The ecomony''s lousy. Costs are up. Incomes are down.

Gardening has many benefits. Sense of peace, connection to nature, sense of accomplishment, source of pesticide-free food, something to do on Sunday morning as the neighbors drive to church....

But if we don't watch ourselves, we can buy great plants, hardscaping, watering systems, packaged compost, and wind up with what amounts to $20.00 tomatoes. Not cheap. Maybe really, really, good, but not cheap.

As an officially "cheap" guy, I do lots of things to save money in the garden. None are original. Some I learned from grandparents, who learned from their parents. Some are newer to me. Please feel free to add more! I could probably use some of your frugal habits!

1. Grow from seed. A packet of seeds can last for several years. This year's beans were from packets that I bought last year, so essentially free seeds. The tomatoes were from 2 to 3 year old seed packets. Even more free. Fresh seed is usually very cheap, compared to buying the plants. Saved seeds take a little more effort, but if you have nonhybrid varieties, they are even more cheap.

2. Grow from free starts. Some (not all) of our grapevines were from cuttings taken from established vines. Very little effort, and no cost. It takes about 4 years to get grapes from cuttings. We also have chives, mint, multiplier onions, garlic, garlic chives, forsythia, fig trees, pussy willow, rose of sharon, sedum, sempervivum, strawberries, and roses grown from free starts. Somehow, this is also much more rewarding than buying them. It's also fun to say, "This came from my friend's yard" or "this came from my grandmother's yard". I also have irises that came from illegally-dumped yardwaste in a local park. Somehow, I take pride in that as well. They are really gorgeous, too. I think that the official word for this is "scrounging".

3. Let the lawn go brown. This applies to dry-summer climates. Not all neighborhoods allow brown lawns, and not all spouses allow them. If you can get away from it, quit watering it, let it go brown. Cut any weeds that come up. When the rains start again, the lawn will green up and grow again. Mine has for the past 5 years. This is nature's cycle. Expectation of green lawn in a dry-summer climate is zone-denial. Tell the neighbors to get over it. Meanwhile, you save the cost of energy, gas/electricity if you are using a power mower; cut back on the water bill, and can be smug about your environmental consciousness.


4. Exchange with online or local friends. Most of my fig trees were started from cuttings that came from an online fig forum. Members mail cuttings to one another, so the cost is just postage and packaging.


5. Use gardening to accomplish other goals. This grape arbor provides shade for a south-facing French door. We built the arbor over a weekend. The grapes were either cuttings, as already mentioned, or 1st year plants for about $10.00. The arbor provides deep shade in the summer, keeps the bedroom much cooler than it used to be, saving air-conditioning costs. It also provided about 50 pounds of grapes last year, which are so sweet and 'grapey' they make the grocery store grapes hang their heads in shame.



6. You know I had to mention chickens. Actually, they do not make for cheaper eggs than you can get from the grocery store. However, the eggs are much better, and they come from happy hens. To save money, on feed, I feed them fresh weeds or leaves every day. This supplements their diet - they still get prepared chicken feed. Given how rank the grapes grew this year, I break of a couple of 6-foot grape branches and give them to the hens, every day now. They devour the leaves quickly. The hens also get lots of kitchen scraps, and any slightly moldy but not rancid veggies and other foods. I no longer buy packaged manure for the garden - instead, the chickens provide lots of good compost.

7. Scrounge for compost sources. Drop by starbucks or other coffee shops and ask for coffee grounds. Our local shops sometimes give me 50 pound bags of coffee grounds, happily. Unfortunately, then I feel guilty about taking something for free, and but a cup of coffee. Coffee grounds are similar in carbon/nitrogen ratio and other minerals, to manures, but smell a lot better.

8. Save eggshells and scatter them on the tomato patch. Eggshells are high in calcium. You could buy lime, but eggshells are free. I crush them so that they don't look like eggshells.

9. Grow some shade trees from seeds. True, you may not live to sit in their shade, but someone will. I planted ginkgo, locust, and maple seeds when I was in grade school. These are now huge trees (because I am old). A seed-planted ginkgo, started 10 years ago, in my yard is about 15 feet tall now. I feel very good about that.

