I am considering doing a gardening blog elsewhere, but this will do for now, because one of the themes here is economy, and there's no greater economy than growing your own food. It's almost an act of rebellion these days.
I often talk to people who "wish" they had a garden, or "dream" of having a garden, or plan on doing when they have space, or are reading up on fancy ways to do it without space. There are some very creative ideas out there.
Let's have some honesty here. No matter what you do, it requires a bit of dedication. If you decide, for example, that you are going to grow food on a balcony, as my son did, you have to commit to a watering schedule, and stick to it religiously, like he didn't. Plants in containers die very fast if they dry out. Many of the trendy ideas for growing involve containers, and yes, it's doable, but there must be that commitment.
And all these wishes and dreams...fantasy is fun, but this is work. This is real. This is an every day commitment, even if you are busy, tired, too hot, or away. Many gardens are planted, only a proportion are harvested.
So first, sit yourself down and think about how much time you have. Nobody has limitless space or time, in fact the one often limits the other. I have plenty of space, but there's only so much I can do in a day. I restrict myself to a size of garden I know I can manage. I push it a bit, but I have back-up if need be. If you live alone, or your children are too young to help, or your partner isn't interested, be sensible.
All that said, I would encourage everyone to grow something. For example, what's your weakness in expensive food? If it's fresh herbs, grow those. They are very forgiving, take up little space, and the savings can be considerable. One packet of basil seed will supply a family for a whole season. Compare that to $2.99 every time you go shopping (and it's usually wilted).
Salad crops are a good choice generally, especially if you like unusual varieties. Mesclun is a horrible price in the stores, and so easy to grow. You can grow striped tomatoes!
Some crops are better home-grown, they taste better and you know they are organic, but the savings aren't huge. Carrots, potatoes, turnips, cabbages, etc, are cheap in the shops at the same time all yours are ready, and they take up a fair bit of space, which if it is limited, might be better used on something else.
So you have to weigh up all the pros and cons, and be realistic about it.
NOW is the time to plan your garden, at least in the northern hemisphere (I apologize right now to Australian gardeners, although they probably won't even read this or would tell me to shut up, I'm truly sorry about your gardens this summer). Oh yes, before you begin. Figure out your budget, double it, and put that aside for the planting season. Seeds will be in the shops soon, and can already be purchased online or from catalogues such as Stokes. If you have a greenhouse you should be thinking about organizing it ready for the new season.
Now is also the time to pick the brains of other gardeners for tips. Right now, I guarantee any gardener is itching to get at it and would love to talk about it.