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Gardening on the Cheap

IMG_1625I choose to garden in order to save money for my family; not to go into debt or spend a fortune in the process. After all, we are trying to grow our own food so that we don’t have to spend buckets of money at the grocery stores, or be slaves to the commercial system in order to feed our family.

That’s why I’m a frugal gardener. But at the same time, I’m very particular about how I garden on the cheap. I don’t want to cut corners on things that will harm the quality or safety of my food. I won’t lie – it’s not always easy to accomplish. Walk into any garden store or look at any fancy garden catalog and you’re instantly tempted to buy all sorts of cool gardening gadgets (that you don’t really need).

I try very hard to make good use of what items I have on hand in the garden. I also make sure that anything I buy is well worth the money and is a good value. It’s a continual process and I learn a little more each year. I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve also learned some really great ways to save money in the garden.

1. Use what you have around the house. Do you really need the fanciest hose the garden store is selling for the low, low price of $50? Probably not. Your old hose, unless it is leaking or cracked, is probably just fine. Moral of the story: Learn to love what you have and make do with it.

2.  Use your own soil – make compost & fertilize naturally! This is the #1 money saver I can think of right off the top of my head. Instead of wasting precious money hauling in expensive “healthy” garden soil, why not make YOUR own soil work for you? Compost is rich in minerals and nutrients your plants need. Adding compost to your soil can make almost any soil top-quality over time. Additionally, using a natural fertilizer such as ProtoGrow can double your efforts to make your soil healthy. ProtoGrow is an economical investment for healthy soil not just now, but for years to come.   In the next few weeks I will be sharing with you my “do-it-yourself” adventure into building a cheap & easy compost tumbler. So, stay tuned for that!

3. Shop second hand: Yard sales, Craigslist, etc. If you must have fancy garden tools, or if you’ve found a real need for something try buying it second hand before you pay full price. I’ve gotten many of my yard items this way. Check repair shops for mowers, tillers, and other heavy-duty garden and yard equipment. They will often sell them cheap, especially when a customer drops something off and never returns to pick it up.  Consider renting tools for bigger projects.

4. Make your own. When in doubt, make it. We’ve built everything from chicken coops to raised bed boxes ourselves…and saved tons of money in the process. Don’t have a clue where to start? Try YouTube – they have a video for almost every project you can imagine. And like I said above – stay tuned as I will be showing you how to build your own compost bin in a few weeks! (Alright, just as soon as I can hold my husband down long enough to get it done & videotaped!)

5.  Grow plants that WORK for you. Not the other way around. This is why I like perennials. They come back year after year (usually) and you don’t have to keep buying them.  For your food garden, make sure you buy heirloom seeds so that you can save seed each year. With heirloom seeds, it’s pay once and use them forever! I don’t mind paying a little more for heirloom seed for that reason alone. I know it is an investment that will pay me back with dividends in a very short time.

6.  Start with seeds.  Starting your plants from seeds is much more economical than buying plants at the store. For instance, a tomato seed can cost you less than a penny if you play your cards right (see above #5!).  But an heirloom tomato plant? They can sell for $2-5 at the farmers market! For just one plant! So, if you haven’t learned how to start and raise seeds at home, that needs to become a top priority.

As you can see, gardening doesn’t have to be a budget-buster activity. It can actually pay you money back when you get a few basics down. It’s taken me a few years to get to this point, but I’m finally getting there. Just this week someone asked me if they could buy produce from me instead of going to the farmers market. You could actually make your little garden into a nice side income with enough effort.

But that’s another post for another day.


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