Tags: cheap, frugal, fruit, gardening, organic, vegetables

Views: 570

Replies to This Discussion

Grundgetta,

Thanks for the really nice description of your gardening. Like mine, it sounds a little messy, but "real", which is what I like. It doesn't fit in with modern suburban "estate"-style yards. They can go **** themselves, "estates" are not productive, not earth-friendly, and they don't have a right to tell me what to do with my yard.

That being said, it probably helps that I share fruits and vegetables and eggs and flowers with neighbors. Not a lot, but even a little is a nice gesture.

I added a water barrel last week. Our Summers are mediterranean and dry, but even a small rain fills it up. The spout drains half of my roof. The rain water is no-salt, unlike well water, so it doesn't add unwanted salts to container plants. Plus, it isn't part of the well-water system, so I don't feel guilty about using it to water. I may add a second barrel if I can find one at the big-box store. I was impressed at how easy it was to set up, and how fast it filled.

I wish I could find takers for the maples and other trees sprouting in my yard. I feel guilty pulling them out. Norway maples are invasive anyway, but the Japanese maple seedlings are cool to look at. Also the ginkgo seedlings that I compulsively plant despite not gaving a place to put them. Also the wild cherry seeds that I planted - I will prune one small for a unique backyard-orchard tree (aggressive pruning to keep it limited) so that the fruits are accessible and the tree doesn't take over the yard. Also the fig trees that I compulsively start from cuttings, ditto.

Newspaper mulch is a good way to start a garden bed in former lawn. They say to put down a layer of newspapers, I think about 10 sheets thick, and cover with compost. By the time the newspaper degrades, the grass is dead and the ground is friable from the added complost and effect of earthworms. I have not tried this method, however.
You're welcome, Daniel. I love seeing what other people do so I can get ideas, so I appreciate what you post here.

"estates" are not productive, not earth-friendly, and they don't have a right to tell me what to do with my yard.


Heh. Have you had experience with people not liking how you deal with your yard?

I will have to have a stern talking to every neighbor that borders our land, as they decide something should be done and just do it... they know I have back problems, so they think they are are "helping" me. I'd rather take a few years to do something myself, and do it right, rather than have someone come in with "help" that will take me a very long time to fix.

You found a water barrel at a big box store? Which one?

I think I remember reading something years ago about how immigrants in Cleveland somehow kept their fig trees going from year to year. They'd bury them in the ground overwinter... as I remember, my memory could have become less persistent on this.

I'd gladly take some of your seedlings, but I'm trying to find plants that got their start in this region. Someone in a local tree planting group is working on getting a village nursery started... I'll write them again.

I'm going to try the "lasagna method" (probably the same thing as newspaper mulch covered with compost) of getting plant beds started this year since we have so much room. I ask local gardeners about no til methods, and they look at me like I'm from another planet. One of our neighbors brings in a... can't remember the name, it's a commercial piece of machinery used on construction sites to dig holes. There goes the soil structure!
Actually my neighbors have been OK. I think as long as there is the guy who stands in the front driveway powerwashing it, hours on end, several days a week, keeps their judgements pointed away from me. He does have a really clean driveway, however.

My house had been abandoned when I bought it. I think they feel like it's better to have someone living there, even if it is the strange guy with all of the fruits and vegetables in the front yard, and the brown lawn and too many weeds. Some other neighborhoods in my town do have covenants stating what can be planted in the yard, and what color the house can be painted, etc. But not mine.

Water barrel was from Lowes or Home Depot, I forget which.
Thanks! I'll have to check out the local Home Despot, as the Lowes is a packed lunch and day trip away.

My neighbors probably think I'm weird also, but I have noticed a slow change in attitude when they see a bountiful squash harvest and other great things being produced.  A sack of cherries and a few other things to each of them every year helps also.

Giving them some of the bounty goes a long way.  I've given eggs  and fruit to various neighbors.  I think it's a nice gesture.

What kind of squash does well in Idaho?  Maybe it would do well too.  Any special treatment?  Do you direct plant or start early?

Zucchinis do great for me.  They get a lot of compost.  I start them early.

