Using Your Garden to Help Pay for College Part 2

Part 2 of 2

Last post was all about how we use the garden to help pay for college.  This post shares more details on what  is in a box, the one “crop” you can grow (no, it’s not the green 5 leaf kind) if you don’t want to do weekly boxes, selling produce without a garden and how we trick the kiddos into getting a tangible feel for the cost of college.


My dad and I plan what each of us will grow to help maximize space and ensure we have new fun things as well as the standard things people love. Here is what you could find in a box of produce over the course of our season:

Radish (watermelon, French heirloom and icicle), kale (Italian black and curly leaf), green beans, broad Italian flat beans, Chinese long beans, collards, chard, garlic, onions,  shallots, zucchini, crook neck, alien and patty pan squash, blackberries, peaches, plums, apricots, granny smith apples, pears, rhubarb, grapes, cherry tomatoes, tomatoes (Celebrity, 4th of July, Beefeater, etc), heirloom tomatoes, beets, kohlrabi, cucumber (regular and lemon), chilies, sage, basil, rosemary, peppermint, summer savory, turnips, parsnips, green and red peppers, edamame, lima beans, yams, potatoes, Brussel’s sprouts, okra, peas (shelling and snap), fennel, eggplant (Japanese, white, Black Beauty) baby boo pumpkins, loofa (it’s a gourd) and I probably forgot something.

Over the years we have discovered that people love the standard things (tomatoes, green beans, squash and cucumbers) but they also love seeing new and different things too. White eggplant, kohlrabi and the loofa have been some of our favorite surprises to add to the boxes.


Pumpkins are a one crop wonder!

My oldest was about 5 when she asked from the backseat of the car one day, “Mom, what does it take to grow pumpkins? I replied, “seeds, sun and water.” She chewed on that answer for a minute then promptly added, “love, they also need love Mom.”

We haven’t done this for a few years because we don’t have the proper space. BUT for several years we grew super funky, exotic heirloom pumpkins. We used space at the neighbors, the in-laws and scattered them about our yard as well.

Pumpkins are “easy” because they don’t have to be babysat and picked weekly like other produce. Plant, water, fertilize, LOVE, pick and sell. The drawback, they take up a lot of space and need gobs of sunlight - if you have a shady lot...don't waste your time.

Cinderella’s, Galeux D’Eysines, Long Island Cheese, Triamble, Jarrahdale and others would add about $300 or more per year to the college pot. People love the weird ones but they like the classic Connecticut Field Pumpkin too.

My two favorite places to find unusual seeds:  Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and


Here are the deets on how to do help your kiddos earn moola with produce  when you don’t have a garden.

Google “how to start my own produce co-op” – I have participated in the winter months in a neighborhood co-op but haven’t orchestrated it first hand.

Google “local produce suppliers” and call them to see if they deliver to homes and what is the minimum order $ amount. You may also consider calling your grocery store produce manager to see what prices they would give on case quantities.

Request a sales sheet so you know the prices and quantities of the items they carry.

Pre-sale the boxes with neighborhood flyers and social media letting people how much a “basket” will be, how many times you will be doing it and WHY you are doing it. 

The local co-op my friend runs builds 24 baskets at $17 a basket –a smidge over $400 to place your order. You could easily charge $22 per basket and make a $5 profit on each basket - ear marked for vacation spending money or a starter college fund.

Although you will be doing the ordering and behind the scene orchestrating, the kiddos can be in charge of dividing the produce into equal amounts for your customers. They can even deliver them via a little red wagon if your customers are close enough.


Blah blah blah….college is expensive. Blah blah blah…save now...blah blah blah.

Each summer we reinforce that college IS expensive and that saving small amounts NOW adds up and will make a difference by visiting the Utah State University bookstore.

At the bookstore we play the game, “find the most expensive text book.”

Is it likely they will need Thermodynamics and are willing to shell out for the NEW book? Thermodynamics, maybe, daddy has one – brand NEW…nope, but it reinforces the point of picking, sweating, saving and planning. Book prices are outrageous and yes, I hope they have scheming skills enough to order online in advance but our point is well taken. College is expensive. Saving now matters because they have seen the price tag even if only on the books.

By the time the kiddos hit college we hope to have at least $10,000 in each of their accounts that they have earned one way or another. No, it won’t pay for everything but it will have laid an excellent foundation of hard work, commitment and follow-through especially when you really don’t want to do something (like pick prickly squash or itchy green beans).

Happy Growing!