Spring is right around the corner. Here are some tips for saving money on gardening. Post your own ideas here.
Raising your own seedlings at home is fun and cheap. Save more money by re-using containers you have around the home.
Egg cartons make fine individual planting containers that can be planted with the seedlings to avoid root disturbance. Margarine and ice cream containers with holes pierced in the base in the base are great for starting small seeds off.
Cut down plastic milk bottles or juice cartons (square 2 litres) will fit into a polystyrene (ex-veg) box. These boxes are best lined with shadecloth or newspaper to keep the soil in your seedling container. These allow you to plant your seedlings by carefully sliding them out thus again causing minimal root disturbance.
I also use toilet roll middles to grow larger seeds that do not need to be potted, like peas and beans. These are planted intact and the cardboard doesn't take long to break down.
There are many commercial seed raising mixtures on the market but I make my own up. Usually, I use equal parts of cheap potting mix or even better sifted home made compost, sand or sandy loam, and a pre-soaked cocoa peat (coir) brick. Basically you need a free draining, moisture retentive mix with little nutrient in it to start seeds germinating.
Once they have commenced growing, the smaller ones will need to be potted on. Larger seeds can be started off in bigger, single containers where they will remain till planting. The "potting on" mix needs to have some form of nutrient in it. I often add blood and bone and use seaweed extract and fish emulsion when soaking the cocoa peat brick.
As soon as you can work your garden area, stop at a starbucks and ask for their used coffee grounds. Spread and till in. It's a great revitilizer for your dirt but you need a little time, at least a few weeks, before you actually plant anything. Coffee is very "hot" and will not help your plants until it starts breaking down. Good luck and happy gardening.
Swap Seeds And Cuttings
I do the seed swap and I also share clippings of plants with others for postage. I have built up a garden to plant for this year and I did it during the year and the average cost to mail 5 plant clippings is the envelope and approximately $1.00 to $1.50 for each mailing so I get 5 plants for under $2.00. That's pretty cheap!
I belong to freecycle.org. Every year, there are many people in my area who have plants and extra seeds to share. Not only do I get a lot of free plants, I can share my extra seedlings. When harvest time comes, I have met many wonderful local gardeners and we continue to share. The harvest of fruits, veggies, cuttings, and most of all, friendship can never be measured in money. Good luck and happy gardening
When starting seeds DO NOT use garden soil or soil from the yard. Most "dirt/soil" contains the spores of many fungus and other diseases that can attack and kill your little baby plants. And most soil is too heavy for small seeds to break through to the light.
Unless you know how to blend a soilless mixture just buy a bag of seed starter mix at the nursery. You will save yourself a lot of heart ache and work if you give your little babies the best possible start in life.
It doesn't take much to start a little seed so just save what you don't use this year for next year. It will keep for decades.
Don't Forget To Compost
I know in our area the Conservation Council promoted composting, it was sponsored by the company who does our trash removal. If you take a free class on how to compost, then you would receive a free compost bin. It was so worth the class, we learned a lot of things and the compost bin is very nice. You may want to check with your local trash company.
Add Newspaper Under Mulch
I like to have mulch in my gardens because they look better and require no weeding, but it can get pretty expensive. Instead of a thick layer of mulch, I first lay down several layers of newspaper, then top it off with about 2" of mulch. It decomposes, but it's only a once-a-year job. It keeps light out but lets moisture in. This is particularly important when used in a garden in a grassy area. Grass sends out shoots and will pop up anywhere there's light.
Deer Deterrent For Seedlings
After a few years of losing seedlings to deer and bunnies, I discovered this trick. Buy some red pepper and garlic powder at the Dollar Store, and sprinkle them liberally all around the new plants. No more snacking (and no more re-planting)!
