What Vegetable Should I Grow First To Save Money On Groceries?

Growing leafy greens

Two years ago, I asked myself this same exact question. I was a few months into paying off a massive amount of debt, but I still wanted to be able to eat well. Gardening sounded like the best option, but I had no idea where to start. I knew nothing and I was drowning in gardening information from the Internet. (Soil amendments? Pesticides? Fertilizers? Raised beds? Heirloom seeds? Watering schedules?)

I worked up the courage to put seeds in an egg cartoon and to my surprise – they grew. My desire to grow food for free out weighted my fear of failure and by the end of the first year, I grew and ate mixed greens, spinach, kale, tomatoes, basil, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans and sweet potatoes. Yes, in our small suburban backyard, we had a corn row. (Just one!)

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Growing leafy greens

When people find out that I’ve grown food, they always ask me, “Where should I start? What should I grow first?”

And I always tell them that if you only have the time to grow ONE vegetable, grow your favorite leafy green.

Depending on the season, I’ve grown mixed greens, lettuce, spinach, and kale and they all have been so simple and rewarding to grow. There is nothing quite like looking in a bare pantry, walking out to your garden, filling up a bowl of mixed greens and preparing a fancy salad for dinner. Greens are also versatile enough that you can find ways to eat them each and every day in salads, soups and sandwiches.

Growing leafy greens

How To Grow Greens

You should start out with your favorite leafy green vegetable. Which green are you always throwing in your cart at the grocery store? Is it kale? Romaine? Mixed greens? My husband loves kale and I prefer spinach. This meant that we were also spending double the money every week buying leafy greens at the store. To save money, I decided to grow both.

greens

How did I plant the seeds?

I planted 2-3 seeds every 12 inches directly into my garden bed. Before growing greens, I built a cheap raised bed because the soil is not ideal where I live. But in most parts of the country, you can skip this step. Within two weeks the seeds sprouted. Part of the fun of gardening is seeing what a plant looks like when it first pops through the soil. Kale and spinach did not disappoint. Kale looked like little four leaf clovers.

Growing leafy greens

And spinach looked like little curly-cues.

Growing leafy greens

How long did it take from the seed to the salad bowl?

It took all of my leafy greens about 2 months for the leaves to be big enough to harvest. You can eat leafy greens at any stage of growth. When the leaves look like something you’d want in a salad, put them in a salad. It’s just that simple. 

Growing leafy greens

How do you harvest greens?

To harvest greens, you remove the outer leaves as desired while leaving the rest of the plant in the ground. Go around your garden and snip off anything that looks good for a salad that day and leave everything else to grow. Also, it is best to harvest greens in the morning when the leaves are cool and crisp. The intense afternoon sun will make the leaves wilt on the plant and you’ll end up with limp salad. (At least, that’s a problem in Florida!)

Growing leafy greens

Do you use fertilizer or pesticide on your vegetables? 

Sometimes! I only fertilized my greens once or twice with Jobe’s Organics All Purpose Fertilizer. I bought the bag off Amazon and it lasted me over a year with all of the crops I listed above. (A good investment in my opinion!) And I also occasionally used organic neem oil spray. I used the spray when I noticed holes in my plants from bugs. It wasn’t often, but I did occasionally spray them down.

How do you wash your greens?

To wash the leaves, I soak them in a bowl of cold water to remove any dirt and spin them dry in my salad spinner. I wrote an entire post about how I wash fresh produce here

Growing leafy greens

If you’ve always been interested with the idea of growing food, but you’ve been afraid to start – don’t fear! I encourage you to go to the closest garden center and pick out seeds for your favorite mixed green today.

Do you have a garden? What was the first thing you grew?

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