frugal gardening photo

Frugal gardens can still provide happiness, color and support pollinators

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Any time of year is a good time to start a budget, so why not now? You haven’t forgotten those frugal resolutions, have you? Since the gardening season is still a few months away, there’s a good stretch to set financial priorities.

“Gardening is like any other hobby,” said Brooke Edmunds, a horticulturist with Oregon State University Extension Service. “It takes some level of investment. But it doesn’t have to be that expensive. There are shortcuts.”

Some of them are easy. Buying smaller plants is a no-brainer if you’re looking to save money. Some techniques – think saving seeds or making compost — take more effort. But all of Edmunds’ tips bring the same result — keeping your wallet fatter. Adopt some of her advice to start saving money on your gardening budget.

Use seeds instead of starts. Although there’s an initial investment of lights, trays and planting mix, it doesn’t take long to make up the money and start saving dramatically. “You’ll get a lot more plants – some packets have 100 seeds,” Edmunds said. “You’ll have enough to trade with friends and get a wider variety.” To save even more, reuse trays. If plants grown in a tray didn’t show signs of disease, just clean them with soap and water. If there was any kind of disease, wash trays and then disinfect with a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. To save even more, sprout seeds in egg cartons, newspaper rolled into cylinders or plastic cartons with holes punched in the bottom for water drainage.

Buy smaller plants. If you’re not the impatient type, buying smaller plants – a 4-inch pot instead of 1 gallon or a 1 gallon instead of a 5 – will save you a pretty penny.

Make your own compost. “It takes more time, but it saves a lot of money,” Edmunds said. “Use your kitchen scraps and garden waste and start building your own.” An Extension story gets you started. If you’ve got your own chicken or livestock or know someone who does, mix manure and bedding into the compost pile for an even richer end result. Make sure you let the mixture decompose well. A good rule of thumb is until there are no pieces of recognizable bedding left.

Shop sales: Search out group plant sales, usually abundant in spring. Check newspaper calendars, ask friends, contact Extension Master Gardeners in your area to see if they are holding a sale or know of any. At nurseries, shop during the dog days of summer or in late fall. Also, some garden centers have a corner set aside for plant “seconds.”

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