Thursday, March 11, 2010
Secrets of the Budget Gardener!
As someone who spends over $100 on seeds each year, I know just how easy it is to break the bank when buying gardening supplies. Therefore, it just makes sense to garden on a budget when expanding your existing plantings or starting a new garden from scratch.
There are so many easy ways to cut corners and who knows, you might even learn a little something, like how to start seeds indoors or propagate plants from cuttings.
Early spring is a great time to plan and organize your goals. By deciding what changes and additions you wish to make and how much you can afford to invest in your landscape in advance, you’ll be more apt to stick to a budget. There's also nothing wrong with creating a plan - perhaps a 2, 3 or 5 year plan (I have so many ideas, that mine has become a 50 year plan!)
This is also the perfect time to start thinking about starting seeds indoors. Many types of perennials, annuals, veggies and herbs can be started indoors in a sunny windowsill or under grow lights. Growing your own veggie transplants also means that you get to choose from the huge variety of seeds available from seed catalogues. Generally when you go to a garden centre to buy your tomato seedlings, you only have a handful of varieties to pick from. Growing your own allows you to try heirloom and unique varieties not found locally (Sungold tomatoes, Cherokee Purple tomatoes, Black Krim tomatoes, Big Rainbow tomatoes, Lemon cukes, etc.) For more detailed info on starting seeds, please refer to my earlier post on Seeds vs Transplants.
In late spring, increase your supply of hardy perennials by hosting a plant swap or organizing a plant sale. Many perennials, including hosta, daylilies, lily of the valley, perennial geraniums, iris and bee balm propagate readily from division and may be dug up and split to share or sell. Invite family, friends and neighbours to dig up and divide some of their own overgrown perennials. Also ask everyone to bring along any packets of surplus seed to trade and share.
Healthy soil is the key to a successful garden and a yearly application of compost can take your garden from so-so to sensational! Here in Halifax, the municipality recycles all of our food waste with a green bin system. But there's no need to give away your vegetable peelings, kitchen scraps and leaves when you can use them to make free food for your garden.
An inexpensive composter can be made with chicken wire and some strong wooden stakes or create a free-formed pile, turning occasionally to allow air to reach the center. A garden can never have too much compost so don’t fork over big bucks on pre-bagged organic matter when you can easily make it yourself.
Do you need to aerate your lawn this spring? Sharing the cost of rental equipment like a rototiller, lawn dethatcher or aerator can save some serious bucks too. Talk to friends and neighbours before you rent to see if anyone is willing to split the expense. Finally, buy in bulk. If you need a generous amount of mulch or topsoil, consider investing in a truckload – the cost per square yard will be significantly less than buying an equal amount of pre-bagged material.