Gardening Pro: It’s Wise to Start Small, on the Cheap

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Growing vegetables in your own backyard can be enormously rewarding, with payoffs including delicious super-fresh foods and a decreased grocery bill. To get started the right way, take the advice of an expert who considers costs at every turn.

USA Today picked the brain of James Gagliardi, a horticulturalist and pro gardener who works for the American Horticultural Society. What’s Gagliardi’s approach for getting the most bang (i.e., veggies) for the buck?

He buys both inexpensive seed packets — “less than a couple of dollars” — and the smallest plants he can find.

“They’re the cheapest and best plants,” he says. “Anybody can go to the store and buy a large tomato plant with tomatoes on it, but they’ll pay an arm and a leg for it, and how will they get it home without damaging it?”

Smaller plants are not only cheaper, their roots are more likely to adapt quickly to the soil in your backyard—which provides another bonus, per Gagliardi:

“Then you don’t have to use a lot of fertilizers,” he says. He uses fertilizers sparingly. “It’s the survival of the fittest in my gardens.”

Instead, Gagliardi adds some compost when he is planting in his raised beds.

All of which saves you time and money.

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