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Want to Save Money in the Garden? Here’s How

A radio station called this morning to ask me for some money-saving tips for all-around gardening. On a moment’s notice, this is what I came up with:

1. Start your plants now from seeds. April 1 is the official start date for tomatoes and other seeds here in the Northeast, although warm-season gardeners probably already have a jump-start on this.

2 When seeds aren’t possible, go with smaller seedlings in six-packs rather than finished plants. The seedlings will soon catch up. A six-pack will typically cost about $2; a single finished plant can cost $6 or more.

3. Look for plant sales from garden clubs or farmers markets, usually the first two weeks in May. You won’t get any benefit from buying seedlings too long before they need to go into the ground.

4. Buy in bulk when possible. Fedco Seed Co. in Waterville, Maine, specializes in accepting bulk seed orders.

5. Plant perennials rather than annuals for long-term value. It’s true that annuals will typically give you a longer season of color, but by definition they need to be replaced each year. Careful orchestration of a perennial garden with a variety of plants can also deliver a full season of color.

6. Divide existing perennials. Most of these plants can literally be hacked in half, thereby giving you two plants. This is a great time of year to do divisions in the North — before the plants push out this year’s growth.

7. Swap plants with friends and family. This is the time-honored way of expanding a garden. Just one note, though: Try to be careful to ensure that you’re not also bringing the weeds with you, too.

8. Find a farmer for free manures, old hay, leftover animal feeds, which can all make fertilizers. Finding the right farmer really can be a treasure trove.

9. Use old newspaper as mulch. I use six-page layers applied around my perennials, then cover the newspaper in compost. By autumn, the newspaper will be fully decomposed by worms and other soil organisms. This technique feeds the soil and provides weed control for a season.

10. Recycle EVERYTHING.. Plastic and paper cups, tuna cans, cardboard boxes etc. can all be used as planters.

11. Store leftover seeds in cool dry area so that you can use them next year.

12. Buy quality tools once, rather than cheap tools many times. Take CARE of them. I’m often guilty of leaving tools outdoors where they inevitably get rained on.

13. Compost EVERYTHING. The rule of thumb is that anything that used to be alive can give life again as compost. Kitchen scraps, grass clippings, leaves, uncoated paper etc.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

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