Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Gardening on the Cheap

This crazy, unseasonably hot weather we've had the last couple of days, has pretty much been keeping me from getting a whole lot accomplished.  I haven't been out in the garden to take pictures (seems like too much effort right now) and have only managed to stay out long enough to give a deep watering and pick some of the ripe tomatoes.  While the forecast promises an end to the heat on Saturday, it seems to be in exchange for a hurricane.  Good Times!

As I laze on my couch trying to catch a breeze from my solitary fan, I have been thinking about how much money I've pumped into my kitchen garden this year (and how I can turn this topic into a blog post using photos I've already taken and uploaded to my computer ;) ). 

Did I save any money by 'growing my own'....not really.  Most of my expenditures this year were what you could call 'capital' costs: wood for the new raised beds, new cedar 1/2 barrels, netting,  tomato supports, and soil, soil, and more garden soil. And there's also all the seed packets and seed potatoes to add to the total.  Yikes-  I am definitely in the red.  

Ok, I'm going to stop thinking about how much I've spent- bad topic!  Time to focus on where I've saved this year.  There are definitely things I have done to add to the kitchen garden that have either been low cost or Free.  Who doesn't like free?  Here are a few of those ideas:

Stone 'Retaining' Wall

Cost:  FREE!!

For as long as I can remember, I've had a lot of rocks piled in a corner in my backyard that were stored for a 'rainy' day.  One day, as I puttered around the backyard, the inspiration hit me to use them in my 'new' kitchen garden.  As the project grew over the course of the summer, so did the need for more rocks. I had my husband scour around the woodsy areas around my house looking for more.  We lucked into a small pile of flat rocks that someone had previous dumped.  Others were picked up here and there.

Tomato Teepee

Cost: Free!

My family likes to do a bit of hiking.  One of our favorite places to go in the off-season, is Crystal Crescent beach.  In early spring, my son started collecting 'walking sticks' for everyone.  He found a patch of what looked like some sort of thorny bamboo-like poles (not bamboo, but some sort of plant that grows tall and woody along the paths by the beaches).  The 'walking sticks' were dried from winter and sun and cut down waiting for new growth.  They made great walking sticks, which we brought home with us and I used them in my garden as supports for my grow bag tomatoes.  So far, towards season's end, they are still standing.  They are hollow inside, and a little brittle, so not as strong as a bamboo pole would be...but they were free!  They will also biodegrade, so after the tomatoes have run their course, I'm going to add it to my compost as a 'brown'. 

Stone Edgers:

Cost Free!

My father-in-law had 5 of the scalloped-style stone edgers in his backyard- one of many yardsale finds from a few years ago.  He generously donated it to 'my kitchen garden'.  I used 4 to edge the grow bag teepee and fifth to define one end of the garden.

Beach Rocks
Cost Free!

My kids love to collect rocks.  Whether it is from one of the many beaches we visit each summer (favourite for rocks is Scott's Bay, in the valley) or the local playground.  A frequent check of their pockets will usually score a small handful.  Over the years, I have managed to fill a few bucketfuls.  I have finally been able to put them to use, filling in the middle area of the edged grow bag area.

Recycled Garden "Tools"
Cost: Free!

I made this scoop out of an old orange juice container in spring.  I can't remember the brand name, but the bottle was made out of a very sturdy plastic.  I have been using it a lot all summer long, and find it a very useful and functional tool!

Various Clay Pots
Cost: Minimal $2-$10

I am a frequent shopper at Value Village, or "La Boutique de Value", as I like to call it.   I usually manage to score some in-expensive, good quality, re-cycled items.  Over the course of summer, I've managed to pick up a number of clay pots for use in my 'herb' garden.  They are all different shapes and sizes, but my favourite was this small strawberry pot for $6:

Raised Bed Crop Cover
Cost: $7

Another recycled item.  I took a $7 set of white sheers from Value Village, applied a little sewing skills, and came up with a crop cover that fits snugly over my raised bed.  It kept my broccoli from being attacked by the dreaded cabbage worm and the swiss chard from being eaten by slugs and other bugs.  I have noticed as well, that the swiss chard, and now the fall kale and cilantro grow so much better under the cover than they do exposed in the other beds.
And that's just a few of  things I did this year to save money.  I couldn't find a picture of all the seaweed I collected and used this year.  Another free resource.  I used seaweed to grow potatoes (can't wait to see the final results), as an addition to my compost, and as a mulch in some areas in the garden. Next year I'm going to try even more ways to 'garden on the cheap'.  Maybe even save a few seeds!

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