-gallon containers or your homeowner’s association has something to say about it, there are plenty of aesthetically pleasing growing containers available online or in your local gardening store.


Tower gardens

Another way to grow food is vertical gardening. Christopher Lowell, a ‘90s television home decor expert, was known for his catchphrase, “If you can’t grow out, grow up,” implying that if you have little surface area to expand for storage and living space, building up along walls and lofts is a great solution. The same holds true for gardening. This innovative approach helps maximize space by growing plants on trellises or walls and fences. It’s a creative solution for smaller spaces or people with mobility issues. Ideal plants for vertical gardens include strawberries, herbs, kale and spinach.


Indoor gardens

For those with limited space outdoors; whether that’s tiny living or you’re just short on time or resources, you can easily grow herbs and smaller vegetables on the windowsill or countertop. From dill, basil and oregano, to mushrooms and jalapeno peppers, you may have enough space and produce to have a mini pizza or stir fry at your fingertips.

Consider which foods work best together to maximize your garden. For example, if you love making soups, carrots, celery and onion - the makings of a mirepoix - are paramount to any good base. If you find yourself cooking a lot of burgers, consider growing lettuce and tomatoes and of course cucumber, garlic and dill for homemade quick pickles.


Know what you can grow

Before jumping into tiny gardening, it’s important to know what you’re able to grow in your climate. So, the first step is to familiarize yourself with growing zones. By following the Plant Hardiness Zone map on the USDA website, you can tailor your garden to your city’s weather. Use your zone information to determine what can be grown in your area. The Farmer’s Almanac planting calendar provides the best planting times based on the final frost dates for the year and weather expectations year-round.


Grow what you’ll use

Be realistic about what your family will eat and only grow those items. One easy way to do this is to list out what meals are in your family’s main rotation. Incorporate the fruits and vegetables in those dishes into your garden. Of course, if you have a family of picky eaters, you may want to grow that kale and cabbage anyway. The more children are exposed to a particular food - or assist in growing it — the more willing they may be to try it.


Sunshine and happiness

It’s no secret that Vitamin D is a significant player when it comes to our health and well-being. Getting outdoors and tending to a garden is a great way to get fresh air and exercise. It’s a double dose of health; nutrient-dense produce and being outdoors. Each of these factors can have a significant positive effect on your mental well-being and the satisfaction that comes with knowing you are becoming more self-sufficient, connecting with Mother Earth and reducing your carbon footprint.

If you’ve wanted to start growing your food or expand what you’re currently growing, National Gardening Month is a great time to start. Look for local sales on seeds and gardening supplies. Seek out opportunities to get together with growers in your community. Small-scale gardening brings people from all walks of life together toward a common goal. It’s also a great way to share your knowledge with the community while connecting and giving back where you can.


Michele Brosius is the creator of Midlife Healthy Living where she expertly combines her love for cooking with budget-conscious nutrition strategies. Through her blog, she encourages women to embrace a healthier lifestyle with simple recipes and wellness tips.