We live in Zone 4 and it gets mighty cold in the winter. I have geraniums outside in the summer and before frost comes, I pull them straight up out of the planter, shake off the dirt and set them in cardboard boxes. Paper grocery sacks work too. I set them in our basement in a corner where they are not bothered. I do not (repeat - do not) water or do a thing with them until early February. I make myself a note to watch for a "warmer" day and then I take the boxes outside and clean off all the dead stuff. I cut the stalks back to about an inch and pot them in gallon tin cans (from a school or hospital kitchen) with tiny holes made in the bottom for drainage. I set each can in an old pie plate etc to catch excess water and put them by a south window. Give them water and sunshine. By May, they are ready to set outside. People are amazed at my big geraniums because they get bigger every year and the best part is they are free! You have to start with Zonal geraniums, not Seed geraniums so they cost a bit more in the beginning but what the heck. I have a pink one that is about 10 or 12 years old. Try it, what have you got to lose?
Buy foods that have seeds in them and save and dry them after you "work up" your produce.
A few right off the tip of my tongue include:
We grew a lot of our own food and if a tomato was particularly delicious, grandma asked us to save the seeds. We didn't really bother with it if they weren't "special".
I almost forgot one of the thriftiest ones of all:
sweet potato vine
I thought of it today and, when the weather is real nice, want to start one outdoors by my back door so I don't have to keep trimming it indoors. They sometimes get going and then crazy!
Also some people have a great deal of luck with pineapple tops which they SAY after a good long while will actually produce a pineapple out the top! Sounds exciting! Avocado is very easy too.
Sunflower seeds meant for bird feed sometimes will surprise you by showing up wherever they were dropped.(too) :)
I have 3 types of coffee started now on coffee filters and a wet paper towel in a zip lock, or you can just as successfully sprout seeds in dryer lint. I have 2 types of gourds: baby bottle and loofah (which I potted today) and cider eucalyptus, which I feel I have lost already.
Recycling 2 Liter Bottles
I have been saving my 2 liter pop bottles and before cutting off the label, I cut along the top of it for a pretty straight cut and then trim it if needed to level it off. Some of them I used wrapping tape at the top folded over 1/2 way all the way around then snip with scissors every so often and fold the tabs of tape down into the inside to make it look a little more finished. I use the top parts too, filling in the bottle neck or the bumps in the bottom with dryer lint and then topping it off.
Sit the top into the bottom section to conserve space and to also put the bottom sprout in it's own little grow bin. I made a hanging planter from one pop bottle top and hung it in my window so i can see it from my place here at the desk! I made 3 red/white paperclip chains from 13 clips for each section of chain to hang it by. Not expensive in the least but will definitely serve it's purpose!
You can make your own newspaper pots by wrapping old newspaper around a can of your choice and securing it on the side and bottom with tape.
I want to take a nice drive up my country lane sometime soon (3 miles one way and 1 the other) to dig some wild flowers from a ditch to transplant.
I read an article recently about contacting your local funeral parlor and asking about plants that get left and it said they were thrilled to share some because all the staff there already adopted all they could manage.
You might visit their office or call and maybe make arrangements to get on their list about plants. I have known people who have rescued them from dumpsters. They can only be reduced in price down so low, meanwhile they take on a sickly appearance so are tossed out.
One of my moms favorite "house warming gifts" was to start a new plant for friends. She usually always had rootings in little jars or bottles on her kitchen window sill and potted them into cute 5 or 10 cents rummage sale pots or a coffee mug to give as little gifts. Do the same for someone in the hospital who will be there awhile.
Nothing real expensive because things like that are attractive to the staff and visitors because sorrowfully, they "tend to grow feet and walk off".
The easiest and most inexpensive way to acquire seeds, plants and shrubs for your garden is to swap with fellow gardeners. If you're just getting started with gardening, consider offering to trade recipes, home-made baked goods, craft items or services like weeding, dog walking or baby-sitting, in exchange for garden goodies. Another great option is online garden forums.
Collecting and saving your own seeds is easy and rewarding. It's a great way to save money, preserve and perpetuate scarce varieties and cultivate the best plants suited to your particular growing conditions.