Gardening can be expensive just like any other aspect of life. However there are ways to save money and still have a beautiful, productive garden.
It is easy to get carried away with spending lots of money on your garden. Garden centres, tool catalogues, seed catalogues and your local home centre all tempt you with the must-have tools, supplies and seeds; without these it seems you can’t have a successful garden.
You can however find ways to avoid having to spend time and money buying a car or truckload full of garden supplies. Here are my top 6 ways to save.
1. Reuse containers for seeding
You don’t need to go and purchase special flats, pots and especially not peat or Jiffy pots in order to seed your vegetables and flowers.
What can you use?
- clamshell containers such as you might get takeout salads in or other convenience foods. It helps to choose ones that are square or rectangular instead of round or other funny shapes (I have some octagonal ones for instance) as the former takes up less room. The advantage of a clamshell is that you can close the transparent top and it serves to keep the soil warmer (especially if you use a heat mat) and keeps it from drying out
- yoghurt containers work well, the one-serving size for starting seeds and the larger size for repotting seedlings to allow them to grow larger before they get transplanted outdoors
- styrofoam meat trays can be used as trays to put my pots and containers on to keep water from dripping on the ground
- newspapers can be made into pots by rolling them up and crimping the bottoms and then placing them in a plastic container
- egg cartons can be used with each egg compartment holding one seed but there is some concern about salmonella and I found the egg compartments were a bit too small – I might try this again
Just make sure you clean the containers well with hot, soapy water. And punch some drainage holes in the bottom.
2. Make your own compost…
Most avid gardeners have a compost pile or a compost bin. It is a great soil amendment that you don’t have to go out and buy. You can control what goes into it and when it’s ready you just need to sift it and apply it. No need to drive to the garden centre and load heavy bags of compost into your car and then unload and lug them into your garden. Plus less waste since you don’t have the empty bags to get rid of.
Composting your garden waste also keeps what your plants generate on your property so that you don’t have to pay to get rid of the waste (even if you have free municipal drop-off locations you still need to drive there which costs money).
However don’t be too greedy putting everything in your compost. If you have a municipal kitchen waste bin, use this for diseased plant material and perennial weeds as you don’t want these in your compost unless your compost’s core temperature is high enough to kill these. Better not to take a chance – I’ve learned the hard way as I distributed compost on my garden that contained many iris seeds that now are sprouting everywhere!
3. …and mulch
If you have lots of fruit trees like I have, you will generate piles of pruned branches every year, everything from whip-thin watershoots to dead branches that might be as thick as your thumb. These can all be easily shredded. However this requires the investment of a shredder, preferably electric. The cost of the shredder though pays itself back in a short period of time. Or you could rent one if you only use it once a year.
Shredding the branches gives you a coarse but very useful mulch that you can use on flower beds, vegetable beds and on pathways. Again you save money not having to get rid of the branches.
Bonus is if you have a wood stove like we have or a wood-burning fireplace or outdoor oven. Any branches that are too big to fit in the shredder you should saw into lengths that fit in the wood stove and stack for seasoning until winter. These are great to start a fire.
4. Rainwater harvesting
Disclaimer: some jurisdictions have strict laws about collecting rainwater and actually ban this practice. So before starting to collect rainwater make sure you are not breaking any laws.
Rainwater is much better for your plants than regular tap water. It has no water treatment chemicals in it and tends to be warmer than tap water, especially if it has been sitting in water barrels in the sun. You can have water barrels in various corners of your house close to where you need to water so you save time and effort not having to lug watering cans or hoses all over your property.
Plus the frugal gardener loves that it saves you money on purchasing water from your local utility. Some utilities also charge not only for the water coming out of the tap but also a sewage fee for getting rid of the water once it is used. So you are paying sewage fees for water that never reaches the sewer/storm drains (unless you overwater).
Setting up rainwater barrels doesn’t have to be expensive. I purchased some used plastic barrels that contained food and that were properly sanitized. Then it was just a matter of hooking them together with some ABS pipe. I’ll do a future post on rainwater harvesting to expand on this topic.
5. Saving on seed purchases
Sowing seeds instead of buying seedlings saves a lot of money, especially if you are planting a lot of vegetables.
Seed catalogues tempt the gardener with the newest varieties of vegetables and flowers. It’s not enough for instance to buy just one seed packet of lettuce when there are so may kinds out there that you want to try growing.
So how can you save on your seed purchases?
- buy a seed blend – this usually then gives you a few varieties, the only downside is you won’t know which seed is which variety
- share seeds with friends/family/colleagues – each person buys one packet and then each of you can get a small number of seeds from each variety
- Focus on buying seeds of vegetables that you and your family like to eat, but don’t let that stop you from buying and planting seeds of vegetables that are not your favourites or that you have never eaten – with the right recipe or sauce, you can make almost any vegetable taste great!
- keep your seeds in a cool, dry place (I keep mine in the fridge in a box) and they will last several years so that you don’t need to buy new seeds every year – some seeds though are better to buy fresh every year
- go to a local Seedy Saturday or seed swap – most larger cities have these once a year, often in late winter where you can bring your own seeds and then swap for other seeds
- save your own seeds – a future post will cover this more thoroughly, but essentially you try and harvest seeds from your plants and keep them to reseed the following year
- get extra seedlings from gardeners like me that always seem to overseed – we end up having way too many “baby” plants and no room to transplant all of them, but of course don’t have the heart to just throw the extra seedlings away
- make your own seed tape and sheets
6. Buy used tools
For tools such as shovels, rakes, hoes, even pruners you may be able to find some good deals at garage sales, swap meets, flea markets, store closing sales, estate sales, and the various online classified ad services such as Craigslist, Kijiji, etc. But buy good quality tools even if they are used. Check for damage that can’t easily be fixed but even if the tool is very dirty and rusty, you may be able to bring it back to its former glory with a bit of elbow grease.
Power tools are a bit more of a gamble as these are generally more expensive to purchase even when used and have the potential of having serious issues that may cost quite a bit to repair. So buyer beware but sometimes you can pick up some great deals on gently used equipment. Do the environment a favour though and avoid buying gas-powered equipment. There are now very good electric and battery-powered alternatives which are in most cases cheaper than their gas-powered versions. Also they are easier to maintain. I’ll expand on this further in the future.
Do you have any other ways that you save money in your garden? Please share in the comments.