Tips for frugal gardening


Last updated 2/14/2008 at Noon

Who doesn’t want a picture-perfect garden? After all, if people are going to invest the time and effort into revamping their landscape they don’t want to cut corners, right?

Actually, they can take shortcuts in the garden to save a lot of money without compromising the finished product. This mostly involves using some inexpensive items in place of more costly ones when possible. Here are a few ideas to get one started. Then use imagination to cut costs even further.

Radical recycling: Container gardening is an easy way to add visual appeal to a home. Containers are generally simple to maintain and can be moved or changed as whimsy directs.

Containers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from small terra-cotta pots to large window boxes. Large containers can be somewhat costly, and filling them to the brim with rich soil can be even more so.

Instead of spending a fortune, look for inexpensive resin containers that have the look of real ceramic or stone. Fill the bottom half of a rather large container with crushed up aluminum cans and those discarded plastic flower pots that annuals come packaged in at the nursery. Fill the rest of the container with soil and save money in the process.

Most plants have shallow roots and they will never even reach the cans in the bottom. What’s more, the containers are much lighter from this effective “fill” and have improved drainage.

Use whatever is on hand: Why spend a lot of money on specialty items that cost more when one can use what’s lying around the house, or modify inexpensive gardening tools for new purposes?

For example, many at-home gardeners enjoy the look of topiaries in their yard. Topiary forms can be $20 or more, depending upon size. Instead, use a tomato plant cage with the ends tied off to mimic a similar shape. The cages cost a fraction of the “forms” and no one will know the difference once the topiary has filled it out.

Make your own soil: Pre-packaged gardening blends cost more than if one whips up some on his own. The cost is even less if you mix in some home-grown compost.

Creating a rich soil can be as simple as mixing in some fallen leaves that have been sitting in a trash bag over the winter with some ventilation holes cut in it. Mix the leaf debris into the soil for spring planting.

Grocery gardening: Experiment with planting produce from the grocery store. Whether it’s garlic cloves that are past their prime or potatoes ready to be discarded, try planting them in the yard to see if they will grow.

Other things to experiment with include avocado pits, citrus seeds, pineapple tops and more. There’s no harm in taking a chance at expanding one’s garden for no additional cost.

Grow lettuce: Salads are the quintessential diet food. But those bowls of mixed greens can be pricey if eaten out, or even if you purchase pre-mixed salad from a store.

You can grow your own lettuce varieties relatively easily and cultivate what you need for personal use. Add a little homemade dressing and you have a light meal.


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