Sunday, April 7, 2013

How NOT to Convince a Low Income Friend to Eat Organic: The Solution

Yesterday, I explained the ridiculousness of the following statement:

"Eat organic!  In the long run it's cheaper!"

It's a statement that's made with all the best intentions, and it's true, but when placed in a real-world environment it falls short, gets ignored, and serves no purpose.  Or worse, it annoys the person you're trying to advise, blocking any communication that will be beneficial.

So don't say it.  Just don't.

There is, however, one cheap way to go organic, and that's gardening.  Most people think that gardening is expensive, and really, it can be.  Indeed, in many cases it is expensive.

Ridiculously so.

But that's because most people don't dive into it as a way to conserve their money.

Most people want gardening to be pretty.

There's nothing wrong with that, of course.  Aesthetics are important, and if you have the money for it, why not do it? 

For those of us without the extra cash, however, the idea of spending extra money on pots, shovels, fertilizer, transplants, cutesy garden mats, and dirt can be daunting... and expensive.

But it doesn't have to be.

With a little work, gardening can actually save money.  How, you ask?

  • Buy seeds, not transplants.
Transplants are expensive, and could be carrying pests or diseases.  Last year I bought some Irish Moss as an accent plant, and ended up with a family of large, fat grubs.  I was not impressed.

Seeds, on the other hand, are cheap.  One packet of seeds can grow enough of a single type of plant to feed your entire neighborhood. You can easily get seeds for under a dollar or two if you wait for sales.  Furthermore, if you buy seeds at the end of the season, you can make a serious killing... as in 20 cents per packet in some stores.

The 'sell by' date on a seed packet doesn't work the same way as the 'sell by' date on, say, milk.  

You can plant the seeds the next season, and they'll still grow.  Heck, I was once able to grow seeds that had been lost in a kitchen drawer for two years.

What I'm saying is don't throw seeds in the trash simply because you've had them for a year.  Seeds are stronger than you think.

Buy seeds and you have years worth of potential from one packet.  Buy transplants and you have... one plant.  For one season.

  • Make dirt.  Don't buy it.
This one was bought... but they can be made, as well.
 This is one area where most people take an expensive shortcut.  Cheap organic potting soil costs almost five dollars per16 dry quart bag.  That doesn't seem like much to most people, but in reality, it doesn't fill many pots.  The typical person can easily spend over $25 in dirt alone if they're doing container gardening.

Who wants to do that???

Composting, on the other hand, is free.  You can make your own composter, and use fruit and vegetable waste, dirt from your yard (Or your neighbor's yard... I'm not picky), and paper waste to create your garden's future soil.  Heck, if you have your own yard, you don't even need a composter.  Just create a compost heap.

Easy-peasy.  And cheap.  And Eco-friendly.


  • Make your own garden containers.
Really.  I mean it.  You don't need pretty terra cotta pots to have a container garden.  All you need is a large enough container (with drainage holes) to hold the plant and soil.

That's it.

An ice cream tub can be a flower pot.  So can a milk jug with the top cut off.  Just cut a few holes into the bottom.  Not pretty enough for you?  Paint the outside.  Problem solved.

And it cost you absolutely nothing.

  •  Fertilizer is not necessary to grow good tasting vegetables. 
 Don't buy it.

When I do use fertilizer, I just use the water from my fish tank.  My fish is a basic comet goldfish that cost me 13 cents when I got him a around seven years ago.  Food costs are minimal, and the only 'extra' he requires is a basic aquarium filter for water movement.

The fact of the matter, though, is that I rarely even do that.  

These tomatoes required no fertilizer.  Just grass clippings...
And they provided yumminess for a full season.

Simply mulching with grass clippings or fallen leaves is enough.  The act of mulching guards against weeds and helps with the soil's water retention.  The process of degredation over time helps fertilize the roots.

Simple.  And in the latter case (for those that aren't inclined to buy a fish), free.

Want to convince a friend to eat organic?

Show your friend how it can be done without costing a fortune.  Using the methods I mentioned above, for example, it's even cheaper than buying the Big Ag counterpart.

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