It’s a growing pastime
YOU should excuse the pun — gardening is rapidly growing into the No. 1 North American hobby. Maybe we’re trying to save money by growing our own veggies or maybe gardeners are returning to the soil as a means of working off stress. Whatever the reason, gardening is one of the most fruitful returns on investment one can make.
Unfortunately, novice gardeners can end up spending more on seeds, tools and the other doodads required for a startup patch. The good news is, there are a few tricks that can save you money while still turning out a good crop. Here are 10 tips to get you going.
1. Plan early: Plot out your garden before turning the first spade of earth. Several websites make it easy to plan your garden, either at no cost or free for the first 30 days. I’m particularly partial to GrowVeg.com, which helps you plot out the amount of space you’ll need for each plant and where each should go in relation to other plants. The Farmers’ Almanac is still one of your best guides to when you should start planting and what kind of weather you can anticipate for the growing year.
2. Understand your land: Before you shell out a ton of cash for new plants, ask your neighbours what plants thrive in the soil of your region. Keep in mind plants appropriate for your growing zone might not work in your garden due to variations in soil composition, microclimate, pests, sunlight exposure and water availability. Visit your local nursery or call your municipality to learn how to get an analysis of your soil and recommendations for suitable plants.
3. Dig deep: Digging a deep garden bed can increase the number of plants you grow and ensure roots have plenty of room to thrive.
4. Mulch: Mulching your garden — or covering the surface layer with plastic, wood chips, etc. will keep the soil and plant roots cool, retain moisture to reduce watering and prevent weeds. An organic mulch such as shredded leaves or compost will feed the soil and improve its tilth.
5. Plant from seeds: Starts are 10 times more expensive than seeds and often are sold long after the plant should have been unpotted. (Never buy starts with roots growing through the bottom of the pot.) Starting seeds indoors is cheaper and will give you a jump on the season. Save even more money by creating your own seed-starting pots.
6. Save and swap seeds: Seed packets often contain far more seeds than you actually need, so consider starting or joining a seed exchange in your area. You can also harvest and store seeds for use the following year.
7. Profitable plants: If you have limited space, consider planting produce that costs the most in a store or at a farmers’ market. Monetarily, you get the best bang for your buck by growing cilantro, salad greens, chives, tomatoes and squash.
8. Be sun savvy: You’d be surprised how often experienced gardeners put a shade-loving plant in full sun or a sun- loving plant in the shade. Daylight is a moving target, so it can be difficult to ascertain the best location for each plant. Before plotting out your garden, spend some time studying the movement of the sun over that patch of land, paying particular attention to those areas that are heavily shadowed.
9. Smart watering: Consider installing an Evapotranspiration ( ET) Controller, if you have an in-ground sprinkler system. These systems use real-time weather data sent by satellite to control when your sprinklers turn on and off. This can cut your water usage by up to 30 per cent. Controllers costs between $300 and $400, depending on system size, but some municipal water agencies offer rebates, particularly in arid regions.
10. Install drip irrigation: If you don’t have an in-ground sprinkler system, consider installing a drip-irrigation system. You’ll save on water bills because the water won’t evaporate as quickly and plant roots will receive a more thorough soaking.
— Canwest News Service
Plant from seeds: starter plants are 10 times more expensive and are often sold long after the plant should have been repotted.