I grew butternut squash this year.  Got a few.  I like them too.

Most squash do well for me here, but the heaviest producers are hubbard, pumpkin, butternut, and summer.  Summer squash have been prolific everywhere I've been.

I start everything early in pots here because something eats the young plants if started in the soil.  Perhaps that will change someday if I keep being nice to my soil.

Thank you for the info.  I already have the seeds for next years squashes!  Zucchini, summer squash - both bush type.  A bush type butternut.  Pink banana  squash, scallop squash, and some pumpkins.  Overdid it again.

Little Name, I can relate to your statement: "they think they are are "helping" me. I'd rather take a few years to do something myself, and do it right, rather than have someone come in with "help" that will take me a very long time to fix."  I've had those experience  also.

Just a few days ago, I was cleaning-out my pickup truck in preparation to selling it, when a guy stopped and asked if he could help.  I said no, but he persisted.  I explained that I was the only one that could decide what to keep and what to throw away, but he seemed to have no comprehension of what I was saying, and kept asking.

One year I hired my brother, to build me a bedroom in the basement and do some other remodeling.  He's a great guy, but one of those people that can't seem to slow down enough to get things done right.  He destroyed an expensive hole-saw I had by drilling into concrete, even after I warned him about it being on the other side of the wall he was making a hole in.  He also installed several electrical outlets not plumb or even with the wall in his rush.  Part of his rush was probably to get as much done as possible for the money I was paying him, but I would prefer to pay more and have a better job done.

Spud, 

It's interesting.  Little Name left Nexus a few years ago.  I wonder what happened to her...   Some folks go from very involved, to disappear.  Makes me sad.  I enjoyed having her here.

Usually I would rather do things myself.  It's partly wanting it done right.  Sometimes it's I don't want to hassle with opinions and "I know how to do it better"  stuff.  Partly, doing stuff is a type of puttering meditation. 

Last weekend I replaced the pipes in my wellhouse.   They burst in the big freeze.  I wanted to hire a plumber.  I have never installed vinyl pipes, didn't know how to cut or glue them.  There were multiple connections and bends.  I so hated the idea of calling a plumber, and dealing with them.  I've had very bad experiences with obnoxious plumbers..  So I took the old broken pipes to Home Depot, found ones that looked like them, got the parts, glued, and installed.  I didn't want to.  I was too tired to think. I felt bad.  It needed 4 trips because after replacing. the first pipes, I discovered downstream pipes that had developed big leaks.  But it's done and it worked.  I would be proud of fixing it, but I didn't really want to.

Now I do have a cool vinyl pipe cutting tool, to use for the vinyl pipe low tunnel hoops.  That is fun.

I guessed that Little Name was probably not with us anymore because I've not seen her name except today on her old post.  A friend disappearing is sad.  

I also agree with your other reasons for wanting to do things yourself.

I've had limited experience with "professional" workmen because I hate dealing with them.  The one I hired to build my back fence (at the insistence of my wife), did a lousy job.  I now have 3 cables going from the top of my house to the fence to keep it upright until I get the time to take it down and put-up a proper one.

Congratulations on the success of your well-house project.  I do most things myself and the ones I haven't done before don't always turn-out well on the first try.  But they are a good learning experience.

Cardboard Mulch - works better than newspaper for areas with hard to kill weeds. Lasts two-three years. Tough like weed barrier. 

Rug Mulch - Okay, we had a really tough spot along the fence, so I threw an old rug down and cut holes in it and planted a sumac some flowers. The flowers seem to be okay, but my sumac is spotty and the leaves are not turning color like they should. I think the chemicals in the rug are leaching. We plan to pull the rug up now that the plants are dormant - won't do this idea again.

Water Barrels - Saw an ad on Craigslist for two water barrels, 10$ each. Some kid was dismantling two school buses that had portable water barrels on them. We bought them and modified them so that they have downspouts. We cut the tops off and covered the tops with mesh to prevent mosquito breeding. We then dropped small submersible pumps in, and hooked the pumps up to a battery that is connected to a single solar panel. We attached that to a nearby on-off switch, and with a flick of a switch, we have water pumping through a hose out of our water barrels.

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