Thrifty Tip #12: Grow Your Own Food

Our first crop of Emperor mandarins ripening on the tree

This is one of my favourite tips because 'growing my own' is one of my favourite things to do.

There is nothing more wonderful or rewarding than creating a garden, but even more satisfying is if that garden provides food for the table.

When we moved to our current home in March 2010 there was a thriving orange tree and a struggling lemon tree, but nothing else edible.  I immediately set to work turning our backyard into a more productive one.  I have since planted nine more fruit trees and replaced the dying lemon with a new one.

I try to grow as many vegetables as possible, although I do struggle with Adelaide's extremely hot, dry summers.  I have turned the corner of the garden where the previous owners had a large cubby house into my main vegetable bed (it's about 4m x 5m or 210 sq. ft).  I am working hard to improve the soil with worm castings from my two worm farms, home-made compost, and commercial chook poo fertiliser (Dynamic Lifter or Rooster Booster).

I have under-planted most of the fruit trees with herbs, vegetables, and fruit like strawberries and black currants that enjoy being under-storey crops.

Even in a small courtyard or on a balcony food can be grown for the table.  As a 21 year old university student and newly-wed I grew cherry tomatoes and a few herbs on our second floor balcony - I guess my obsession started young!

The thriftiest way to grow vegetables is to produce as much fertiliser on-site as possible and to grow from seed (especially seed saved from the previous year).  While fruit trees have a comparatively high initial cost, the long-term savings provided by a productive tree make them a great investment over time.

And of course, the biggest benefit of all from home-grown produce is the taste.

Do you grow any of your own food?  What crops you find most cost-effective?

This post is part of my series, Thirty Days of Thrifty Tips.

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