Gardening is a popular hobby that also helps individuals and families save money by growing their own food. You can easily budget proof your vegetable garden with a few economy friendly gardening tips for getting healthier crops, producing larger yields, and spending less on gardening equipment, supplies, and water bills.
To save some money on your gardening efforts, try some of these tips for a budget proof garden and a reduction in gardening costs.
1. Start your seeds in egg cartons. If you start saving your egg cartons up over the winter, you should have a nice supply of perfectly-sized seed cells just waiting for your veggie garden seeds. You can also feel good about being green – reduce, reuse, recycle!
2. Save seeds from good crops each year. If your green beans do really well or if you just love how your cucumbers turned out, be sure to save a handful of seeds so you can enjoy a similar crop the following year. The Kitchen Garden Box: Save and Sow Seeds of Your Favorite Vegetables by Mike McGrath, host of Public Radio’s “You Bet Your Garden,” offers countless tips on saving, drying, and storing seeds, as well as a number of seed envelopes to keep your seeds safe and available for next year.
3. Repurpose your college black lights. Simply pick up a “grow light” at Wal-Mart or a home improvement store and swap out the old bulb for the new one. This is much more economical than buying the entire grow light kit they sell online, and you can use a variety of materials and shelving to create your own plant light environment.
4. Start your own compost pile. If you want to improve the quality of your veggies without commercial fertilizer, you can always try composting. “My tip would be to create your own compost using yard clippings and kitchen scraps,” says Kristin Grilli of Burpee. “Compost is really great for the vegetable garden. Plus, it is much more cost-efficient to create your own rather than purchase it from a garden center.” For additional tips on composting, see: http://www.howtocompost.org.
5. Pay attention to the instructions on each seed packet or starter plant. If your veggie plants prefer partial shade and you plant them in full sun, you may not get the results you are looking for, and in fact, might not see the plants come to full term if the sun is too hot for them. Plant your vegetables in their preferred locations when possible and you should notice they will eventually repay the favor.
6. If you don’t have good soil, create your own “garden boxes” or garden beds using eight-foot long 2x4s. For each garden box, you need two boards for a four-foot square garden bed, three boards for a four-foot by eight-foot rectangular garden bed, or four boards for an eight-foot square garden bed. For a four-foot square garden box, simply cut each 2×4 in half so you have four-foot lengths. Nail or screw them together and paint them your desired color with spray paint. For the larger size garden boxes, simply nail or screw together the four boards in a large square and then paint them your desired color. Fill the frames with topsoil and compost or manure and enjoy your new garden beds!
7. Improve your soil before you plant your vegetable garden seeds. If you don’t have good soil to begin with, you can improve the soil quality by mixing in compost. Mike McGrath, author of The Kitchen Garden Box: Save and Sow Seeds of Your Favorite Vegetables, shares that yard waste often makes great compost for home gardens.
8. Install a rain barrel for watering. Gardeners can easily save a few bucks with this tip. “This way they can cut down a bit on their water bills by using rain water harvested in their rain barrel for watering the vegetable garden,” says Kristin Grilli of Burpee.
9. Use Epsom salt as a low-cost alternative to fertilizer, pest control, seed starters, and more. You can feed your tomatoes with Epsom salt as well as your houseplants, roses, and more. For additional gardening tips using Epsom salt, see: .
10. Get creative with the products and recipes you use with the crops you harvest from your vegetable garden. Try new recipes each year or make your own seasonings, condiments, and sauces. Mike McGrath’s The Kitchen Garden Box: Save and Sow Seeds of Your Favorite Vegetables offers tips and recipes for making your own pickles, paprika, hot sauce, tomato sauce, relish, and more.