Gardening is great fun and a very satisfying pastime but can be expensive if you buy everything you need retail. In fact, Investopedia puts the average annual cost of vegetable gardening at $238 per year for most homeowners.
However, that isn’t always necessary. There are many ways to save money on your gardening needs.
The three major expenses for the home gardener are water, tools, and plants. With a little ingenuity, it is possible to cut these costs substantially.
Reducing Watering Costs for your Home Garden
Water rates are experiencing an upward trend across the country, making it crucial to adopt conservation measures. One of the most effective strategies is proper mulching. Mulching not only serves as a water retainer but also shields the soil from direct sunlight, reducing evaporation. Depending on your location and personal preference, consider using readily available and cost-effective mulch options. For instance, you can repurpose old newspapers, utilize grass clippings, or opt for shredded leaves (except those from highly acidic trees such as pines). By incorporating these inexpensive mulch alternatives, you can effectively manage water consumption, leading to significant savings on your water bills.
RELATED: Save more money by learning how to make homemade plant fertilizer. Read the full guide by Fertilizer for Less.
Also, use soaker hoses. A soaker hose is just a length of hose full of small holes that are closed at one end. Lay it out between plants and let it soak the ground thoroughly. You may have to buy this new, but the water savings make it worth the price. You can also save by not watering in hot, direct sunlight. Watering in the early morning cuts down on evaporation.
Saving Money on Garden Tools
Tools are expensive if bought new, but because they are usually so well-made they often outlast their owners’ needs (and often the owner’s as well). Auctions are a great source. Look for auctions held by older folks who are selling their homes. Often you will find a lifetime’s worth of quality, well-cared-for tools at rock-bottom prices. Yard sales are another good source. Often people who are moving don’t want to move tools and increasingly suburbanites are using yard services and don’t need their own tools. These techniques take patience but will let you build up a complete tool collection for pennies on the dollar compared with buying new.
Seed Starting and other Money-Saving Hacks
Of course, plants are where the biggest gardening costs accrue so it is also where you can save the most. The key to avoiding high nursery prices is to grow your own plants from seeds. To cut costs even more, practice seed saving. In the fall, as your plants are dying off, just collect their seeds, dry them between layers of paper towels and then store them in air-tight containers in a cool, dry place. Small, used Tupperware containers and jars can often be purchased for pennies at your local GoodWill or thrift shop and work very well. In the early spring, start your seeds on any sunny windowsill. While you are at the GoodWill, pick up some old cake pans. These make excellent and cheap starter trays. Don’t forget to ask friends and relatives if you can collect seeds from their plants. Too.
Growing from Cuttings
If you find yourself in a time crunch, an effective way to kickstart your plant collection is by growing them from cuttings. This technique works wonders with most flowers and vines and can be easily accomplished by politely asking friends and relatives if you can snip a few stems from their established plants. By taking approximately six inches of stem and leaves, and securely planting them in small, well-watered containers, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your plant babies will sprout compared to starting from seeds.
Additionally, don’t overlook the beauty of native plants that thrive naturally along roadsides and creek banks. Simply arm yourself with a trusted field guide, keep a trusty trowel in your car, and (safely) pull over whenever something catches your eye. These native plants are perfectly adapted to the specific conditions of your local area and require minimal care. For those of you with green-thumbed friends who have perennials that have outgrown their designated space, offer to divide the plants for them in exchange for a few extras to add to your own garden.
These are just a few clever ways to trim down your gardening costs while still enjoying a stunning and vibrant green space. As you begin to experiment with these ideas, you’ll discover even more thrifty gardening tips that will save you both money and effort. So, put away your wallet and grab that trusty shovel! Get ready to revel in the beauty of your garden while spending much less than you ever imagined.