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Save Money on Gardening by Planning Ahead

Save Money on Gardening by Planning Ahead

Spring is here and it’s time to plant your garden.  Instead of just planting your garden, you should really take the time to plan your garden.  It could save you some serious money.

Most people wait until Spring is here and rush to Home Depot or their local garden store to buy things to plant.  Not just vegetables, but I’m talking flowers too.  And do you know how much a large tomato plant costs?  Five bucks!  Are you kidding me?!  How about a hanging annual plant?  Twenty bucks!  Again, you’ve gotta be kidding me!  People pay this kind of money for garden products and they purchase dozens or more of them.  Add in the fact that garden soil is now about five dollars for a few cubic feet and you’re talking about planting a garden that may not be any cheaper than just visiting your local farmers market to buy produce.

Luckily, I’ve got some experience gardening.  In fact, my family refers to me as the “greenthumb” of the family.  I’ve even started a couple bonsai plants from seed.  Of course I’m not a professional gardener, but I kill a lot less plants than most of my friends and family.  Anyway, today I’m going to share three ideas that can save you a lot of money, but all three of them require a little planning in advance of your garden.  Keep them in mind and you can use them next year.

Start a Compost Bin

Start your own compost bin.  Composting can reduce the amount of waste you send to the landfills, it can also be a great organic soil additive.  The soil in most gardens hardens and loses nutrients every few years.  By adding compost you won’t have to buy more compost manure and vegetable soil, which are both relatively expensive.  However, you will have to plan in advance.  Food items like banana peels and egg shells take months and months to compost.  Other outdoor things like mowed grass and small leaves can compost a little quicker.  You can take last years compost and add to your garden to add nutrients and softness to your soil.  If you don’t want to buy a composter, you can build your own with a few two by fours and some fencing.

Plan Your Garden

gardening tips to save you moneyPlanning your garden can save you money because it will allow you to design what will be planted where.  That way you won’t go to the store and buy too many plants.  You’ll know exactly what you want to plant, where you want to plant it, and how many of each plant.  Make sure that you design the garden so that larger plants do not block the sun from the smaller plants.  And make sure you don’t overcrowd or plant things that don’t do well in your region.  Also, plan your garden around fruit and vegetables that offer the most bang for their buck.  For example, a single tomato plant can grow a hundred tomatoes.  One of these plants can save you $50 if you were to buy those tomatoes at the store.  Other plants are large and take up precious space, yet only provide a small yield.  For example, a row of corn stalks would produce about two dozen ears of corn, but during the harvest season you can often find sweet corn for as low as one dollar per dozen.  Plant the vegetables that are the most expensive to buy in the store, and that you will actually use when you cook meals in the summer.  The final benefit of planning your garden in advance is that you can then have the time to plant your garden from seed, which is our next bit of advice.

Plant Your Seeds

Several months before Spring, you’ll want to plant some of your garden in planters inside your house.  Doing so can save you a lot of money as compared to buying potted vegetables and flowers.  Most packets of seeds cost a dollar or two, and have enough seeds to use for the next three years (depending on your garden size).  The key is to start putting your plants outside during the days as soon as the temperature is above freezing.  While the growth will slow a little, the plants will become tolerant of the cold and of the wind.  If you don’t do this, many plants will snap in half after you plant them in your garden.  While seeds work for most vegetables, you’ll learn over the years which ones’ don’t transplant well.  For example, cilantro does not do well for me when I start it in a planter and then move it to the garden.  It always gets stunted and then goes right to seed.  Now, I plant it by seed in the garden and it does much better.

A Note About Flower Gardens

To me, it is astounding how much people pay for annual flowers each year.  I watch people pushing hundreds of dollars of flowers out of Home Depot.  Flowers that will be dead in a few weeks.  I can’t understand it.  If you want annuals, you should buy the seeds and plant them in advance yourself.  However, I like to go one step further and just buy perennials.  Dahlias are a good example.  A neighbor gave us a few bulbs last year.  We planted them and they did great.  We dug them up last fall and ended up with at least 200 bulbs after we split them.  This year, we packaged the bulbs up and gave them to friends, neighbors and family so that they can do the same.  Now, we have others giving us different types of the same bulbs.  We are all basically getting flowers for free.

What Others Have to Say About Gardening

As is true with most of our posts, we check around the web to see what others are saying about the same topic.  According to Good Housekeeping, who has been giving advice like this for over 125 years, there are not only tips to save you money, but also tips to keep you from wasting money with your garden.  Here is what they had to say:

5 Costly Gardening Gaffes

Do these, and you might as well plant your coins in hopes of growing money  trees.

  • Using seeds that are past their prime — check seeds’ expiration date before  planting (or chucking) them.
  • Not getting the right soil — plants won’t survive if the soil pH is  unsuitable, or if nutrients are missing.
  • Thinking bigger is better — when you’re buying vegetable plants for  transplant, look for small to medium-size plants that exhibit good color and  pert leaves. The tallest or one that’s already budding may not settle in as  well.
  • Working with dirty tools, which can transfer plant disease around the  garden.
  • Crowding your flowerbed or vegetable patch. Plants start small but will  spread out, and if you place them too close together, their roots won’t have  enough room. Follow the directions on the flag that comes with  seedlings.

Read more at: Managing Money Tips – How to Manage Your Money – Good Housekeeping.

Leave it to Good Housekeeping to offer some good advice.  Most of the ideas are spot on in my opinion.  The only one that I’ll disagree with is the line about not using old seeds.  The seeds that you buy in a store are only good for the year you buy them.  It says so on almost every package.  However, I continue to plant old seeds.  I’m talking seeds from almost ten years ago, and they continue to grow.  Perhaps the success rate isn’t as high, but it’s still pretty good.  This year I planted about 30 seeds of a hybrid tomato called Health Kick.  The seeds were four years old.  Of the thirty seeds, at least 25 of them grew.  Because I planted the seeds with my two kids and there was a lot of chaos, dropping them, and overwatering, I’m guessing that if I planted them properly even more of the seeds would have grown.  Maybe this isn’t true of all seeds, but I have yet to find an old seed that won’t grow.

Do you have any gardening experiences that you want to share?  Please leave us a comment.


{ 2 comments… add one }
  • TheQuailsPlume May 4, 2012, 8:45 am

    Having lived in drought-conscious states before – California and Utah, notably – I am always aware of water usage. I would recommend that along with planning what plants to include in your garden, you also consider plants that require less water as well as a watering system that dispenses this valuable resource slowly but sufficiently. Drip watering systems are excellent at doing just that. Not only do they lessen the amount of waste (to the atmosphere by overspray and to the garden walk by overshooting the target), but drip systems ensure a constant level of moisture. Insufficient moisture at the root causes plants to slow their growth, and anything that slows growth, especially in an annual plant, lessens the amount of time you will be able to enjoy them. And in home-grown vegetables, insufficient or inconsistent watering actually affects the size and flavor of product you will bring to your kitchen table. You spent all that money on the plants and/or seeds, so be sure you care for them in budget-friendly ways!

  • mirage1440 May 12, 2012, 9:50 pm

    My house is too dark to start seeds early, so I end up buying plants every year. This year I am 9 months pregnant and not sure if I will make my garden as big as usual, but I would really like to at least get some tomato plants. My husband and daughter LOVE tomatoes and will eat them all summer.


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