13 Tips to Save Money on Gardening Work.
Saving money is a great incentive for growing a garden, but it isn't the only one. I can think of many reasons, such as having great fresh produce right outside your door. It doesn't get any fresher than picked from the garden, and taken directly to the dinner table after washing. For some, gardening can be a cathartic experience. It is such an important part of my life, that it is hard for me to imagine not having one. If you are going to grow a garden anyway, you might as well save some money when possible. Here I will list some easy ways to save money while you garden.
1. Look for Bargains.
Looking for bargains seems like and obvious one, but many people don't take full advantage of it. Much of what you plant in your garden will be purchased as seeds or as well started plants in pots.
If you keep a close eye out you can many times find great bargains on seed packets. I bought a few packets of seeds for our garden in March, that were marked at $.20 a packet. Most common vegetable seeds will still germinate after several years, if stored properly. If you see a good bargain on seeds, buy enough for next year.
2. Save Money On Water.
Water is a very important expense with any garden. Even if you have a well, it costs money to pump the water out of the ground. There are several ways to save money on water.
1. Get a rain barrel. A rain barrel can be a great way to get free water for your vegetable garden. Not only is rainwater free, but it is completely natural.
2. Use mulch. If you use mulch in your garden, it will serve to hold the moisture in the ground longer and keep it from drying out. Not only does it help to conserve water, it keeps weeds from sprouting.
3. Drip irrigation. This is something that I only started using in the last few years, and I can't imagine gardening without it now. With drip irrigation, less water is wasted because the water is targeted. If you use a sprinkler, you are watering a whole lot of surface area that doesn't need to be watered. With drip irrigation, there will usually be a lot less weed growth, which is a great side benefit.
3. Start Your Own Plants Indoors.
Start seeds inside for planting in the spring. There are two basic ways to do this. You can use a window that has plenty of sunlight, or you can use artificial light. For plants like tomatoes, plant indoors six to eight weeks before you plan to put them outside in your garden. Make sure to harden your plants before you put them outside permanently. You can do this by putting them outside in a protected area for a couple of hours each day, then gradually increase the amount of time they are exposed to sunlight and wind over a period of about a week to ten days.
4. Grow Heirloom Vegetables.
An heirloom vegetable, is one that is open pollinated. Sometimes they were grown by one family over many years. Unlike hybrids, saved heirloom seeds will produce plants that will be much like the parent plant. They are considered to be some of the older varieties. Tomatoes have many heirloom types on the market today. One of the more common heirlooms that many people would recognize is Brandwine. They are known for their great taste, and come in a red variety, and a yellow variety. The one pictured below is a Giant Belgium heirloom tomato that we grew last year. Heirlooms often have a unique flavor, making them popular with people who love to cook. Growing them will allow you to save seeds, and instead of low cost seeds, you will have no cost seeds.
We've all seen those seed starting kits with the little plastic pots, and the tray that comes with them. Even though sometimes they don't cost all that much, by using something like a yogurt container, or some other plastic food container, you can accomplish the same thing with no cost.
Start a compost pile. I've seen them made of wood, or concrete blocks arranged in a square. They can be made from something as simple as a wire cage. In time, you will have free composted plant material that is great for growing things. Each year, when we plant our tomatoes, I dig a hole where I want each plant, and fill it with homemade compost. Most years, I don't even add fertilizer. By composting, you can improve your soil with very little cost. Soil that has been improved with lots of organic material will become easier to work, and will easily crumble in your hand like the handful I'm holding in this photo.
7. Swap Vegetables, Seeds, and Plants With Friends and Family.
Many times....make that every time, we have more tomatoes than we need. If a neighbor has more squash then they need, but not enough tomatoes, it provides a perfect opportunity for a swap. You can even take it a step further. Working with a friend or family member, you can each grow different things in your gardens and share with each other, doubling your gardening power.
8. Start an Herb Garden.
Have you ever checked the price of those little single use fresh herb packets in the store? You can buy seeds, and grow enough to pay for the seeds in one use. Some herbs like mint can be grown as perennials, and once planted can be enjoyed for years. We have two varieties of mint growing on the back side of our garage.
9. Plant perennial edibles.
Perennial food sources are often overlooked by gardeners. When it comes to growing food for little or no cost, they are hard to beat. A few of the things we have are raspberries, blackberries, asparagus, strawberries, and grapes. A fruit tree can also be a great investment if you have room. A harvest from a fruit tree can be used for canning, fresh pies, jelly, or can even be eaten right off the tree.
Berries can be eaten fresh, frozen, canned whole, or made into jelly. With the thornless blackberry varieties on the market today, you can't even use thorns as an excuse for not growing them.
Blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries can be very expensive in the grocery store. They require an initial investment when you buy the plants, but once established, they can produce fresh berries for many years.
A grapevine can produce grapes for decades. We planted a grape vine right after we moved into our home 20 years ago, and we get grapes from it every year. We eat them fresh, but we also have made jelly and homemade wine from them.
Once established, asparagus can produce for many years. There was an asparagus bed already here when we moved into our home, and it is still producing today.
How many of these tips do you use?
10. Grow things that are more expensive.
If you are trying to save as much money as you can, then planting things that cost the most makes sense.
12. Grow things that can be frozen.
This is where you can get a lot of bang for your buck, and enjoy the fruits of your labor for months after your garden is done for the year. Two items that we freeze almost every year, are green beans and tomatoes. We always have more them than we can eat, so some of them go in the freezer for later. Frozen tomatoes can be used in soups and Chile. Other vegetables that can be frozen are broccoli, corn, and carrots to name a few. Berries are great for freezing also.
13. Learn how to can food.
My grandmother had a whole room in their basement that was devoted to keeping their canned goods. The walls were lined with glass jars full of vegetables, wild berries, jelly, applesauce, and cut fruit from their orchard. She was a prepper before it was even cool.
If you live in an area where wild berries are abundant, canning will allow you to use them all year long. My grandmother used to can wild blackberries and use them to make some delicious cobbler.
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