Our brutal winter was spent armchair gardening – going through seed catalogs, gardening magazines. making plans and dreaming, but then I realized something.
Gardening magazines are, for the most part, aimed at people with oodles of money. With many of the people I know, myself included, that is not the case.
Gardening, done right, needn’t be a costly affair. It can, and should be, enjoyable, relaxing and well within the means of frugal budgets. Below are some of my favourite gardening practices that will not only save money, they are also good for the environment and often therapeutic for the gardener.
1. Take care of what you own. This is a biggie. Gardening tools are expensive but with proper maintenance they can last for years. This, of course, means no replacement expense plus there’s an environmental bonus: less garbage added to our overflowing landfills. The pruning shears shown are at least 20 years old. Giving them and other gardening tools a wipe-down with WD-40 every Fall and Spring keeps them rust-free and in perfect working condition.
2. Equipment. It has been mentioned before that buying at the right time can save a lot of money. For garden equipment, March is the right time to buy. This is an in-between time for Retailers. It therefore makes sense that they offer great bargains in order to get customers into the store and keep inventory moving. Keep in mind though that you don’t need a different tool for every different job. We have 4 acres of lawn to cut and maintain and our equipment is minimal. My husband has a riding mower to cut the grass and a lopper to keep the fruit trees pruned. Other than that, we have:
- A good wheelbarrow;
- A really good pointed garden spade – this is invaluable and something that is used all the time;
- A garden fork – to loosen soil, break up clods and lift plants;
- A multipurpose rake.
Small garden hand tools include:
- Pruning shears and a small handsaw. If my shears won’t cut through something, the handsaw will;
- A hand trowel and hand cultivator;
- and, that’s it.
3. Recycle: Make use of what you already own. Before throwing anything in the blue box or the garbage, consider how it could be used in the garden. This isn’t only good for the environment, it’s great for the pocket book.
- Old slatted blinds make terrific strong, weather-proof plant labels. The slats are taken apart and cut to the size that works best. A permanent marker is used to label them. These will really be appreciated when putting out new plants.
- A plastic meat tray plus a clear plastic lid (part of a bake and carry tray) makes a great little no-cost greenhouse for starting new plants:
- The plastic boxes that prepared salad greens come in could also be used for the same purpose. As a matter of fact, any clear plastic container that has a base and a top will work;
- Old pantyhose cut into strips can be used to tie plants to stakes. The elastic in the hose has enough give that it won’t cut into the plants like string would – no need to buy plastic clips;
- When cleaning up the Spring garden, save any good sized branches that you find – these can be used for natural looking plant stakes;
- If you grow tomatoes, start saving egg shells now, you’ll need lots. Let them dry, then crush and freeze until needed. These are put into the planting hole before planting the tomato plants (12 crushed egg shells for each tomato plant). They’ll do wonders for your tomatoes.
4. Starting seeds – huge money saver:
Most flowers, herbs and vegetables are easy to start from seed, no special equipment needed, and this can save a ton of money. I prefer to use small peat pots, rather than planting trays, to start seeds – this disturbs plants the least during transplanting and gives them a better start. And the cost is minimal – these were purchased at the dollar store, 26 pots for $1.00.
The Aster description below shows how much can be saved by starting your own seeds:
Aster – Dwarf Border Type (attracts pollinators) – flowers from mid July to frost – easy to start indoors six weeks before last frost. Cost of a packet containing 175-275 seeds is $2.25. If you were to buy a flat of 12 plants, you would easily pay $5.00. Tip: Plant more than you need and swap with gardening friends and neighbours. Great way to get a selection of plants at very little cost.
This is just one example. There are many more plants that are easy to start (and to swap). Leftover seeds can be kept for at least one year if placed in a well-sealed container and stored in the refrigerator.
5. Soil: There are times when frugal means paying more and buying soil is one such time. If it’s necessary to buy soil (or soil amendments), get the very best quality you can afford. Poor soil will create all kinds of problems with pests and plant diseases and end up costing more in the long run. Good, healthy soil will produce strong plants better able to fight off disease and pests.
Taking care of the environment goes hand and hand with frugal gardening. Proper equipment maintenance and recycling wherever possible means less cost for the gardener and less garbage for the landfill. Works for me.
Do you have any frugal gardening tips? How about ways to combine gardening with improving the environment. Please share your ideas in the comments section below.
Talk to you again next week,