Skip to comments.Thrifty Gardening
Posted on 02/18/2011 7:45:57 PM PST by kimmie7
We've all seen 'em. You know the ones. The folks who walk into the local big-box garden center looking to fulfill their dreams of growing 4 pound tomatoes or blue ribbon-worthy pumpkins. Whatever their motivation - from a yearning for simplicity, a desire to eat more organically, or frugality - they've now decided to put in a garden. And could there be anything more inviting to a salesperson than the sight of the new gardener staring at the mountains of plants and supplies? Whether they grew up on a farm or could rival Billy Crystal for the lead role in "City Slickers" the novice gardener can drop a pile of money before ground has even been broken. In larger cities you may need to wear a garlic necklace to repel the hoardes of sales-hungry garden center helpers, but here and in the surrounding areas folks are nice and pretty understanding of the need for frugality. In any case, preparation and education are key to spending only what you must to obtain your desired results.
Much like shopping in thrift stores, a list is probably the single most valuable tool for the thrifty gardener. You'll find seasoned gardeners poring over books, magazines and websites as they sip coffee and watch the snow fall. By the time Spring nears, they've got a really good idea of what they'd like to include in their garden. As winter wears on, they check the mailbox more often than Ralphie Parker waiting for his decoder pin. Why? The catalogs. They arrive long before the first Robin, but are just as certain a harbinger of the gentle days of Spring. Even if you don't plan to purchase plants via mail order, catalogs are a great way to find out what's new and what works in your area, and to begin to budget. With your list or garden blueprint in hand, you may enter the garden center with more confidence.
Of course, the basic need for all gardeners is good soil. Do you get confused when you hear people talk about adding things to the soil to change the Ph? So do I. Just take my cue and head on over to the Extension Office. Don't know where it is? Shame on you! These folks can answer all kinds of questions about horticulture in W and surrounding counties - and it's free! They even offer a soil test. Now, it isn't free, but available for the nominal fee of around $6.00. The results of that test will help you know what you need to have the best soil in your garden. The test will pay for itself many times over in yield and crop quality. Hop on over to their website and look around. You can even follow them on Facebook!
Next to good soil, you need good plants. If you don't plan to start your plants from seed, you'll need to find a resource that has done it for you. To find the best plants at the best prices, I'd suggest you ask around. For whatever reason, gardening is exploding in popularity this year and you can be the beneficiary of some really fantastic local resources. There are greenhouses galore in addition to the farmer's markets. Starting plants from seeds can be tedious and time consuming, but offers near infinite choices in variety. With careful planning, for the cost of one greenhouse-grown plant you can have trays and trays of seedlings ready to set as soon as Jack paints his last frost of the season. Consider purchasing seeds from non-traditional sources as well as the tried-and-true. I got 150 heirloom pepper seeds for the grand total of 50¢ on eBay earlier this year. The seller had fantastic feedback, so I took a chance. By the looks of things, it was a great deal. Heirloom varieties can be more expensive, but have some distinct advantages that make them the more frugal choice. They are said to provide tastier, more nutritious fruit. They are open pollinated, which means that you can save your seeds from year to year. Seeds saved from heirloom vegetables will produce plants that are true to type, unlike hybrid seeds. If you try to save seed from hybrids, you usually wont get good results, says Andrew Kaiser, manager at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Heirlooms also tend to be less uniform than hybrids, meaning they won't all ripen at once. That's an advantage when there just aren't enough hours in the day to can or preserve that bountiful crop.
After you've gotten your soil in shape and you've bought or grown your own sets, it's time to plant and maintain. Regardless of the latest fashion or gadget, all you really need are the basics: a spade, a hoe, a hand trowel. If you're a southern woman a big floppy hat seems to be a necessity, but I really like my old-fashioned sun bonnet. A pair of old shoes will serve just as well as the cutesy garden clogs, and an old leaky hose easily replaces a topside soaker. Old mini-blinds find new life when cut down to size and shape for plant stakes - recycling an old product and saving you around $5. The latest foam plant ties retail in a popular seed catalog for $12.95 for 32 feet. Pantyhose and knee-highs with runs are free and just as gentle when tying up heavy plants like tomatoes. An old bucket and free plastic kids' meal cup will water your plants just as well as the new OXO watering can - and it won't cost $19.99. (What? Are they insane? I could give you the website I found that one on, but I won't.)The one area in which I absolutely do not skimp is good quality gloves. They are absolutely necessary when working in garden or yard, and can be found at relatively reasonable prices throughout the year.
