Penny-pinching spring gardening tips
University of Illinois Extension horticulture
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[April 02, 2012]
Gardening is a great hobby that can
range in cost from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars. In these
difficult economic times, gardening is receiving newfound interest,
especially vegetable gardens. So how can we enjoy gardening without
exceeding our budget?
My mother and grandmother were able to garden on a shoestring
budget while providing an abundance of food. Of course, I
learned some of these thrifty gardening practices. There are too
many to list in just one article, so let's begin with a few
cost-saving tips for spring gardening.
This year many home
gardeners are looking for ways to stretch food dollars by
growing a vegetable garden. A packet of vegetable seed may have
10 to 200 seeds in a packet. Are you really going to grow 200
broccoli plants? If not, share a packet of seeds with a fellow
As perennial plants emerge in our gardens, some of us begin
to realize that it's time to divide. Share your wealth of plant
material by having a neighborhood plant swap. For each container
of plants people bring, they can take a different container
Another inexpensive way to get plants is to purchase them at
a local plant sale.
Share the rental cost of a rototiller. Several businesses
prorate the rental of a rototiller and other equipment. The more
hours you rent the equipment, the lower the price per hour.
An inexpensive weed barrier is newspaper. First lay six or
more layers of black and white newspaper -- about one section --
on the bare ground. (Do not use glossy colored paper.) Overlap
the sections by about 1 inch. To keep the newspaper from blowing
away, dampen the paper and then cover it with chopped leaves,
dried grass clippings or mulch. The newspaper will keep weed
seeds from germinating and help conserve soil moisture. The
paper will eventually break down and add organic matter to the
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Good gardens begin with good soil. Composting is a great way
to generate a rich amendment for the soil. Start a compost pile
any time of the year. It's easy to turn yard waste materials
into a resource that can be reapplied to a garden or yard area.
Turn leaves, lawn clippings, shredded twigs, and vegetable and
food waste into something that can be reapplied to the
A compost pile should be contained in some type of structure.
Compost bin structures come in many shapes and sizes. A basic
handmade compost bin is about 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet, but it can
be as large as 5 feet by 5 feet by 5 feet. This type of a bin can be
made out of wood pallets, lumber, hardware cloth and concrete
blocks. One of the cheapest bins to make is to tie together four old
Organic matter, such as compost, aids in creating a soil
structure that allows good water retention and root penetration.
When added to the soil, the nutrients present in compost are
released slowly, so they are less likely to leach out of the root
zone, as compared with using regular fertilizer.
Gardening should be a fun activity that provides relaxation and
exercise without being expensive.
[By JENNIFER FISHBURN,
Illinois Extension, Logan-Menard-Sangamon]