The cost of food is rising faster than any other purchases we make regularly. One of the ways that many of us are helping to make ends meet is through gardening. Things are not expected to get any better (or even worse) next year, so my husband and I are streamlining our gardening process with garden beds and saving money where we can.
Get Good Quality Tools
The first thing that we did was to purchase good quality tools to work with. Not purchasing cheap tools may not sound like a way to save money in the garden, but it will in the long run. Last year we purchased inexpensive hoses and this year we are having to replace them with better hoses because the hoses we purchased didn’t last. By spending a little more now, if we maintain them properly, the hoses should last us several years rather than one season.
After having more success with our raised beds this past spring and summer in our two raised beds where we grew our best tomatoes and hot and sweet peppers (along with annual flowers and herbs), we decided to build even more raised beds using as many free materials as possible.
We are building the raised beds using lumber seconds that we get from our local lumber yard. E Because they aren’t perfect boards, we are getting a discount on them. We don’t use treated lumber because treated lumber emits poisons into the soil which we don’t want.
We find that 2×8 foot lumber is right for the job and the least expensive length to purchase is 8-foot boards. We use three of the boards. We cut one in half for both ends so that we have a bed that is 4×8 feet long. We screw the boards together and brace them in the corners. We prepare the soil under where the bed is going. We mow the grass at the lowest setting and then apply chicken manure in the area and cover it with local sawdust. We then cover that with cardboard and place enough down so that it extends beyond the raised bed frame.
Once the frame is in place, it is time to fill it. We add a couple inches of sawdust and scatter chicken manure over that and then add as much topsoil as we can get on top of that. Next, we use a simple sheet composting system to fertilize the ground during the off-season.
Simple Compost of Household Waste
One of the easiest ways to utilize compostable materials from the house is to put them directly in the garden area where you want to grow your plants next season. Personally, I like to just drop the garbage onto the growing surface during the non-growing season and allow the chickens free range in the area, to eat what they want and leave their own droppings behind. Then when I plant the area, I put a fence around it to keep the birds out as well as other wildlife.
Shred yard wastes for mulch
This fall when we mow the lawn, we capture all of the grass clippings in our grass catcher and incorporate them with the household wastes that we are bringing into the raised beds. This way, when the chickens scratch the surface, they are incorporating the clippings into the first few inches of the soil for the soil microbes.
We also incorporate fall leaves into the garden beds. Again, we use the lawnmower to chop up the leaves and gather them and then dump them into the beds. The chickens turn the materials in the bed for us to add to the ingredients of food for soil microbes.
Use Saved Seeds
I have looked at the price of seeds recently and I understand why people say that the price of gardening is so expensive. I started collecting my own seeds in the fall to use for the next year. Seed saving, however, is a skill, and not every seed is handled the same way for it to be viable. However, the skills are not difficult to learn.
We Grow Our Own plants
This past year we grew more of our own plants for transplants from seeds than we had in the past. The process of growing seeds for transplants involves some expenses at the beginning like you need good lighting or your seedlings will get too leggy to plant and you should use the proper germinating medium in which to grow it. We discovered that growing our own plants from seed too takes skill, but it also saved us a lot of money.
Recycle Items in the Garden
Above, I mentioned using household garbage, yard waste, and cardboard in making our garden beds, but there are so many other things that we recycle in the garden. We use plastic milk jugs to pick berries and to make cloches to cover plants on cool early spring days and nights.
We also could also poke holes in the bottom of them and bury them around newly planted tomatoes and peppers and fill them every few days with water to soak in around the plant roots over an extended period. Watering this way is better than surface watering because we’d be watering at the roots of the plants and not allowing the water to evaporate before it benefits the plants.
Now It’s Your Turn
There you have it, the seven ways that we are saving time and money for next gardening season. I would love to hear what other ways you use to save time and money in the garden. What do you do?