A Time to Sow—and to Save Money

Raising backyard fruits and vegetables makes sense nutritionally and economically. And you can’t beat the mild, steady exercise gardening provides.

“Produce is becoming more expensive, and a lot of commercial fertilizers are based on petroleum production,” says Barbara J. Bromley, a Mercer County horticulturist. Having a garden curtails spending and can help reduce your family’s intake of pesticides. 

Start with a 10-by-10-foot plot that gets four to six hours of direct sunlight a day. Vegetables tend to thrive in slightly acidic soil with a pH of six. Test soil acidity with a kit from your nearest garden center to determine the amount and type of fertilizer to use. You can learn a lot from a good reference book—Bromley suggests Square Foot Gardening, by Mel Bartholomew.

“Choose fruits and vegetables you like,” Bromley says. Peas, onions, radishes, carrots, beets, and most green vegetables can be planted in early April, but save the tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and melons for May. Tall plants, such as staked tomatoes, should be planted at the northern end of the garden to help shade smaller crops.

For rookie gardeners, plant a few seedlings in a paper cup so you know what the germinating seed looks like. “When everything’s growing, you can’t tell which is which,” Bromley says. If you’re going to use fertilizer, make sure it comes without weed killer. “People tend to use blue-crystal fertilizers, like Miracle-Gro, which are weak. Your best bet is to consider organic fertilizer or rock powder,” Bromley says.

Click here to leave a comment
Read more Jersey Living articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.

Required not shown
Required not shown