A garden can be quite expensive! Plants, soil, fertilizer, tools, pots, etc. the list can be endless. I can’t claim any of this smartness for myself, but we do have a budget for my garden (likely a good thing, otherwise, I’d be at the greenhouse every weekend).
We actually have a budget for everything. We measure keep track our or spending on mint.com (no affiliation with me). It’s free and it easily keeps track of your expenditure and shows you graphs and little graphics to see where you are. One day my hubby looked back over the years and could measure how much we spent on cars over the years. I won’t tell you the number but it made us want to throw up. It’s illuminating to see where your money goes.
But I digress, lots of my money goes towards gardening, well at least it did, until I wanted to do more than my budget would allow. I decided I wanted a foragers garden where we could eat from our yard, not all of our food, but a good portion of it. I wanted my kids to see the work involved in food, and also have good fresh food for their little growing bodies. This made me get creative. If I wanted to spend my whole year’s budget on fruit trees, everything else had to be managed well. Here is what I do to save money on gardening.
How to Save money on gardening.
Recycle. Most of my garden beds are created from reclaimed wood. We tore down an old fence and I used those boards to create garden beds. I filled them with logs that we had leftover from a tree we cut down, and wood-chips from those trees too. I re-use my pots I get from the greenhouse to grow my seeds or to plant potted plants on my deck. Some people use old toilets, wheelbarrows, garbage cans, pallets. Find what you have and see how you can re-purpose it.
Forage. This year, I went searching through the woods for branches for trellises, I even want to try to make some cords out of grasses. I look around my yard for vines that I can dry to wrap around the branches.
Compost. This is an easy one. Instead of throwing your fruit and veggie scraps in the garbage or sending it out in your green bin, use it yourself. This saves a TON on fertilizer and soil.
Make your own fertilizer. I have a whole post on fertilizing your garden for free here.
Don’t buy bags of soil. Bags of soil gets EXPENSIVE! One of the BEST things I’ve ever done was get a huge pile of great solid delivered in a truck. I put down a tarp and I’ve been using that soil for a few years now. It was WAY less than if I’d bought it individually in bags.
Save your grass clippings and leaves. This is great compost for your soil.
Take care of your tools. Gardening tools can be expensive. I have my favourites and I guard them like a hawk guarding her babies. Keep them out of the rain, sharpen them, and clean them.
Start from seed. If you go to the greenhouse and buy a large tomato plant for $20. Or you can start them from seed for $3.99. Seeds may require some more attention, but they save you a bundle. Read on for more on time vs. money.
Save seeds. This is a biggie! And my favourite one. Instead of spending a fortune on flowers, I save my seeds. Did you know you can save petunia seeds? Poppy seeds? Lettuce seeds? You can even collect seeds from some grocery store veggies! No need to buy seed or plants. I’ve always wondered how people have huge tracts of flowers that look gorgeous. I’d assumed they spent thousands at the greenhouse and my garden would never look like that, however, now I know! I can save seeds and create the garden of my dreams.
Grow Perennials. This is another big one. Annual flowers cost a lot. They cost a lot of money, time, water, and fertilizer. Perennials, on the other hand, can cost a lot of money up front but you can save on time, water, and fertilizer. Recently, I’ve started to grow perennial veggies and fruits so I can have a supply of food that I don’t have to plant every year. I don’t always have the energy or health to plant and these perennials ensure that I still have a harvest. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, elderberries, asparagus, garlic, turmeric, ginger, some herbs, these are all things I’ve planted to to be perennials.
Cuttings and Propagation. The gardening community is very generous. So many people are willing to give away a cutting of this or that. Many plants can be grown from cuttings. A few hours scrolling on Pinterest can teach you how to propagate plants. Please don’t take cuttings from stores. Just your friends gardens!
Collect water. We are very lucky that we don’t have to pay for our water, but it hasn’t always been the case. In our last house we had a garden AND a pool. Our water bills in the summer were much higher than the winter. In addition, there were also water bans. It’s awful not being able to water all the plants you spent money on because there is a water shortage. Collect water in rain barrels, in olla’s (clay pots), in underground watering tanks, from your shower, from your dishes, from your water glasses. There are many ways to save water.
Permaculture. I’m no expert in this but learning permaculture allows you to use the benefits of one plant with the other, creating a symbiotic relationship with all the plants in your garden, allowing your garden to flourish on it’s own.
Time vs. Money
So, a lot of these things I’ve suggested take time. More time than going to the store to buy things. Something I’m learning to get good at is weighing the time/energy/money ratios to see if something is worth it. Sometimes, I just go to the store and buy a plant, even though I know I can start it from seed, or propagate it. I often don’t have the energy. That being said, for me gardening is my happy place. Learning to propagating hydrangeas makes butterflies dance in my belly! I love it. This means spending a few extra hours for my garden means I’m filling up my tank AND saving money. Calculate the ratio of time money energy.