Just like thrift shopping, a heaping dose of common sense is your greatest tool to keep your gardening endeavors frugal. Are you lacking in that department? Unsure of yourself? Or do you just need some support? A Google search for "frugal gardening" netted 278,000 results as of this writing. Pour yourself a cuppa something wonderful, tuck the kiddies into bed and have a blast learning more about your new hobby. Even better, enlist your family and/or friends to help. Start a gardening co-op in your neighborhood. Take a class or two, if you have the time and money. Shop online to find great deals if your time is limited during daylight hours. A little knowledge and research goes a long way, so make the most of those rainy days and nighttime hours. And if, by some chance, you happen upon that so-cute copper Labrador retriever weathervane that is on sale for ONLY $369.00 (ha!) do what I did and step. away. from. the. keyboard. Until next time, I wish you well.
kimmie7 is a graphic designer and the author of several poems and short articles. She is a homemaker, small business owner, homeschool mom and wannabe tightwad. She lives with her husband who wishes she were more of a tightwad, and her son who is glad she isnt, a dog that eats anything and a cat who wont.
The poor deluded bastards!
They dont know what they are getting into!
Kinda like my hubby. lol
I cannot seem to grow decent peppers.
What am I doing wrong and what does my soil need?
I have plenty of farmer’s markets near me and no end of variety of veggies to but, but nothing quite compares to snacking of the “fruits” of your own labor.
If it makes gardening fun, then more power to them. I’m pretty cheap myself.
I’ve tried container gardening here in N. TX, but I’ve not had any success. My cherry tomatoes grew beautifully the first month-5 weeks, but the fruit was so small, and it took a long time to ripen, and it tasted ick. One year I had white flies; another caterpillars. Bleck on that, too.
I want a farmer to visit my plants just like a pool guy would a pool. Do whatever needs to be done. I’ll watch and hope to learn something. And within two months, I’ll be able to go outside with my salt shaker and eat tomatoes while sitting by the pool.
Very true! I love making salsa from our garden vegetables and our mulberries give us good jam.
*what does my soil need?*
Relocation to Texas?
“I cannot seem to grow decent peppers.”
Those slutty peppers are hot!
I have had good success with cherry tomatoes in NE Texas.
Regular tomatoes? Not so much.
How big are your containers? I bet you are root bound
Very nice writing - information good too! Thanks for sharing.
In your location you should be able to grow the variety’s cultivated in most of europe.
Hungarian wax, bannana, bell, etc.
The southern varieties wont far so well. You need more heat for those.
Visit the FR gardening thread...it is weekly and packed with news and tips. We have quite a few master gardeners on FR.
I grow great HOT peppers...and I think it is because I am horribly mean to them. Bell peppers, not so much.
Thanks very much!!
My Mom raises killer ones in the next state over from you.
We gave up on Bell peppers. However we had really good luck with bush beans, tomatoes and okra.
We had a great time last season, green beans and snap peas that were bright and delicious, a bounty of tomatoes that overwhelmed us at times, and a group of seniors who very much enjoyed the bounties of the harvest, with each plot sparing what they could.
The catalog farmers were there - and let me tell you, some of those heirloom cherry tomatoes, the yellows and the teardrops, they are incredibly delicious.
I am on the list, just thought you would know since you live in my area of the country.
My hot peppers do do better than my bells. That is the problem. I want to grow big red, yellow and orange peppers and I can’t!!
Maybe a foot high and I’m guessing 2 and a half feet by 5 or six. I don’t think there’s a bottom though. Everything here sits on clay, so that could be a big part of it.
OOps, I have you confused with another kim on here!
LOL. Your transition from dirt to the gutter was clever!
**marking for tomorrow
Well I gave up on okra before I ever planted it. :0)
Tomatos hate clay.
They need drainage.
They get root rot easily.
What do you call a southern variety?
While not an heirloom, the Sun Gold Tomato is phenomenal on taste and production.
Remember when “Corn Nuts” used to have seeds that you could grow “10’ High Corn” or whatever plant it was... when I was a kid I really didn’t care for the Corn Nuts ... I just wanted to plant a HUGE Corn Plant.... I think there was a similar sales pitch with Sunflower seeds ...
