Cost-Saving Tips for Your Edible Garden
Growing edible backyard gardens continues to be a popular trend as the demand for affordable, local, organic produce is still high. Vegetable gardening is a fantastic way for individuals and families to increase their access to these nutrient-dense items. Gardening can happen in a big backyard, on a patio, on a balcony or even on a rooftop! Growing fruits and vegetables also works with a wide variety of budgets. Below are some tips on how to reuse, recycle and save money on some essential garden items while still producing plenty of fruits and veggies.
How to Save Money in the Garden
It is becoming more common for municipalities and private companies to offer curbside pickup for compostable materials. This can be a great way to reap the benefits of a composting program without having to do the composting yourself. Alternatively, if you have the space and time, building your own compost pile is a great way to save money on expensive bagged compost.
Composting involves combining waste materials with water and air to foster the decomposition of these items. Food waste, leaves, grass clippings, coffee grounds and many other items can be turned into nutritious compost for the garden. You can often collect these items from friends and family at no cost. Imagine turning other people’s trash into an awesome product to improve your garden soil!
Wood mulch can be used in the vegetable garden to cover pathways or larger perennials. Contact your local tree trimming service to see if they can drop a truckload on your driveway. Just be aware that these wood chips may not be as uniform as bagged mulch and may contain larger logs.
Other effective alternatives to wood mulch include fallen leaves, straw or shredded newspaper.
To further help with weed prevention and mulching walkways, put down a thick layer of cardboard down before you mulch to keep weeds and grasses from growing up into your path. Cardboard can also be used under new raised beds to kill existing grasses and reduce the presence of weeds.
In order to gather seeds for the next growing season, look into how to save the seeds from the crops you have growing currently. For many crops, the seeds are right inside the fruit of the plant. Tomato, pepper, squash, pumpkin, bean and pea seeds can be collected and dried from one piece of fruit. There will be plenty of seeds for the next year!
Other crops will produce flowers toward the end of season which will eventually dry and have a seed inside. Some of these crops include basil, oregano, dill, kale, lettuce, marigolds, chives and many other herbs.
If you have a large garden, growing your own seedlings inside can be a cost-saving measure on its own. The containers you use for seed starting can be reused materials which will also save you money. Try using toilet paper tubes, egg cartons, milk cartons, clean take-out containers, butter tubs or 2-liter bottles for starting your seeds next season!
Do a little research and check out which plants can be grown from “cuttings” rather than from seed. If you have a healthy rosemary plant, you can trim off 3-4 inch pieces, stick them in some soil, keep them watered and you will be able to have several new rosemary plants. This can save you time and money. These also make great gifts!
Plants and Seedlings
Some vegetable crops can be grown from kitchen scraps that would usually be thrown away. The root ends of green onions, lettuce and celery can regrow if planted or stored in a dish of water on a windowsill.
Some perennial crops can be divided and shared at the end of a growing season. See if any of your gardener friends have any strawberries, blackberries or artichokes to share.
If you shop at the local nurseries at the end of the season, you may be able to find seedlings at a reduced cost. If you find a sick-looking plant that you think you can revive, ask if you can get a discount on it – it never hurts to ask!
Adding new raised beds to your garden can be expensive if you are purchasing new lumber or cinder blocks. Instead, use the wood from non-chemically treated pallets, bricks from an old building, old garden hoses, rocks or discarded wood from a construction site. Remember to ask permission to take any of these items if they are not already yours.
Fort Worth also has several “swap shops” at their bulk trash drop off sites. You may be able to find old garden tools, building materials or paint there.
Keep an eye out for good deals at local shops and nurseries throughout the season and at the end of the growing season. Many of the dollar stores will have big sales on seeds, hand tools, gloves and pottery. Some nurseries or garden centers will cut prices on seedlings and bagged items.
Check online sales platforms like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace for garden tools and equipment. Garage and estate sales are also good places to find secondhand tools for a great price.
By Becca Knutson
Community Garden Coordinator, Tarrant Area Food Bank