Frugal gardening

Get a Jump on Gardening Overhead

by M. Carole Wyatt

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One humorist joked that he spent $68 to grow one tomato. This is believable if he bought all his gardening supplies retail. I usually start my garden inside with seeds. Seeds are a dime a packet at the drugstore and dollar store. If you garden every year, you can harvest your seeds and pay nothing. You can even trade seeds with gardening friends.

Instead of using store bought peat pots, you can use Dixie or Styrofoam cups, be sure to punch a hole in the bottom and place them on an aluminum cookie sheet. Forget expensive name brand soil; dig up some from your own yard. The seed cups are in a well-lit window ready to grow. Now it is time to think about the plot.

All gardens need fertilizer. One method is to leave mulched leaves and grass on the garden site over the winter. A more balance compost would be composed of vegetable peels, eggshells and yard waste you throw away every day. Start cold compost in a plastic trashcan by layering soil between the items. Not everything can go in the compost barrel; don't put any meats, prepared food, or leftover salad with dressing into your compost barrel. Don't forget to add worms.

Start saving semi-transparent white plastic gallon milk jugs. The containers are a versatile gardening tool. Cut off the bottom and you have an instant greenhouse to protect young plants from cold snaps. It also shields the plant from rabbits and other nibblers. Five-pound coffee cans opened at both ends also protect young plants. Wind chimes and hanging aluminum pie pans discourage birds.

A major expense for the garden is pesticide. Keep in mind, pesticides rid you of bees and butterflies, your pollinators. One way to cut down on your pests is to make the garden less inviting. You can do this by the arrangement of your plants. Garlic and onion bulbs' aroma keeps insects at bay. Plant the aromatic bulbs between plants. An added touch is to surround the garden with a border of marigolds. This attractive flower discourages insects and wildlife. Your garden won't be totally bug free (few gardens are), but it will have a lot less pests.

Soon the tomato plants will start putting on fruit, so it is time to support their limbs with pantyhose. Never throw away ruined hose again. The stretchy fabric supports the limb without cutting into it. The hose can be used for almost any plant depending how many pairs you have.

Weeds bothering you? Be careful with retail herbicide because they may kill your plants. I deal with weeds the old-fashioned way with a small weed whacker. Ambitious gardeners sometimes place layers of newspapers around the plant and then cover them up with mulch. The papers eventually dissolve. Others use old tires stacked on top of each other to make individual easier-to-weed planters for their plants or herb gardens. Whatever you chose to do, it doesn't have to cost a bundle. The important thing is just get out there.

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