Half a Century ago so it’s a fuzzy memory.
Chile tepins, serannos, pasillas, arbols.
That sort of thing
Those Hungarian hot wax are plenty hot. and have a lot of flavor
Bigger is not always better.
The best sweetcorn on the planet is “silver queen”
Cant grow it in Texas though.
Test the soil for ph level.. too acidic or too alkaline will give poor yields, depending on plant varities. I grow jalepenos and bells in Colorado front range, and I add organic matter and bone meal to my soil which has a natural ph around 8. I also use humic and folic acid to the soil to lower ph to 6-7. Easy on the fertilizer or the plants tend to grow lots of stems and leaves and little fruit.
Farm country we would take fresh sweet corn off the stalk and remove the kernals and pop it like popcorn in a pan.... homemade corn nuts!
How funny! I spent most of January looking at farmer porn (seed catalogs) and just finshed seeding my first flats (sage, thyme, oregano, marjoram, Rutgers tomatoes, Brandywine tomatoes, etc.).
Had some freak warm weather and I was out there knowing it was way too early but already seeing late July in my mind.
Summer 2010 Canning
Sweet Hot Pepper Relish 13
French Onion Soup 18
Green Tomato Salsa 27
Green Tomatoes 3.5
Pickled Green Tomatoes 21.5
Tomato Juice or Salsa Juice 12
Chicken noodle soup 20.5
Well, you got me stumped. I’ve grown just about everything, but I’ve never grown a chicken noodle soup plant :-)
I do grow basil among my tomatoes and note it sure does cut down on horn worms. And after one bad year of cukes long ago, I am going to do pickles again this year.
Are you using potting soil for the seeds? If so, don't. Use regular soil instead. I wasted soooo many pepper seeds before I got the peppers to grow.
I grow container tomatoes here in southern New England,in the partially shady backyard of the apartment building where I live,which is pretty much surrounded by other tenement houses and crumbling,big,old factory buildings. Also,it can stay chilly here into June.
Have you ever seen the movie Hachi,about the loyal dog,starring Richard Gere?
The last railroad track scene was filmed on my street and the house where I live is in the last shot taken from a nearby hill,to give you an idea of the terrain,which is not tropical,warm and full of rural goodness for tomatoes.
Your situation is probably way different,yet tomatoes are tomatoes and some of the things I’ve found they like are a handful of plain old epsom salt mixed into their soil,mix in a coupla cups of perlite,some plain old regular lime that can be used in gardens,maybe 3/4 cup to a pot,throw in a spadeful of peat moss,some all purpose veg fertilizer or special tomato food according to directions,water and mix well. Then plant and water again.
Water thoroughly regularly and keep in a sunny location. Protect if your sun is too intense. Plant basil or some other congenial plant in their pots. Pick off bugs as needed. Enjoy your crop. Good luck fellow tomato grower!
Pinging The gardeners.
Try high tunnel hoop houses. They are the ticket for ultimate small scale production.
Great article Kimmie7.
I want to garden so badly!! I’m bound and determined to do it this year (so-hoping!!) I have such a “black thumb” - I kill everything I touch, unlike my dear grandmother, God rest her soul, who could plant a dead stick in the ground and make it grow!! But - try, try, try again....we’ll see what happens. Great article - and Ping Me!!!
oops - already been Pinged - haha!!
” But - try, try, try again....well see what happens “
I tried my first garden last year, and spent months of TLC, hard work, and copious amounts of money (it’s more expensive than it looks) and had a garden going that was the envy of my neighbors — unfortunately, it was also the envy of the local critters...
First, the bugs got my spinach, and then the gophers ate the roots off of my zuchini.. I sucked it up and soldiered on - malathion for the bugs, and traps for the gophers - and then, in one nite, the local wild pigs came down from the hills and ate everything even potentially edible, and trampled everthing else....
So, I spent the end of Summer and Fall staring at the wreckage and telling myself “Never Again!!”
An attitude I carried with me until last weekend, when I noticed that the local WalMart had started to put up the parking-lot garden supplies area, and the seed displays had reappeared inside - and I realized that I hadn’t been ‘cured’, at all....
“Try, try, try again..” , indeed.....
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