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Friday, March 18, 2011

Prudent Penny: Landscaping on the Cheap

It seems appropriate to write this post since I just finished tilling and furrowing the main garden. I might never regain the use of my limbs. Oy!

Aside from painful, gardening can be very expensive. The only thing you shouldn't skimp on is your tools. You don't want your tools breaking, splitting or hurting you right in the middle of a job. Given a choice, go for fiberglass handles rather than wood, and good goat or cow hide gloves rather than cloth. You'll save yourself blisters.

Plants

• Craigslist is always giving away flowers and plants.

• Admire your neighbor's bulbs and I'll bet she'll offer you some the next time she's dividing them.

• Buy discounted seeds at the end of the season and store them in the fridge until you're ready to plant next year. Don't forget to throw in some desiccant.

• Buy trees at the very beginning of the season. Many nurseries have sales to kick off the season.

• Get to know your local nursery people by name. Mine almost always throws in an extra plant every time I shop there.

 • Get your seed potatoes and garlic from the grocery store. Some producers apply anti-sprout chemicals on their produce, but mine have always sprouted. If in doubt, get your starters from a local farmer's market.

• You can start new tomato plants by planting cuttings. Many times toward the end of the season, I'll layer a tomato vine under some dirt. within a few days it'll start to produce roots. I give it a few weeks then snip it off the main plant. Now I have a brand new tomato plant to pot or put in the ground.

• By the way, when you plant your tomatoes, plant them sideways with only the top showing. Pinch off the leaves and bury the stalk lengthwise. It'll strengthen the plant by producing a bigger root structure.

Materials

• Compost. Even if it's nothing more than a little pile in the back of your yard, compost what you can. Your soil will love you for it. And it's free.

• Troll your local Home Depot, Lowe's, or other mega-mart for ripped bags of soil, compost, peat moss, or rocks.

My stores regularly mark them down to half price, but at the end of the season, I usually get the ripped bags of material for a quarter a piece. You usually have to ask someone to give you the discount. There are no sale signs and no one volunteers this information.

• Buy weed barrier matting at yard sales. People always get rid of their leftovers and there's usually quite a bit of it left over.

• Leftover brick and stone are often available for free on Craigslist. Please be careful hauling these items. Space them out evenly in your truck because they are heavier than they look. You might need to make multiple trips to carry the load safely. I would love to find some brick near me. Most of the brick on Craigslist is in the big city--too far for me.

Miscellanea

• Plan your landscaping. This way when a deal comes up you'll know what you need.

• Go in with your friends to buy seeds or bulbs if you don't need that many all by yourself.

• Join seed exchange sites. Here's one place to try.

Have you tried any of these tips? Is there anything you can add? 

Next year I think I'm going to turn my place into a homesteading dude ranch so I can get some help in the garden. LOL. Every muscle in my body hurts. But the hard part is done. Now the fun begins.

What's everyone doing this weekend?

23 comments:

Joanne said...

It's a good ache, though, don't you think ... the gardening ache? We won't be planting for awhile here, it's still too cold. But several of our shrubs were just destroyed by the mountains of snow this winter, the shrubs are just split in half from the weight :/ So I'll be looking for some good shrub discounts in the coming weeks ...

Maria Zannini said...

Joanne: You caught me. :grin: It is a good ache. It makes me feel like I accomplished something.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

we really want a composter. We'd just build a little area for it in the backyard, but the dogs would totally have a field day with it.

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: Do you really think they would? My dogs never mess with the compost bins. They'll sniff the piles, but since it's mostly vegetable scraps and leaves, they pretty much leave it alone.

The chickens love to roost on it though. I welcome their poop. LOL.

Lindsay N. Currie said...

Oh you are making me drool for springtime. I love planting our garden (it's a rooftop one since we are in a very urban location) and will definitely be looking for some good deals this year!

Angelina Rain said...

Great advise, Maria. I’m horrible at planting and gardening. Last year, my veggie garden was a disaster. Only the cherry tomatoes and the basil turned out fine. All the other veggies spoiled before becoming ripe. I don’t know if I planted them in a spot that was too sunny, as that part of my yard gets all day direct sunlight. Or maybe because I planted everything in buckets and it didn’t have place to really grow.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Wait a sec. Am I reading this correctly? If I buy starter tomato plants, I should bury most of the stems sideways with just the top most section out of the ground to get a stronger root structure? I've never heard that.

