With the sky falling of late, everyone is looking for ways to save money. It may not sound glamorous, but gardening is a great way to develop self-sufficiency. Besides, how cool is creating your own food? You can do it anywhere, even in an urban environment, and it only takes a little money to get started. All you need is soil, sunlight, water, a container, and seeds. Try these five easy to grow foods – start them out on your kitchen windowsill, in your dorm room or even the den.
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You never know when you’ll need to distract your landlord from a late rent check. What better way than with the gift of produce? And we’re not talking about smokable herbs. Squash is seriously the easiest thing ever. The great thing about squash is that it is unrelenting. One squash plant could probably feed an entire city block including rodent population. Yellow crookneck is a really mild flavored one if you’re not into green zucchini. The only trick to growing squash (aside from reading the seed packet instructions) is to wait until the weather warms up. If you’re growing indoors, which can easily be done, just keep your seedlings in a warm, very bright place. Total time to go from squashlet to Parmesan fried deliciousness? Only 45-50 days. If you’re growing indoors, stick to one plant – they get big (plan for at least 6 square feet). This plant will provide more squash than you know what to do with. Trust us.
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Green beans are pretty easy to grow, but peas just taste better. Their sweet flavor goes with everything (especially cheese) and they have lots of fiber, stress-busting selenium and even a little protein. And nearly everyone likes peas. Pisum Sativum needs a little shade, so indoors is great. Peas like good, relatively deep soil and plenty of water, but they don’t need fertilizer. Plant a 3 foot square planter and you’ll have 6 pounds of green peas about 3 months later. Nothing, nothing beats fresh peas. Plus, like squash, peas are really versatile. You can have them with meat or eggs, tossed with pasta, melted with cheese, fried with tofu, mixed in salads, added to soups and stews, or just plain.
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Tomatoes are intimidating. You hear a lot about tomato travails and tribulation. The problems: usually, people plant them at the wrong time (too cold) and don’t give them enough structural support (hey, holding up tomatoes is hard work). Follow the planting directions, give your tomatoes some compost love, and forget the rest. Since you’re probably growing indoors, you won’t have to worry about blight and bugs and other pestilence. What tomatoes need: support, rich soil, full sun, a deep planting and lots of warmth – if you can afford it, buy an inverted (hanging) tomato planter. Otherwise, prop them up with some sticks or wires to help give them strength. Water frequently! Warning: you’ll never be able to eat the poor excuse for a tomato that comes on your cheeseburger again.
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Beets, lettuce and peppers are easy to grow. So are onions. And maybe carrots don’t immediately seem to reek of Awesomeness. But anything delicious and edible – even raw – that is also cheap and easy seems pretty awesome indeed. Sure, it’s not the Buddha’s hand, but it’s saving you money. And it’s really, really easy to grow. The only trick with the carrot is that you need a fairly deep planter, since, well…you are growing a root, after all. When mature a carrot can be up to one foot in length. Carrots aren’t picky. They can grow in cold apartments and noisy dorm rooms. They don’t need a lot of sun or water or love. You can plant them almost year-round and as long as the soil drains properly you’ll find it almost impossible to mess up your carrot crop. The hard part will be waiting for them to go from aww-cute to dinner-sized, but have patience; it only takes another week or two. Harvesting and enjoying couldn’t be easier.
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Once you’ve had fresh herbs, you will never want the dried stuff or any lousy condiment again. Most hardware stores and big box chain stores now sell herb kits and you can find them online, too. In addition to being great in cooking (rosemary and basil go with literally everything, from beans to chicken to steak to burgers to pasta to sandwich spreads to sauces to salads), herbs have healthy benefits. They can improve immunity, boost your antioxidant intake and even offer some aromatic benefit, too. And a fresh sprig of rosemary covers a multitude of cooking sins. Some of the easiest to grow: basil, mint, rosemary, oregano. They’re happy sprucing up a kitchen window sill or a bedroom night stand, as long as they have a well-draining pot to live in and some sun. Don’t give them too much heat, too much cold, or too much of anything for that matter. Think Goldilocks.