One of the main complaints raised against healthy eating is how expensive it can be. This is especially valid if you’re buying organic or at local farmers’ markets. A bunch of spinach or kale for $6 that will last maybe one week for one person is a $32 a month habit. Rather than pay $4 at the grocery store or $6 at the farmer’s market, I decided to grow my own baby greens and microgreens since I go through them like crazy. You too can grow your own greens and spend less than $20 and as little as 25 cents for basically endless and nutritious food. All you need is a windowsill, particularly for microgreens.
Why Grow Your Own Greens?
It’s cheaper. For those who enjoy eating well but don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for it, growing food that takes little care and requires minimal investment is a good return on your efforts and money. If you buy the soil, seeds, and any required equipment to grow your greens indoor, you can spend less than $20, already saving money on your $32 a month habit, plus all you’ll need after that is a supply of seed and decent soil so you’ll really be saving over the store or farmers’ markets. This is great for greens, which take a minimal effort to grow and are ready to eat in as little as 3 weeks for baby greens, as little as 7-14 days for microgreens. With microgreens, you don’t need any lighting other than a windowsill – making them really cheap.
It’s easy. Growing greens is simplicity itself. You can pretty much take potting soil, dump seeds into it, add water and sit them in a sill and they’ll grow quickly. You’ll just need to water them now and again. That’s it. Greens like arugula will germinate in as little as two days. You can harvest microgreens pretty quickly from there and baby greens in as little as 3 weeks. All you need to do for baby greens is snip outer leaves when you want to use them and let the plant continue to produce its greens for future harvest. Easy peasy.
It’s probably healthier. When you grow your own greens, you know what went into the process. Even when products are marked “organic”, that’s a somewhat vague term these days. Most foods get sprayed with pesticides, gassed, and come irradiated to the grocery store. The quality isn’t always certain. At least if you grow your own, you know everything that happened to your greens before they go into your mouth. According to many studies on microgreens, these can be packed with as much as 40 times the amount of nutrients that you’d find in the adult plant. What’s not to love about that?
It’s fun. For those with a DIY attitude, a love of nurturing, in need of a hobby, or who just love gardening, growing your own greens is very enjoyable. It’s also rewarding to literally reap the outcome of your efforts. If you have children, growing baby greens and microgreens with them is a fun learning process that will teach them about how food gets to their table. The quick turnaround from seed to harvest also will easily fit their shorter attention spans.
With all that in mind, here are 3 ways to grow greens indoors or outside.
#1 – Outdoors in Soil
If you have a yard, even just a patch barely two feet long, you can grow your own greens simply and cheapest. A pack of seeds at Dollar Tree, General Dollar, Family Dollar or Wal-Mart will cost as little as 25 cents and germinate just fine. You can go more expensive, organic and heirloom from there, whether dropping by a local garden center or ordering online. You just need to plant the seeds as directed on their packet and water, then harvest once the leaves are big enough by snipping the outer leaves with scissors in as little as 3 weeks. Take only a few leaves from each plant as the plants will continue to grow new leaves for you to harvest later. It’s that easy. Gardening really isn’t that mystical.
#2 – Outdoors in Containers
No yard? No problem. If you’ve got a balcony or step, grab containers that are at least two inches deep and a foot long. Fill with potting soil, water till moist, plant your seeds as directed, water and harvest as above. You can buy containers or recycle using plastic containers that your fruit or vegetables come in. For the most frugal-minded, you can even plant your seeds straight in the potting soil bag and harvest from it.
For true simplicity and cheapness, check out this video from Roots and Refuge which shows how to grow greens in a potting soil bag all winter and create a sheltered greenhouse for it using a semi-transparent plastic bin you might have lying around at home. No tilling or digging in a garden necessary and minimal care from planting to harvest.
#3 – Indoors
No balcony or step? Maybe you’re growing in the winter or your growing season is short? Go with an indoor container for your greens, even if that’s just a shallow plastic tray. If you get plenty of light you put them next to a window. This will work well for microgreens. If you want more than microgreens or don’t have suitable windows, you can buy clamp lights for less than $10 online and bulbs that are at least 1600 lumens and between 4000-6000 Kelvin for less than $10 a bulb to make an indoor garden. You can go fancier and more intricate from there. I’ve germinated spinach, kale and arugula on my windowsill in February in New England but they’re leggy and good only for microgreens unless I use a light on them.
Nutrition on the Cheap
Growing you own food can be a rewarding and satisfying hobby. It’s pretty frugal too and requires very little effort beyond remembering to water your greens. Save yourself the money you’d spend at the grocery store or the pricy markets. This way you’ll also know what went into or on your food for added peace of mind. Just harvest with scissors and add to your dishes. It’s that easy!
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