5/15/2008

Everyday Frugal: In The Garden

Think a beautiful garden and landscaping has to be expensive? Think again! These simple environmentally friendly ideas are also easy on the wallet. This list consists of not just good theories but all things that we personally have done! If we can do them I'm sure you can too.

Compost
Most people who have looked into compost think that it is complicated with all the layering and expensive because of buying the compost bins and all the other accessories that you NEED. Composting is actually really easy and can be free or extremely close to free. Layering is over rated since you are going to be stirring the pile anyways. Just through in your leaves, grass clippings, raw fruit and veggie scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds, etc into the pile. It is important to keep any animal attracting items covered. Then just turn the pile every so often and make sure to keep it moist but not too wet. You can use about anything for your bin. We have used everything from a nice plastic one made for that purpose to wire fencing to wooden pallets. There are lots of great ideas out there if you do a google search.

Leaf mulch
Have some leaves in the fall? Why toss them when you could reuse them in your landscaping? Simply mow your leaves as they fall and then move them to your flower beds or garden and apply as mulch. You can always throw a few leaves in your compost pile too.

Newspaper weed block
This is an awesome idea that I learned about at a green living festival a few years back. It has to be one of my favorite free tricks. If you have a flower bed that has problems with weeds or want to add walking paths in your garden you can scrap back any current mulch and lay down 4+ layers of flattened sheets of newspaper making them overlap in no gaping/seam way. Then just cover it with your mulch. It works every time for me! And don't worry about the ink - most newspapers are using soy-based ink these days, even for color pages.

Local farmers cow/chicken fertilizer
With the growing popularity of using manure for fertilizer this can sometimes cost you a little money instead of getting it for free. Although it never hurts to try getting it for free first! The one thing you do have to be careful about is making sure that it is aged manure not fresh.

Free plants and seed
No the local nursery will not give you plants for free but there are lots of other ways to get plants for free. Most areas of the country have freecycle and/or plantcycle groups. Obviously they would be great places to look. Some towns have spring and fall plant swaps where local people bring in plants or seeds to trade. Or the old fashion way is to take clippings, collect seeds, and divide bulbs of your friends and neighbors plants that you would like to have. At our previous house I wanted as little grass as possible in our yard. As we ripped out sod to make flower beds I would fill them right away with native plants that cost me nothing. In the end half our front yard and 1/3 of our backyard was grass free. It was so nice looking and was only make sweeter by knowing that none of the plants cost me any money.

Grass clippings
Grass clippings are a great source of nitrogen for your lawn if you leave it in your yard. So don't bag and toss that free fertilizer! Use the mulching function on your mower, or just discharge the clippings. When our grass gets too long to leave in the yard we will bag it and put it in the compost piles. In the fall I use our grass clippings for extra winter bedding for my garden - great for asparagus.

Rain water
We have already covered this one in great detail so I will just leave it at "it will pay for it's self in one summer". Check out the two previous posts for more details.

Local garden club sales
Most gardening clubs have annual plant sales to raise funds. Some of these, if not most, sell everything from bulbs, ferns, veggie plants, water lilies, you name it. The great thing about these sales is that the plants are usually super cheap and you have an expert right there to answer any questions you might have about the plants.

Grow natives and wildflowers
Natives and wildflowers are great for a lot of reasons. These types of plants are already adapted to your soil and climate type! What does that mean? Less fussing, less money. After they get established you don't have to give them any extra water or fertilizer. In fact doing that might hurt them! Natives and wildflowers will also spread and fill in a larger area so you have less plants to plant. They will also attract wildlife to your yard without you having to add a lot of expensive squirrel proof feeders (unless you are like me and will still feed the birds). Oh, and did I mention that these are the easiest to find for free?

Less grass
Less grass= less mowing= less gas. If you have less sod you will also have less to edge and fertilize. Once you put a bed in and plant your natives and wildflowers you have very little work to do.

Planters and Fountains
You can make planters and fountains out of anything! Take a look around your house and keep in eye out on those freecycle posts.

Freecycle
Not only can you get plants from freecycle but you can also get mulch, stones, river rock, edging, bricks, leftover bags of concrete mix... You get the idea. I just listed off several of the things that we have either posted as offers or have received from other's offers.

Give some of these a try and see your garden grow frugally green this summer! Have some more ideas? Post them for all to see.

2 comments:

Momma said...

I'm taking notes. What a well thought out post. Now, all I need to do is learn how to cut down the 110 Georgia Tall Pines in the yard.....

Plantcycle said...

Dont cut down all the pines! They make a great shade and wind break. Depending on how much they are shading your yard, sometimes cooler summers are more important than alot of plants. You could start with a shade garden and use the most sunny location for flowers or veggie garden. I have put lettuce in my flower beds before. Pine needles make great mulch and less lawn to mow or gound to weed. Trees also make alot more oxygen and clean the air. So if they only shade your yard half of the day, maybe garden in the part that gets the first afternoon sun. Cher

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