Monday, June 6, 2011

Cost Cutting: 3 Garden

For my 3rd Cost Cutting measure I want to talk about gardening. One of the best ways to ensure quality, local produce is to actually grow it yourself. Not only are you able to get fresh vegetables and herbs for your family, it is an absolute joy to work together as a family towards a common goal, and see the literal fruits of our labor.
Gardening, if done correctly can be very cost effective. That being said, I have seen over the past couple years how it can also become a very expensive hobby. Of course there are degrees of thriftiness along the spectrum, so it is important to know where you would be able to fit along the way¸ depending upon the resources, space and materials available to you.
The first and I would say most important concept to get when doing a garden on a budget is to plan ahead. When you plan ahead you will be able to utilize less expensive products to grow exceptional products. I use small green houses long before planting season starts so that I can use seeds instead of having to buy expensive plants at the peak of planting season. I was able to buy 25 packs of organic seeds from Here for only $4.99, and use mini-greenhouses (you can purchase at Lowes for about $6 and reuse from year to year) to start them in my garage. I can not imagine how much I would have spent to purchase all the plants I have from the nursery, but I know it is well beyond the cost of the seeds and starting greenhouses (which I have already been using 3 years).
Another issue, space. Though you do need space to grow a garden, there are many ways to work around a small area and still get some valuable produce. My yard is definitely not large, but I have utilized every nook and cranny to my advantage. Here are some pictures of how I have made the most of my space.

Our house is built into a hillside, so our back yard is actually raised about 2/3 of a story . We have stairs going from our patio (where the slider to get outside is). There is a bed there that we have trouble keeping anything alive in during the winter because of bad rocky soil and bad runoff. I started tomatoes in greenhouses as described above and made sure I put good soil all around and about 10inches below. So far they are holding up well and already have 5-6 flowers each. I have them tied to a regular dowel from the hardware store.  
You can see in this picture that there is a bit of a nook between the stairs and where our living room comes out. Because there isn't really anything you can do with this space, I was able to use some leftover wood we had laying around from another project to build a garden box.
Here is the box. This is my lettuce and herb box. I did purchase my herb plants a couple weeks ago on a great deal I found , so those were not from seed.
~~~Tip, see that blue cup. It is filled with beer. Slugs are attracted to beer and will go for that instead of your plants. Great, especially here in the pacific NW, slug capital of the world.~~~

 This is the far side of our yard. I have about a 1 foot growing space all around the outside and a 2 foot oval in the middle where my strawberries are growing  taking over. I started with 2 small strawberry plants 2 years ago and now that. I will be transplanting some onto my hillside after this season. In this picture you can see my beans. I made these fences for the beans to grow on by using cheap ($2) yard stakes and cut a roll of wire fencing we had left over.
 This is the other half of that same side. You can see the strawberries here again. I used the same roll of wire fence to make my own tomato cages in the two large pots that I had sitting around from our houses previous owner. I have 2 plants in each pot and they are doing great, even better than the ones in the other bed.
This is the very far side, behind the strawberries in the previous pictures. These are all squash that I started from seed from the squash I purchase at the local farmers markets last year. When you seed your squash wash the seeds up good and dry them on a towel. It is best to use locally grown squash because you know  they do well in that area.  This is one section of my squash, the other are behind the tomatoes in the previous picture.
~~~Another great tip that you can see in this picture is the reddish tint you see all around the plants. That is Cayenne pepper. This an awesome, cheap and natural way to keep pests off your plants.~~~
And finally, Loralei's favorite part of the garden, the chives. Chives will come back every year, so once you plant them you don't have to replant. These are mine I started 2 years ago.

So, what do you think? Do you have any planting/gardening tips for making the most of your gardens on a budget?


  1. Esther, I love your gardens!!

    Just a word of caution, from my real estate background, and watching too much Holmes on Homes: watch out for your lettuce box, being right up against your house. Is that wood siding I see? You never want dirt touching wood, or that will play host to termites, wood-boring ants, etc. You don't want to be watering your concrete foundation right there, either. Might be best to transplant that bed to another part of the yard, to protect your home.

    Happy gardening :)

    Faye @

  2. Thanks so much, Faye! It is hard to see from the picture, but I put a tar sealent on the foundation. That is what you see in the back painted up to the siding, though it does look like the dirt coming up. Would you say that is enough? I had the fears you talked about, and actually mentioned that to my husband. I think we will do some shifting around anyway, I would hate to do any damage to our house. Thanks so much for your input!!