Growing Some Green in the Garden?

Our Vegetable Garden
Our Vegetable Garden

In the comments section on GRS a few weeks ago, someone asked about gardening as a way to save money on food. It’s a valid question, and it really got me thinking about how, and why, I garden.

I grew up in a poor, urban neighborhood. The produce section of the grocery store left much to be desired; fresh fruits and vegetables were limited, expensive, and not the greatest quality. We were urban gardeners long before the concept was trendy. Every Spring my Mom and I would carefully lay out a large (for the city) garden in the narrow space between our house and my Grandparents. We planted tomatoes, peppers, and whatever other produce seemed exciting at the time.

How much money did we save? How did we make the most of our bounty? How much effort did it take?

I laugh in understanding during Steel Magnolias when Ouiser brings a sack of tomatoes to the beauty shop.

     “Somebody’s gotta take em, I hate em. I try not to eat healthy food if I can possibly help it.”

      “Then WHY do you grow them?”

     “Because that’s what Southern women do!”

The first garden I planted at my house grew a huge assortment of vegetables: Tomatoes, cucumbers, soy beans, corn, green beans, melons, radishes… Did I mention that I don’t even like half of those things? So, why did I grow them? Because it’s exciting! And, that’s what we do!

Tomatoes ripening on the vine in our garden
Tomatoes ripening on the vine in our garden

Growing up, tomatoes were always the central point of the garden. They were the whole point of having a garden, so to speak. Store bought tomatoes just can’t compare to the home grown variety. Speaking of variety: There was only 1 type of tomato available at the store. At home we could grow cherry and grape tomatoes. Roma tomatoes. A seemingly endless variety of big tomatoes. And green tomatoes; We were big on fried green tomatoes, and the only way to get green tomatoes was to grow them yourself.

From there, gardening was more of a hobby. There was a sense of accomplishment in being able to grow food yourself, especially in the city. My Grandpa tried for years to grow watermelon. Year after year, we’d laugh about his “water-grapes”. Never once did he manage to get a watermelon. There was a sense of community in gardening; Not just the community between gardeners, but the community of sharing fresh produce with your neighbors who didn’t garden. Like I said, quality fresh produce was hard to come by. And some produce ripens in abundance; Unless you’re into canning, and we weren’t, you’re likely to end up with more red tomatoes than you can possibly use at one time.

So, to me, gardening is about quality food, and community, and accomplishment. It’s a wonderful hobby. And I love knowing that sustaining myself is possible. Maybe one day we’ll have a green house. Or do canning. Or extend our gardening season with more cold weather plants.

Does that mean gardening can’t be a way to save money? Of course not! Stay tuned!

– Cindy W.


  1. Wonderful, funny, honest post. Loved it! We’re in the middle of the city and have a patio garden. My tomatoes are in 5 gallon painters buckets from home depot. My cucumbers produced one gorgeous cuke that we accidentally left at my MIL’s, and then the promptly started to shrivel. I hate cilantro but found that I’d accidentally planted a whole box of the stuff. LOL it’s fun, occasionally we grow something we really like, just like you. Keep us up to date and enjoy your harvest!

    1. I had a beautiful Basil plant a couple of years ago. Did I mention I’m allergic to Basil? Lol! And I’m itching to start a strawberry patch, despite the fact that strawberry plants give me the worst hives ever! Only a fellow gardener would understand!

      I keep thinking about growing cilantro; I only use it a couple of times a year, and I hate paying so much for an entire bunch, when I only need a little. I keep thinking I can just grow a little bit. But you know how that goes!

  2. This is a great post, made me smile this morning 🙂 I’ve moved practically every year and always midsummer, so I’ve never had much of a garden; just some herbs in window boxes sometimes. I really want one in the future though, in part because I like to cook and would enjoy canning and preserving. Mmmmm, tomatoes.

    Cilantro though, just as a warning, is actually really hard to grow. It’s fussy about water and it bolts quickly.

    1. Thanks Cecilia! Good to know on the cilantro. I’d love to have a little window herb garden one day; I’ve tried in the past, but never had a sunny enough location for one.

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