My Frugal Life - My Frugal Garden

Thrifty is my middle name, just ask my kids. I blame it on the fact that my parents were raised during the depression, though there's really no cause for blame. Thrift has served me well over the years.

One area in which I am particularly frugal is my gardening. "Waste not, want not" is definitely my motto here. I am the only person I know who is content to allow wild blackberry bushes to thrive. I do this because I can pick, wash and freeze the berries, which I use to make cobbler during the cold winter months. Other people tend roses. I tend wild blackberries.

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My thrifty nature in the garden is really a creative outlet. For instance, I grow lavender because I love both the color and the fragrance. But with me, it doesn't stop there. I dry the flowers, strip the stalks, and tie the fragrant bits up in scraps of fabric to make drawer sachet and little bundles to add a relaxing scent to bath water. I have also steeped the dried flowers in water to make tea, which is refreshing poured over ice and served cold. You can also dry stalks of lavender and use them in dried flower arrangements and on wreaths for yourself or for gift-giving.

Another one of my favorite things to grow is tomatoes, summer just wouldn't be the same without them. The harvest from even a few plants will provide you with enough tomatoes for many sandwiches and salads. Tomatoes can also be baked, broiled, stewed, and used in countless meat and pasta dishes. Somehow, no matter how many I use, there are always more. My grandmother used to peel and can hers to use for making sauce. I like my own method of preserving because it saves a great deal of time. I simply chop the tomatoes, toss them into a blender (seeds, skin, and all), liquefy, and freeze them in plastic containers. Later I defrost as necessary and add tomato paste and seasonings to make sauce.

Would you ever consider adding broccoli or cauliflower to a sauce you're making? No? Well, think again, because it's a great way to make use of the stalks. First you chop the stalks into one inch pieces. Place them into a saucepan and cover them with water or chicken broth. Cook them until they are fork tender. Allow the mixture to cool slightly (do not drain) and ladle it into a blender. Liquefy, pour into plastic containers, and freeze. Defrost as necessary and add to your favorite tomato sauce recipe. You can also add this to some soups. Your family will never know you're sneaking in another serving of vegetables.

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A few other plants definitely worth your time and effort are zucchini, pumpkins, and sunflowers. Sunflowers are big, bold, beautiful, and something I really enjoy. I always save some seeds for planting, some for sharing, and some for feeding the birds. The seeds can also be roasted for snacking.

To prepare seeds for roasting, soak them in salt water for half an hour. Dry the seeds on a tray, stirring occasionally so they dry on all sides. When they are dry, spread them out on a baking sheet Bake them at 225 degrees F. for thirty minutes, then at 350 degrees F. for fifteen minutes longer. Cool the seeds and store them in an air-tight container.

Seeds from pumpkins can also be roasted for snacking. Remove seeds from the pumpkin, wash and dry them. Spread them out on a baking sheet and sprinkle them with cooking oil and a little salt. Bake them at 350 degrees F., stirring often, until lightly browned. Cool and serve as a crunchy snack. The pumpkin itself can be cooked and prepared to use in making pies, cakes, muffins, cookies, and even soup. Zucchini is another vegetable perfect for cakes, muffins, cookies, and soup, in addition to any other favorite ways your family may like it served.

Flower gardens also invite creativity. Assuming your flowers are pesticide-free, hearty marigold blossoms can be frozen inside ice cubes to add color to beverages. Try decorating a birthday cake for someone special with fresh violets, or topping a salad with fresh nasturtiums. Check your library or search the web for information on additional edible flowers.

Keep in mind you don't have to eat flowers to make use of them. Blossoms with thin petals, such as clematis, can be pressed and dried between the pages of a phone book. Frame the pressed flowers and use them to decorate your home or give them as a gift. Strawflowers are a delight to grow. The blossoms can be used right off the plant, and with a little glue, they can spruce up picture frames, mirrors, shelves, and more.

Gardening offers us many opportunities to save money. Start planning next year's garden now. What do you plan to grow, and how do you plan to use what you grow? How frugal can you be?

Marie from West Dundee, IL

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Comments

October 11, 20060 found this helpful

I agree having a garden is such a reward , not only does it save you money but it also can help many others . My son has had a garden for many years , he started when he was around 6 yrs old with a few tomato plants , he is now 17 yrs old . He told me this summer , you know mom if you have a garden you will never go hungry . Seems as if helping him when he was younger , made him realize how important it is the work the land . Just a little effort you will get many rewards

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