(Family Features) – As Americans look for simple ways to cut back on spending, one place to start is in your own backyard. Planting a vegetable garden is a great way to generate a continuous supply of produce, while also helping to reduce your grocery bill. According to the National Gardening Association (NGA), investing approximately $70 in planting a garden can save an individual about $600 in produce during the first year. Senior horticulturist for the NGA Charlie Nardozzi offers these tips for producing your own vegetable bounty:
Utilize your compost pile. One of the best ways to get the most from your vegetable garden is to build healthy soil. If your soil is poor, it should be amended with a two to three-inch layer of compost worked into the garden before planting. Every spring or fall before planting, mix in a one to two-inch layer of the compost to keep your soil healthy.
Feed your veggies. Even if you have compost-amended soil, your plants will benefit from a dose of fertilizer during the growing season. For heavy feeders, such as tomato, pepper, eggplant, and broccoli stalks, fertilize monthly with an organic granular fertilizer. For vine plants like cucumber, squash, pumpkin, and melon, fertilize them when they start to run and again when fruits begin to form.
Contain the garden. If you have limited space to grow your own vegetables in the yard, try a container gardening. Tomatoes and squash grow best in large containers, while carrots, beans, and greens can be planted in smaller, 10- to 12-inch pots. When buying a container, make sure it has drainage holes for letting water out. After filling each container with potting soil, fertilize the vegetables monthly and keep them in full sun and well watered.
Grow your vegetables up. A great way to maximize your planting space is to grow vegetables vertically on a trellis. Pole beans, peas, cucumbers and even summer squash can be trained to grow up. Use bamboo, wooden, or metal stakes, a trellis or even a fence to keep your plants growing vertical. Stake or cage tomatoes, peppers and eggplants so the fruits stay off of the ground and don’t rot.
Invest in your tools. Save money by investing in durable tools that will last year-after-year. Have a quality trowel and shovel, sharp shears, and a sturdy wheelbarrow on hand. Lifetime Products makes a wheelbarrow with a unique design that distributes more weight to the wheels, helping to relieve stress on your arms and back. The wheelbarrow also has a tub made from 100 percent recycled material, so you can green your lawn and the environment.
For more gardening tips, visit Lifetime.com.