Local crops that save you money

Is growing your own food cheaper than buying vegetables from the supermarket?

ADOBE STOCK / Tips

Is growing your own food cheaper than buying vegetables from the supermarket?

Local crops that increase the budget

Readers of Get Growing were quick to respond when we asked if it was possible to save money by growing your own food.

A few readers pointed out that although seeds and seedlings are cheap, once the cost of potting soil, containers, raised beds, watering systems, fertilizers and pesticides (not to mention soil and time) was taken into account, the final harvest was much more expensive than supermarket purchases.

But the overwhelming majority agrees that home-grown foods save money in the long run.

  • The first year is expensive, establishing the beds and buying the seeds. Then, it is autonomous and over 10 years, the savings are significant. Nik Rakels, Timaru

It’s best to start with a few easy-to-grow crops if you’re new to food growing. Here are the top recommendations for veggies at the best value.

Reliable, easy-to-grow, and versatile vegetables like perennial spinach are top performers when it comes to saving money.

BARBARA SMITH / GARDENER NZ / Stuff

Reliable, easy-to-grow, and versatile vegetables like perennial spinach are top performers when it comes to saving money.

Perpetual spinach and silver beet

Leading the way, these cheap and cheerful greens are earning their place in the garden, especially in winter. They are versatile in the kitchen and harvest over a long period if you keep picking the outer leaves.

  • The best vegetable to grow yourself is perennial spinach. It keeps growing for ages and can be used raw in salads, but also in soups, stir-fries, donuts, quiches, stews, so you always have a green vegetable. Kerry Shovel
  • Silver Beet ‘Bright Lights’. I just twist off the stems and leaves I need, and it keeps growing more. I end up with a big fat stem and a few leaves on top! I grow them all year round. Renate Slykerman
  • My best value crops would be silver beet and New Zealand spinach (kōkihi, Tetragonia tetragonoides); they are still doing well, despite the frosts. Sue Freeman

Read more:

  • How to grow spinach
  • How to Grow Silver Beets
Spring onions, left to right, 'White Welsh', 'Ippon Negi', 'Crimson', 'Red Bunching', 'Tokyo Long White', 'Long White', 'Crimson Rain', 'Galloper' and 'White Spring Bunching.

SALLY TAGG/NZ GARDENER/Stuff

Spring onions, left to right, ‘White Welsh’, ‘Ippon Negi’, ‘Crimson’, ‘Red Bunching’, ‘Tokyo Long White’, ‘Long White’, ‘Crimson Rain’, ‘Galloper’ and ‘White Spring Bunching.

spring onions

Adding zest to so many recipes, spring onions take up very little space in the garden and are easy to grow from seed.

  • When I need spring onions for a meal, I cut them about 2 inches above the ground, rather than plucking them from the roots and all. They just push back. My current batch of spring onions is in its third year. Renate Slykerman

Read more: How to grow spring onions

Grow loose leaf, cut and piece lettuces close together for maximum production.

MAMSIZZ / ADOBE STOCK / Tips

Grow loose leaf, cut and piece lettuces close together for maximum production.

Lettuce, mizuna, mesclun and microgreens

All kinds of salad greens are quick and easy to grow. Harvested leaf by leaf over several weeks, they are fresher and tastier than any bag of mixed salad from the supermarket. You don’t even need a garden as they grow on a windowsill or in a container on a sunny doorway.

  • Mizuna, ‘Drunken Woman’ lettuces and perpetual spinach are my top performers. New leaf lettuces placed under large clear plastic bins (like a mini greenhouse) do well. Six ‘Popeye’ spinach plants thrive in a bag of potting soil with a few drainage holes drilled in the base. Carole Meredith, Kawerau
  • Sow cos style lettuce from seed almost year round. My favorite is ‘Vivian’ from Kings Seeds. There are so many seeds in the package and if you have too many you can always donate them. Steph Liebert, Auckland

Read more:

In winter, your leeks may be the best in the vegetable garden.

NEIL ROSS / GARDENER NZ / Stuff

In winter, your leeks might just be the best in the vegetable garden.

Leeks

I was surprised at how many people recommended leeks, but they are lauded for their ability to stay put for months in the garden over winter waiting to be harvested when needed. The price is also right, as a store-bought leek can cost $5 or more.

  • A tray containing 19 plants costs the same price as a ripe supermarket leek. Dr. Monica Lewis, Taupo
  • Leeks are a low-maintenance vegetable that’s great in winter pies, soups, and stews. But you need to bring them in early for a good harvest. At the latest in March in our region. A seedling tray usually yields dozens of plants. Marie O’Sullivan, Waikanae

Read more: How to grow leeks

Green beans grown vertically on frames, fences or teepees take up very little growing space.

