Here comes March – in like a lion, out like a lamb. And there goes your gardening budget right along with it, right? Not necessarily. The frugal gardener would never accept such defeat. This is the time of year that if you haven’t already, you better kick in and start snatching up all the bargains you didn’t take advantage of last fall (and shame on you for that).
What did you say was planted there?
The thing about buying 4 packs of seedlings is that they only come with one tag. You still need three more. Fortunately, the answer is sitting in your freezer. The kids’ Popsicle sticks make great plant labels. You can write on them with a sharpie or even a ballpoint pen, and stick them right in the ground. Never wonder what that little green thing is that’s growing there ever again. No popsicles? No problem. You know all that plastic ware that you pick up at cafeterias or dollar stores or in takeout and delivery lunches? Save the knives (forks and spoons work OK too). Again, you’ll need a permanent sharpie to write on these so that it doesn’t wash off. I love this next one. Mini blinds. The guy next door just threw out his mini blinds because he’s too lazy to grab a sponge with soap and clean off the crud. So what? So get over there and grab them! If you’re squeamish, you could always wear gloves. Cut each blind into 6’ to 8” in length, write on them with a sharpie and you have the perfect plant markers (millions of them).
Who doesn’t? Rather than paying big bucks for that thick plastic roll of sheeting that you’re going to put down before dumping all your nice topsoil, fertilizer, mulch and other various planting materials (not to mention avoiding the cost of other weed control products); try this instead. It’s biodegradable and it’s free. Lay down newspaper or cardboard before all your soil. Poking a hole through the cardboard may be a little more difficult when it comes to planting. If the biodegradable part doesn’t bother you, just use your old plastic shower curtain that you’re going to throw away anyway. If the decorative linen or cotton outside shower curtain is toast, that can be used as well and actually will break down eventually.
Why on earth would you pay for a bag of mulch? How ridiculous is that? Dead mulched leaves; chipped twigs from cedar, pine or cypress trees; grass clippings; shredded newspapers and eggshells make the most fabulous mulch that money can’t buy. You’ve got all that stuff either already in your yard or in your garbage can. Stop wasting your waste! You can pile this in one corner of your yard and turn it with a pitchfork every so often, or if you’re handy, build yourself a nice little compost corral. If it’s too late to do that for this planting season, get friendly with some of your neighborhood landscapers, nurseries and greenhouses. Offering to clean up their unused mulch and haul it away for free could land you this year’s free supply.
How red are your roses?
Little black spots and fungus make a rose not a rose. These are controllable with homemade solutions. Garlic (5 large sliced, cloves), 2 cups boiling water, vinegar and 1 teaspoon of baking soda strained and poured through cheesecloth into a spray bottle (cheap dollar store type) will go a long way. You should let the mixture steep overnight before straining through the cheesecloth and be sure not to keep it for too long a period of time, because the garlic tends to become overly concentrated. Make sure to pick up any fallen, spotted leaves and discard them. Tip of the day: disease vulnerability in roses is usually caused by low potassium. Sulfate of potash is the answer.
How does your garden grow?
Umm, with seeds. But where you get those seeds and how much you pay? Get a garden group together in your neighborhood. Buy seeds on sale wherever and whenever you can. Round up the group for a get-together before spring planting to exchange packets of seeds. Don’t like your neighbors? Okay. Some nurseries post seed exchanges on their bulletin boards. It’s like the neighborhood garden group; you just don’t have to like the people you get the seeds from. Remember too, that even though there are fruits and vegetables for which you have to purchase seeds in order to grow them in your garden, there are also fruits and vegetables from which you can save the discarded seeds to plant in little pots in your windowsill to get your garden started early. Hop online to find out which ones can be used.
Preventing pesky pests
Forgets the sprays and the powders, it’s fun and easy to grow your own pest repellents. What kind of pests do you have? (No, your spouse does not qualify here; and neither does your mother in law.) Slugs, moths and flies will be repelled by wormwood; it is a beautiful, bushy silver leafed plant. Fleas, cats or Japanese beetles steer clear of Rue. Silver fish, flies and fleas (oh, my) don’t like cotton lavender. Mosquitoes can’t stand catnip, but you’ll have a problem with cats (and you know what cats do in a garden). So maybe some lemon grass which smells like citronella or basil would be a good addition to the garden area around your grilling site because that repels mosquitoes and flies too.
Throw around a little vegetable oil, and you’ve got a salad dressing. (Okay, in all seriousness, forgo the vegetable oil) Mint is the eighth wonder of the universe; it repels rats and mice, ants, flies and fleas. As your lavender dries up, remove it and use it in sachets around the house. The catnip and basil once dried can be placed in netting and hung around grilling areas and patios to repel mosquitoes. Flower pots in which you have planted the previously mentioned flea and fly repellents, when placed on stoops or by doors in general, will help eliminate the pests from entering your home when the door is open briefly. A flower pot of mint by your door will help discourage mice from entering. A quick word of warning, rue and basil do not work and play well together. Keep them separate. Worse comes to worse, you’ll have to browse through serveral pest control prices to find the best one you can afford.
Well, that’s all for now. That should you keep you busy until next spring. Don’t forget however, to hit those crazy sales this fall. Missing those two years in a row will seriously jeopardize your standing as a frugal gardener. Have fun planting frugally and you might see your pockets getting fatter as fruits of labor!