Itching to Get Going. . .
Happy New Year, all!
I’ve officially reached the passive-aggressive stage in my relationship with Old Man Winter. I bought a cute umbrella for spring rain showers and I’ve donned my Keds more than once in ten-degree snowy weather. If I can’t have 60 and sunny, I sure as heck can try to will springtime my way with my actions, right?
Even though it has been a bitter cold, gray start to 2017, I’m getting a game plan together for this year’s garden. I started gardening as a way to enjoy organic foods while cutting my family’s grocery budget (and I genuinely like it) so I don’t allow myself to dip to deeply into our funds for personal food production.
Last year our big investment ($56) was a rain barrel through a local non-profit. It was an invaluable purchase since we used it all season long to water our food and flowers. This year, after tax season, we plan to invest in a Hoss Wheel Hoe (a splurge at $200), but after using a borrowed one last year we decided it would make life in our 2500+ sq foot garden a lot easier.
Other than that this year’s big splurge, the only things I plan to purchase are a few packets of seeds, some beneficial bug strips, and maybe some bamboo poles to build trellises out of. Below are a few ways you can get started in the garden for virtually nothing:
Seeds: Hit up the dollar store. I snatch up heirloom variety seeds from my local Dollar Tree early in the season. Seed packets from dollar stores are often four-for-one-dollar or ten-for-one-dollar. After I’ve perused dollar store shelves, I purchase what I wasn’t able to find at a local garden store or online from a supplier that has taken the Safe Seed Pledge. You can also find great containers for growing plants at the dollar store. Tip: Grow heirloom plants and you can harvest your own seeds for future use.
Seed Containers: I only own three seed trays that I purchased two years ago from a local garden supply store. My seed trays usually house my carrot and beet seedlings. Everything else I either direct sow (like garlic, potatoes, radishes and peas) or I start in 32 oz yogurt containers and 12 oz clear plastic drinking cups (like cucumbers, melons, tomatoes, etc.). I also use plastic spinach and lettuce containers to start my own lettuce and greens in. Remember to add drainage to the bottom of your recycled containers before planting seeds. You can reuse these containers year after year. Tip: Invest in a soil blocker and you can eliminate the need for seed tray inserts and make transplanting a breeze.
Grow Lights: I haven’t been able to justify this purchase. I don’t want to pay for the lights OR the extra electricity to power them. If I can’t find a sunny spot inside by a window to start seeds then I simply wait until the weather is warm enough to put seedlings outdoors. Last year I started almost all of my seeds in my front picture window. This year I’ll try my three season room and see how that goes. Tip: Flip a clear or opaque storage bin over seedling trays and containers outdoors to create a mini greenhouse. Just remember to place something heavy on top to keep wind from blowing it away and crack it now and then to allow fresh air in.
Compost: Don’t invest in a fancy compost jar for your kitchen. We use a large pickle jar at our house. When it fills up, I walk it out back and dump it. Everyone can compost. Even if you live in an apartment you can make a vermicompost container to keep indoors. Your food scraps (along with egg shells, tea bags, coffee grounds, leaves, weeds, wood chips, some paper/cardboard products, etc.) can create rich nutrients for your garden FOR FREE. You can even add livestock manure to compost piles (just make sure it’s well composted before planting in). Tip: Swipe the giant office coffee ground container for your indoor compost holding tank (we use one for spent cooking oils in our kitchen). You can tuck it under your kitchen sink and it’ll stay air-tight as to not smell up your house.
Tools & Supplies: Check websites like Freecycle.org and Craigslist.org before purchasing anything full price. Garage sales are also a great way to nab items you don’t have. Call around to local greenhouses and see if they’ll let you grab compost or a few seed trays. You can often find nice garden tools, fencing, scrap wood, manure and more for pennies on the dollar when you buy used or snag them for free. Tip: Can’t find what you need on resale sites, but still can’t justify the cost to purchase? See if your community has a garden tool rental program. Oftentimes you can rent tools for free through community garden organizations.
Do you have tips for saving money in the garden? Send them my way!