BTW, my offer from yesterday still holds if you want some more of that "good" hurt. It's the least I can do for a friend.

Maria Zannini said...

Lindsay: How neat that you have a rooftop garden. I wish I had thought of that back when I lived in an apartment building.

Angelina: When you say it spoiled before it became mature, it makes me wonder if you had enough drainage in your pots. If plants get their feet too wet they'll go to rot.

Linda: You are too kind--and still not funny. :)

Ref: tomatoes
Yes. Pull all the leaves but the top mature ones. Dig a little trench and lay the plant on its side, bending the top part gently so it's above ground. Bury the stalk. Everywhere that it's buried it will grow roots, making the plant stronger and more vigorous.

Here's a site that shows pictures.
http://www.weekendgardener.net/vegetable-gardening-tips/growing-tomatoes-070707.htm

Angelina Rain said...

Thanks Maria. Maybe that was the problem. This year, I plan to plant directly into the ground.

Maria Zannini said...

Angelina: I hope you post pictures of your progress.

Shirley Wells said...

A great post, Maria, and you have me longing for sunshine.

I'm hopeless at gardening but I do love my strawberries. Nothing tastier than a sun-warm strawberry straight off the plant. Yum. :)

Melissa McClone said...

I won't be outside (it's raining anyway) but sitting inside at a pool about three hours away. My 10 yo son is swimming at a big meet and it's just the two of us going. But I appreciate this post. I need to do something with my yard and saving some money would be really nice! Sometimes it doesn't take a lot to make a difference. At least that's what I'm hoping!

Maria Zannini said...

Shirley: My strawberries are so puny. I don't think there's enough acid in the soil. I might try adding some this year and see if it helps.

Melissa: Hope your son does well at his meet today!

Jennifer Shirk said...

This is the second time today someone mentiond Craigslist to me. I guess I need to check it out. :)

My neighbor's having a huge party tomorrow with a tent and a bunch of kegs. Sounds like a frat party, huh? LOL

Maria Zannini said...

Jennifer: Craigslist isn't too useful to me since I live so far from the city, but I did once get a brand new storm door still in the box from someone local.

That party sounds great. Enjoy!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

It's too early here for me to beging working in the flower beds but I'm jotting down some of your tips.

Kim said...

Some great tips, should I ever work up the guts to have a real garden again (too many awful childhood memories of weed pulling in 95+ degree heat and 95% humidity)! I usually plant a tomato plant, and flowers in my flower boxes. Last summer, I grew my own basil - started out with one pot, but by the end of the summer I had 3 pots' worth and more basil than I could ever possibly use! :D I also grew tulips, but the deer ate them before I could really enjoy them. The squirrels got my sunflowers. Maybe it's a sign...

This year - I'm doing basil again (glutton for punishment, I guess), rosemary, and thyme. Planting should commence very soon, if the weather holds out. I haven't decided on the flower boxes, though.

Madeleine said...

It all sounds very organised. I have come in from the garden because hubby has a tendancy to pull out all the plants in favour of tidy bald earth and concrete!!! :O)

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: It's never too early to plan. :)

Kim: Our squirrel population has increased too. Obviously the hawks around here prefer chicken to squirrel. ;-) I might have to plant extra sunflowers and pay off the squirrels.

Madeleine: Your hubby does what?! Sacrilege! He needs a hobby. LOL

Kay Theodoratus said...

Just wanted to say. Don't be bashful about asking neighbors if the plants they're digging up have a home to go to.

All too often when we thin the jungle, we have to throw the plants away [compost them].

Ellie said...

Alas, I have no garden :(

Kaz Augustin said...

There is NOTHING like freshly grown garlic. It's so easy to grow and tastes a gazillion times better than the stuff you get in the supermarket.

Also, there's a book out called "The Seed Savers' Handbook" by Michel & Jude Fanton. It tells you how to save, oh, almost every kind of home garden seed you can think of. It's an Australian book so difficult for Americans to get hold of but I'm sure you'd be able to find something equivalent in your part of the world. Terrific resource.

Maria Zannini said...

Kay: As long as your neighbor likes you. LOL. It never hurts to ask.

Ellie: But you do have a beach. :-)

Kaz: You said it. I love fresh garlic!

I have an old book on seed starting by Mike Bubel, copyright 1978. I don't think the seeds have changed much since then so I guess it's still good. LOL.