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Frugal Gardening Tips

Updated on October 10, 2013
Our garden in April, 2012
Our garden in April, 2012 | Source

Gardening Never Ends

Any gardener knows that the work never ends in a well-maintained and efficient garden. If you aren’t weeding in the summer then you are harvesting and preparing soil in the fall. If you aren’t preparing in the winter you are planting in the spring. It is never ending and it is oh, so enjoyable.

Any gardener also knows that gardening can be expensive. Buying soil treatments, compost, fertilizers, plants, etc., costs money and can quickly eat away at your savings….but…it doesn’t have to be so!

In this article we will talk about some very practical ideas for saving money around your garden. Some will save you big bucks; some will save you pennies per month; all will save you money, and for a frugal gardener that is like manna from heaven.

The other advantage of many of these tips is that they make your garden more self-sufficient so that you spend less time in the garden and have more time to enjoy other interests. Living Simple is all about simple living, and in the best of worlds you will be able to enjoy your garden while spending less time in it and less money maintaining it.

Shall we begin?

Yes, I know, we have some cleaning up to do
Yes, I know, we have some cleaning up to do | Source

Make Your Own Compost Container

Compost is a must for any serious gardener, and of course you can go to the nursery and buy pre-made compost, but seriously, how silly is that? Why not make your own compost bin at practically no cost?

There is nothing difficult about making a compost bin if you are not concerned with aesthetics. Go out and find three pallets. They are easy to find behind stores, where broken pallets are often given away. Fasten the three pallets together so they form three walls of your compost bin. You can either leave the front open, or make a fourth wall that is removable so you will be able to turn over your compost with a shovel or pitchfork.

Now start filling your compost bin with grass clipping and vegetable matter from your kitchen. Add dirt, water it daily, keep turning it over, and within months you will have great compost for the garden.

Simple Instructions

Use Rain Barrels

If you really enjoy paying for utilities where you live then skip this tip. If, however, you like saving money AND saving water, then let nature do your water-gathering for you.

You will need a 55-gallon food container($10 on ebay), and you will need to make sure you wash it thoroughly before making your rain barrel. Let’s see, what else? You will need a drill, a couple spigots and washers, and you will need the ability to follow the instructions in the video to the right of this section.

Once you have made your rain barrel, then sit back, let it rain, and use the rainwater to water your garden and potted plants. Fifty-five gallons of water will water quite a few plants!

Use Recycled Containers for Seedlings

I am always a little amused by people who go out and buy those plastic containers to start their seeds in; I can’t imagine a bigger waste of money. If you have eggs in your household, then use the egg cartons to grow your seedlings in.

We have also used yogurt containers and they work just fine; make sure to punch some holes in the bottom of each yogurt container so you don’t have any mold. Seedlings do not like mold!

Note the tent poles that are the frame for the greenhouse
Note the tent poles that are the frame for the greenhouse | Source

Make a Greenhouse for Early Spring

Do you live somewhere where spring arrives late? How about making a greenhouse so you can get those seedlings started early in the season? No, I’m not talking about spending a lot of money. The greenhouse we are building will cost about ten dollars, and that is the cost of the plastic sheeting.

Greenhouses do not have to be fancy. We have used pvc pipe as the frame for the greenhouse, and we bought the pvc pipe used from Craigslist. The greenhouse we are building for next spring will be made using fiberglass tent poles, as you can see in the accompanying picture. We will then attach the sheeting to the poles and we have a functional greenhouse that took all of one hour to make.

Grow Perennials

Yes, annuals are pretty, and yes, they come in vibrant colors, but don’t ignore perennials, the perfect plants for people who do not want to buy plants each year. The beauty of perennials from a living simple standpoint is that they keep coming back year after year after year, and many of them spread and multiply. They are, indeed, the gift that keeps on giving.

The other thing we like about perennials is that we can dig some up and trade them with neighbors who have plants that we would like to add to our garden. It’s called bartering, or trading, and it does not cost a penny, and it carries with it the added bonus of getting to know your neighbor and building community.

Insecticides Are a No-no

Take a few days and read Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” about DDT in the United States. After you finish reading that, go gather up all of your insecticides and get rid of them. You do not need insecticides in the garden to control insects. It is extremely harmful to the environment and is also harmful to the food that you are growing.

I have two words for you: diatomaceous earth! It is a natural product which, when sprinkled on your flowers and vegetables, will take care of most of your insect problems. You can sprinkle it on the leaves of plants and it does no harm to the plants, and will wash off easily.

If you don’t want to go that route, buy some ladybugs. You can actually buy those little insect controllers over ebay; release them in your garden and watch the aphids die of fright.

Are you having trouble with slugs? Here in Western Washington we actually have a Slug Festival, so you know we are familiar with those slimy garden killers. Here’s a suggestion: get a duck! I promise you that within a week you won’t have a slug problem in your garden; as an added bonus, the duck poop is excellent fertilizer.

For future use in the garden
For future use in the garden | Source
Odds and Ends for the garden
Odds and Ends for the garden | Source

Use What You Have and Get Creative

We are not into spending money in our garden. We make everything we need from scrap lumber and other items we have around the house. We keep our eyes open for free stuff on Craigslist, and we look for great deals, and I mean great deals, at garage sales. We do not buy anything new for the garden.

If you look at the pictures on the right, you will see a number of raised garden beds, all made out of scrap lumber that we did not pay for. You will see a lettuce bench, almost completed, made from scrap lumber. You will see a compost bin made out of used pallets. You will see old chairs and benches, bird feeders and watering dishes, all found for free around the neighborhood.

The total cost for everything in that garden….everything….was $20 for two loads of garden topsoil.

Get creative….get funky….get thrifty…..and get busy!

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Thoughts on Simplicity

More to Come!

There are so many ways to be creative, be frugal, and have a wonderful garden area. We have just begun on our garden and we have had countless hours of enjoyment, sitting in the garden, thinking of new ways to improve it, and just watching everything grow up around us, all fruits of our labor and creativity.

Living Simple is exactly what it says….finding ways to simplify life. Bev and I don’t care that nothing is new in our garden. We don’t care what it looks like, nor do we care if anyone else would approve. All we care about is growing our own food in the least invasive way possible and for the least amount of money.

We will be doubling the size of our garden next spring, and I can promise you right now that we will hardly spend any money doing it. We have a chicken coop we want to build. I priced them recently at $400. Are you kidding me? I can build one for…..well, that’s the challenge now isn’t it? I’ll bet you I can have five chickens and a chicken coup for $50. Who wants to take my bet?

Living Simple….may you all find the joy in it!

2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)


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