Once again, Spring is approaching. As I was doing some yard work a couple of days ago, I noticed my neighbor tilling up a vegetable garden spot in his back yard – a sure sign of spring!
Here are 4 thrifty gardening tips for you if you are planning a garden this year.
Tip # 1 – Go thrifty on seeds and plants.
Save your seeds.
If you buy organic non-hybrid fruits or vegetables, you can save your seeds and plant them, year after year.
The sister site to the San Francisco Chronicle article Vegetable Plants Can Be Started from Cuttings shows you that:
“Tomatoes, peppers, basil and savory are some of the plants in your vegetable garden that can be grown from cuttings”
“Tuber vegetables, also known as root vegetables, can usually be propagated from rhizome cuttings. Rhizomes are underground stems that look like fat roots. Potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes and horseradish can all be propagated by taking a cutting from the tuber and planting it.”
That is why the plant stores call them ‘seed potatoes’ after all.
Divide and multiply.
Existing rhubarb and asparagus plants (and others that have an underground crown) can be divided and propagated.
Grow sprouts on a tuber.
What kid hasn’t suspended a sweet potato with toothpicks over a glass jar of water and watched the magic?
Use the wild things.
Poke weed, dandelion greens, chickweed (according to Eat the Weeds), are all good salad additions. Wild fruits, such as mulberries, goosberries and more can all be eaten – assuming they haven’t been treated. Black walnuts, persimmons, paw paws and more are also part of natures wild produce.
Trade for plants and seeds.
Grandma used to trade plants with her sister. Today, you can do it online. Be aware that there are laws that govern what can be brought into which regions – to protect our native environments from introduction of noxious elements so research before trading cross region!
Garden web has a forum specific to Canada at The Canadian Garden Exchange.
Daves Garden has a primer on how to trade via it’s forum.
Besides online programs, local area garden clubs, garden groups at schools or churches or just neighbors getting together can offer opportunities for trading your garden goodies.
Tip # 2 – Improve your soil frugally.
Use compost, make your own.
The Guardian’s article, How to Be a Thrifty Gardner dove to detail about making compost:
“You should have about two-thirds brown stuff (carbon source) to one-third green (nitrogen). Brown broadly represents carbon found in fibrous material such as twigs and stems, straw, cardboard and roots, as well as old cotton and woollen clothes. Green refers to nitrogen found in plant leaves, stems, grass, flowers and weeds. “
Recycle to fertilize.
- Save your egg shells, dry them, crush them in the blender and use them as a lime substitute, they are high in calcium carbonate.
- Acid loving plants, such as blueberries, would love to have your used coffee grounds scattered above their root system.
- Buried banana peels add potassium, phosphorus, and calcium to the soil. You can cut them up using kitchen scissors and bury the pieces in the soil (bonus pest control – this helps repel aphids).
- Do you have a fireplace or wood stove? The ashes from burning wood can raise the pH of the soil a little. But, there are cautions. The University of Illinois Extension can get you up to speed on those.
Off season soil improvement.
Plant peas or beans (legumes) to fix nitrogen into your soil. Either rotate where you grow these in an existing garden or rest the entire garden for a year and plat these instead.
Instead of bagging your leaves, cut them up and spread a 3 inch layer on your garden over the off season. It acts as mulch to and to add nitrogen.
Plant cover crops.
Cornell University recommends cover crops.
“Cover crops are planted in vacant space and worked into the soil after they grow instead of being eaten. They provide a number of advantages to the otherwise wasteful use of space during your garden’s off-season.
Cover crops help to retain the soil, lessen erosion, and decrease the impact of precipitation on the garden by slowing the runoff of water. They also reduce mineral leaching and compaction, and suppress perennial and winter annual weed growth. The top growth adds organic matter when it is tilled into the garden soil. The cover crop’s root system also provides organic matter and opens passageways that help improve air and water movement in the soil.
There are many traditional cover crops to select from, including annual ryegrass, winter rye, winter wheat, oats, white clover, sweet clover, hairy vetch and buckwheat. Grasses are easier to grow than legumes such as clover because they germinate more quickly and do not require inoculation.”
Tip # 3 Use natural pest control.
Hand picking of pests like slugs and squash bugs is effective, but time and labor intensive.
Some pests can be controlled using their natural predators, such as ducks – which thrive on the above. But, those ducks (or chicks) might decide to nibble on your garden produce as well!
An easy to implement solution that works is to rotate where you plant what from year to year. Confuse those bugs! Certain pests are attracted to specific types of plants, so if you change up where you plant your tomatoes and your garlic, you might dislodge the pests a bit.
Attract the birds – they eat your pests. Make your garden area attractive by providing cover for the birds, water and a bit of seed.
Use home made pest control solutions. The author of Garden Hacks for Thrifty Gardeners suggests:
“Mix cayenne pepper, jalapeño seeds, mashed garlic and water, place in a mason jar, and set out in the sun for a couple days to create a natural aphid deterrent.”
Make your garden smell bad to the bugs by planting garlic or onion in and around the other plants. Marigolds, so pretty, are also good at grossing out the bugs.
Use coffee grounds to deter slugs. According to The Telegraph
“Slugs hate coffee. Their feet get irritated by all the caffeine so they start to produce lots of slime; this dehydrates them and eventually kills them. Spent coffee from your local coffee shops does the trick. Spread it wide and thin for the best effect, and it’s a good plan to spread it over seed rows before seedlings emerge.”
To help keep cutworms from eating your nice tender seedlings, make a paper cup or toilet paper roll collar to put at the base of the plant – to keep the worms off.
Tip # 4 Try free and natural weed control.
- Pull your weeds. It is free and great exercise.
- Spray on leaves a mixture of 4 cups vinegar, 1/2 cup table salt and a couple of teaspoons of liquid detergent.
- Boiling water will kill some, but be careful where you apply it!
- Crowd them out by planting low growing ground covers between the plants or rows. Things like nasturtium or alyssum or even strawberries planted among your broccoli – the idea being to use the space up so the weeds can’t.
Tell me about YOUR garden.