JONNYSEK/123RF/Stuff

Green beans grown vertically on frames, fences or teepees take up very little growing space.

Pole beans

Does a crop yield more food value, over a longer harvest period from such a small footprint in the garden? Climbing beans can be picked as young green bean pods, teenage plump beans, middle-aged beans, and fully ripe dried beans.

  • You will need to purchase bean seeds for the first year. But save a few bean pods each year, choose the biggest ones and plant them in early November. Make successive sowings throughout the summer for many crops. Purple beans are reliable and large harvesters. Borlotti beans have a long season and can be eaten fresh or dried for the winter. Marie O’Sullivan, Waikanae

Read more: How to grow bush and pole beans

Tomatoes

KAREN ANNE BARRETT / Stuff

Tomatoes

Tomatoes and beets

Nothing beats the taste of a fully ripened tomato straight from the vine, but it really comes into its own as a budget beater when the prolific harvest is saved for later use.

The same goes for beets. They are easy to grow and can be eaten at any stage – from thin seedlings, leafy, miniature beets to domed beauties wider than a hamburger bun.

  • Although storage can be a bit of a pain in hot weather, there are two vegetables that my husband constantly grows in our raised bed garden for both economy and taste. We much prefer homegrown beets to canned so he grows about 100 plants which I bottle using my grandma’s easy recipe in proportions of 1 cup sugar, 2 cups vinegar and 3 cups water. It’s economical, tasty and it accompanies us from one year to the next.
  • We grow enough tomatoes to eat for months and to freeze in soups, purees and compotes for a year. Last summer we grew ‘Black from Tula’, ‘Chef’s Choice Orange’, ‘Brandywine Pink’ and ‘Vintage Wine’ and I would recommend all of these varieties. Tomatoes need a little TLC, but where we live in the Far North they tend to grow well. Sheryl Bainbridge, Coopers Beach

Read more:

  • How to grow tomatoes
  • How to grow beets

Herbs

Perennial and annual herbs are worth growing, they’re pretty enough for the flower garden, smell wonderful, and are so handy to cut off a sprig or two for cooking and herbal teas.

  • Herbs grow well in pots and parsley, oregano, marjoram, sage, rosemary and mint are all easy to grow. Marie O’Sullivan, Waikanae
  • Sow cilantro once, let it sow and it comes back forever. Sarah Harris, Hamilton
  • Tired supermarket herbs are so sad compared to fresh ones. A punnet of basil makes the equivalent of a year’s worth of pesto. Freeze in ice cube trays. Pam Watson, Christchurch
Let the rhubarb settle for a year before harvesting, feed it well, and it will continue to produce for many years.

VALENTYN VOLKOV/123rf

Let the rhubarb settle for a year before harvesting, feed it well, and it will continue to produce for many years.

Rhubarb

The faithful perennial rhubarb is a mainstay in many gardens. Feed it a diet rich in manure and compost and it will repay you with enough tender red stems for all the cooked rhubarb, crumbles, pies, cakes and muffins your family can eat.

  • Absolutely, I think it’s worth growing your own vegetables. Carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, rhubarb are doing well and saving a lot of money. Rhubarb needs a lot of food, but is easy to grow. Julene Burstall, Auckland

Read more: How to grow rhubarb

This week’s gardening to-do list

If there’s a break in time, wrap up warm and tackle those chores

  • Tie the beans, peas and sweet peas to their supports.
  • Clear clogged drains and gutters. Make sure plant pots are not sitting in saucers filled with water.
  • Plant garlic and shallots if you haven’t done so in the last month.
  • Plant strawberries. There are now young plants in garden centers.
  • Beans and peas can still be sown. You can also transplant young Brassica plants, as well as lettuce seedlings (in pots in very cold places), spinach and silver beets.

Gardening under the moon

On July 1 and 2, plan your to-do lists and prepare the beds for the fertile period which begins on July 3. For the rest of the week, plant fruit trees and vegetables that produce above ground. Take cuttings. Liquid food for growing plants.

Gardening by maramataka

Traditionally the coldest month – Hōtoke – but this has different connotations depending on where you live. Either way, the influence comes from the star known as Takurua (Sirius) which represents the full onslaught of cold. The full moon on the 14th will be the coldest, so protect vulnerable plants if necessary. Perennials will enter a phase known as moe-hōtoke or hibernation, and we can take advantage of this to tidy up and prune, as the essence of these plants will be protected underground. So prune your orchard and perennial trees and clean up the site to reduce any impact from lingering pests or diseases. Remember that many plants need exposure to cold to promote maturity and flowering (like cane fruit), so accommodate their needs as much as possible – prune before the 14th. Dr. Nick Roskruge

Comments are closed.