Ask Miserly Moms: Gardening

by Jonni McCoy


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Q I want to be able to landscape my yard, but flowers and shrubs are so expensive. I've tried to plant some perennials so they'll continue to bloom every year, but our yard still needs lots of work. Any suggestions on finding inexpensive plants, shrubs, and or trees? I'm tempted to go to the woods and look for things to steal every spring! And we all know that's not right. Please help if you can.
Catherine

A Gardening is the number 1 hobby in America. But it doesn't have to cost you a fortune. I know friends who purchase ready-to-plant flowers and shrubs every spring. This costs them $200-300 per year. It is convenient to have an instant garden, but it can be done for less.

Growing your own plants from seeds can save you a tremendous amount of money. A packet of seeds that costs $1 can yield up to 50 plants. That's 2 cents per plant, as compared to $2-3 per plant for full grown.

I plant my seedlings indoors several months before planting season. If you live in a warmer climate, you can start the seeds directly outdoors when the danger of frost is over. If you need to start indoors, place the seedlings in a sunny area. I use inexpensive pots or seed starter trays. Another option is to use egg cartons. Place one half of an empty egg shell in the bottom of each egg holder for added fertilizer. I place the pots on an old cookie sheet to catch any water spills.

I try and make my gardening investment provide some sort of "return." Therefore, I plant more vegetables than flowers. It helps cut back on my grocery expenses.

Some plants are more costly to maintain than others. Many require lots of water, special fertilizer and costly pesticides. Roses are a good example of a high maintenance plant. Make sure that you know what your plants will require before deciding what to plant.

Xeriscaping is worth looking into. It is the science of low maintenance landscaping. This does not mean that your yard will be filled with cactus and rocks. There are many vegetables, flowers and shrubs that do well in dry areas.

Fertilizing and mulching a garden can run up quite a bill, so here are some cost saving tips:

  • Manure can be gotten for free from horse stables and chicken farms. Often manure comes with weeds or seed, but composting it before use will heat up the seeds and kill them.

  • Mulch is free in some cities if they have a recycling program or a local public farm.

  • Making your own compost pile will save you from buying expensive soil for your garden. There are books at the library that tell you how to start one cheaply and easily.

  • Seeds go on sale in March and again mid-summer for as low as 5c per packet. You can also save the seeds from your own plants and store them for next season (don't let them get too hot or cold).

For pests, try making your own pesticide with one of these recipes:

  • Soap sprays deter aphids (3 T. Ivory Snow or Fels Naptha to 1 gl. water)

  • A few cloves of garlic crushed in some water and sprayed on pests

  • A dusting of diatomaceous earth controls aphids also

  • Placing copper bands around the garden deters snails and slugs (this works better than stale beer in pan or salt!)

I purchase my seeds from seed catalogs. It has proven to be cheaper and the seeds are a better quality. If you would like to try ordering from some seed companies, try www.burpee.com. Websites are fun to check out because they can offer so much information on a few pages. Here's another one at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/xeriscape/xeriscape.html


Jonni McCoy is the author of "Miserly Moms-Living On One Income In A Two Income Economy" and "Frugal Families-Making The Most Of Your Hard Earned Money!" Visit the Miserly Moms Website at miserlymoms.com

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