At one point or another, we’ve all suffered from a lack of funds. There’s still no reason why you can’t have a great garden if that happens to be the case. All budget gardening requires is some good old-fashioned ingenuity. The tips that follow are gathered from lessons I learned many moons ago. So listen closely to my tale and pick up a few tips for your own budget friendly garden.
Acquiring New Specimens
If you don’t have any viable seeds on hand, the best way to save money is to purchase whatever seeds are available locally. Once you’re done using them, store the seeds in a cool, dry place so they’ll last longer. The same principal of buying locally is true if you decide to use starts instead of seeds. Just keep in mind that starts are simply less cost-effective overall.
When it comes to making online orders, be sure you can purchase everything you need from one place. You’ll also want to pick companies that charge a flat rate for shipping to keep these charges from going up as you add to your cart. Splitting orders with family, friends and even neighbors can also save you some money.
If you’re not great at starting plants from seed yourself, talk to other gardeners you know to see what they won’t mind sharing with you. My grandmother always has a bunch of extra cherry tomatoes seedlings that she gives away to family and friends. Just be aware that the reason your fellow gardeners could be feeling generous is that the species in question has an invasive streak.
More Budget Friendly Garden Options
You can also grow some plants (turmeric, ginger, potatoes, pineapples, etc.) from store bought produce. That means that you don’t have to special order them. Using organic produce is recommended if you’re going this route since other food items may be sprayed with growth inhibitors to keep them from sprouting. If you must buy plants, opt for hardy perennials. These will last for a couple of years before they have to be replaced.
There are always good deals on bulb type plants in the late spring and perennial herbs in the late summer. To keep on top of deals for your budget friendly garden, it’s wise to keep an eye out for sales. Places like Walmart often have some surprisingly good deals early in the spring. I’ve also run across grocery stores that were selling good-sized herb plants for as little as $2 a piece. However, proceed with caution when it comes to buying other sale items. This is obviously true if the plants in question are fully bagged and they aren’t true bulbs.
Look around online for the best deals on plants, particularly higher-ticket garden items like fruit trees that tend to be more expensive than smaller plants. One great thing about the internet is that you can easily open several tabs at once. This makes comparative shopping a breeze. Just make sure you’re placing orders from reputable companies. Check any ratings and reviews that are posted online before finalizing your transactions.
Enriching Your Soil
Buy the cheapest, reasonably good potting or garden soil and enrich it with homemade compost to save money. Of course, creating your own compost is always a great idea. It can easily be made for free with household and kitchen waste. If you find free pine straw or grass clippings, these materials also make good mulches. Just be aware that pine straw is a bit acidic and not every plant is going to love it. You can even bag up leaves, let them decompose for a bit, and then use them in a similar manner. If you know someone with cows or chickens, their manure is yet another good (free) nutrient booster for your soil. You can use it alone or add to your compost.
I’ve found that pouring soured milk or cream on most plants gives them a nutrient boost. The same could be said of recycling broken eggshells by crushing them up and adding them to the soil. If you crush them up and put them in a circle around the main steam, it will also keep off pesky slugs. You can add these items whenever you want without worrying that they’ll damage the plants. However, compost and fertilizer should only be applied once or twice a year in small amounts to keep it from burning plants.
Frugal gardeners can even reuse potting soil if they mix it up with compost or other nutrient boosters. But this is only a viable option where disease hasn’t been an issue. Recycled soil is best avoided if you’re starting seedlings. After all, its very hard to tell the difference between weeds and vegetables when they’re small. Planting in ground where possible can save you a ton of money when it comes to potting soil costs. But its certainly not an option for everyone.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of plants and soil, stay tuned for Part 2: Creative Re-purposing – The Budget Garden Levels Up! Good luck with your budget friendly garden until then.