Friday, May 16, 2014

The Frugal Garden

After a long but enjoyable day in the garden, the beds have been made (cleaned) and planted.

Gardening can be a pricey hobby, but it doesn't have to be.  And even though I put money into my garden, the benefits far outweigh the costs for me. When my time is spent gardening, I feel fulfilled. When I am fulfilled I am less likely to feel the pull of consumerism. After a day in the garden I don't want to go out and spend money. My body and mind are at peace from working in the dirt.  Who needs a new pair of shoes when they are going to get dirty anyway? Who wants to go out to eat when you are sweaty, covered in dirt and have kale blossoms in your hair?

Not to mention, who needs a gym when you are going up against this?!  This is what two of my garden beds looked like yesterday morning:

Time to tame this beast!

The kale put up a good fight, but I prevailed.

The kale stalks were massive and took a good bit of force to get them out.

It was like hacking through the jungle!

Cleaning the beds.  Looks like a jungle in there!

But it wasn't time to lay down, the clover had to be dug in and dirt added to this bed.

Folding in the Crimson Clover

No matter if you are a seasoned gardener or looking to plant for the first time this year, there are several ways to make gardening more frugal no matter the amount of money you have to spend.

And it produces food! Food you can eat! Food you don't have to buy!

In all of that "mess", there was this glorious food to be harvested.

Thyme and the final harvest of kale from last year's kale plants. It filled a whole grocery bag and weighed several pounds!

And here's what's in one of the beds currently:

Lettuce, broccoli, kale, spinach, beets and chard already thriving in one of the beds.

Below are a few ways to make gardening more cost effective.  This is by no means an exhaustive list.  Your garden is only limited by your creativity (or your ability to google)!

Make your own compost: This is something I'm working on. My parents have done it for years. I found my compost garden cones for free on the side of the road and have seen them offered on Craigslist and Freecyle often. You can also find unique ways to build your own compost bins. Although if you are composting food matter it's very important that no animals (i.e. rats *shudder*) can find a way in.

Use free resources: Craigslist, Freecyle and the side of the road are excellent options for finding many yard and garden necessities. Most of my pots have been found on the side of the road.

Plant stand and pots. Just a few of the many additions I've found on the side of the road.

Seed and plant share: I've had two offers this week alone from passers by who want to share some plants from their gardens. Gardening is such a community activity. When I am out in the garden I connect with my neighborhood in a way that is really unique and beautiful.  People offer help, too! I've had three neighbors this week alone either help with something or offer their help.  However I do live in a very special neighborhood filled with very generous community-oriented people. 

Use older seeds: Don't throw out seeds just because they are a few years old. They can last up to ten years with proper storage! While their efficacy may be affected, my mom and I have always used-up older seeds.  The most important thing is that they are kept dry and cool.

Peas from 2009

Collect seeds: If you notice in my first photo, I still have one kale plant growing that has gone to seed. I will collect the seeds when they are ready and then remove the plant. One plant produces more seeds than you could possibly use at one time. It is the most economical way to procure seeds. 

Start plants from cuttings: Neighbors will happily share a small cutting from their plants. I'm currently sprouting roots from cuttings from yellow curry and rosemary in a jar of water in my kitchen.  I've had to frequently add new water though because our kitty thinks it's really fun to knock over anything with water while we are away at work and school!

If you are going to shop, shop sales: While I love to support my local nursery when I can (and it's where I bought my fruit trees), sometimes Home Depot and other big box stores have excellent plant sales. I was able to fill a huge cart with many landscaping plants for under $100 earlier this year. They are all doing very well and would have cost triple the amount of money if I would have purchased at the nursery.

Dirt: Dirt has been my biggest overall gardening expense. I hope that with my improved focus on compost, that I will be amending my own soil and rely less on dirt I have brought in.

You can also just purchase bags of dirt and compost and plant directly in them! Just slice through the bag and plant - it's that easy!

Soil amendments: Coffee grounds are a terrific soil amendment and add much needed nitrogen to the soil. You can get them from Starbucks or local coffee shops for free! Just ask, they are happy to give it away.

Save egg shells and use them in soil for calcium or sprinkle on the top to hinder pests such as snails. To be honest, I think I might have a strain of mutant snails on my hands and there are so many that the egg shells have not been 100% effective. I'm currently placing a bounty on each of their heads for $.02 per snail that my daughter finds and puts in the compost.

An almost blank canvas. Soil with egg shells to help keep the pests away.

Get creative! Don't buy a trellis - find some sticks or poles instead. I used some decorative curvy branches I had found for free at a garage sale and made this pretty trellis for my peas. The pot was found on the side of the road and originally held a large tree. I just drilled holes in the bottom for drainage. I love the natural look of the branches.  There are so many ways to get creative in the yard and garden.

My free "trellis" for the peas.

All in all, for the exercise, food, spiritual and mental benefits, the cost of gardening is well worth it to me.  Yesterday I worked the soil and my body. I was peaceful and at ease. I planted carrots, beans, zucchini, cucumbers and pumpkins.  In the evening my daughter helped me plant some of the plants that I have been meaning to get in the dirt for quite awhile.  She asked me, "Mommy, can we garden every night?"

I'll leave you with a poem I wrote many years ago. Probably a decade before I started my own garden.

Dors bien, tu es fatigue...

 Harried garden.

 Orphaned en decembre.

 Bit by bit dew
 freezing tulip bulbs

 Sickly patch,

 you tortured poet.

 Sleep sleep sleep.
 Quiet dear.


Tangle up tonight.

Lay down.
 Let go the grip.



  1. I completely agree with you about how fulfilling gardening can be. It's obviously great to grow your own food, but it's so nice to be outdoors, especially after the long, cold winter we had here in the northeast!

    Best wishes for a successful harvest season!

  2. Thank you debtgal!!! What are you going to plant this year?


Many minds are better than one, thank you for joining me on my frugal journey! This is a place to share what you know, ask questions, or tell stories. Glad to have you here!