Last week, I talked about my anticipation of the gardening season. Of course, the next day, it was -14°F.
But that didn’t stop you from sharing your frugal gardening tips and experiences. Some of you left comments, responded on Facebook, or sent me an e-mail, and I’ve found that I just can’t keep all of this good information to myself.
Today I’ll share with you the Cliffs Notes version of all the great information you shared with me. I’ve attempted to organize it by topic:
Reader Dawn wrote, “I request several seed catalogs. Then when they arrive, many of then have early bird coupons, like save $20 when you spend $40. I then make a list of what I want. I order just enough from each catalog to be eligible for the discount. It’s like getting your supplies for half off.”
Jenn at Frugal Upstate writes, “I started my own seeds last year. I just bought cheapo flourescent “work” lights (about 2 feet long each) at Lowes and set them up on shelves in the basement. Once the seedlings emerged (which did need more heat) my unfinished NY basement was fine for growing them. I just had to remember to turn the lights on & off in the morning & evening.”
Jenn added, “I save all those little desicant packets from pill bottles etc & throw them in a large zippered baggie that I keep my seeds in-in the fridge. So I have used the same seed packets for 2 & 3 years without any trouble. I just plant a bit thickly in case a few don’t come up.”
Living on Less wrote that she also makes a shopping list when the catalogs arrive. “When my catalogs start coming in (and there are a lot) I write down the plants or seeds I want to get with a column next to it for each catalog, then as the catalogs come in I can find the items I want and see who has the lowest price. Sometimes with shipping and a short growing climate it’s cheaper to purchase things like tomatoes from my local grower, but things like beets, carrots, lettuce I usually can find great prices on.”
Living on Less also recommends purchasing seeds with friends since there are so many in a package.
Mom of Two (also known as Jessica around here) said that if you have a south facing window you don’t need any lights or mats – just put the plants in front of the window. “And don’t worry about having to buy any type of green house containers, you just need plastic wrap and some egg cartons (or plastic containers you have that are not recyclable.)”
Milissa also recommended skipping grow lights and heat mats. She wrote, “Most seeds only need warmth and water. Once they sprout sit them in a window sill.” She recommended using round take out containers to sprout seeds and said there are also several methods to make your own out of old newspapers.
Milissa’s other fun tip: Make your own mini green houses by cutting a 2 liter soda bottle in half. Put soil in bottom have, plant seedling and reattach the top. You then can put it outside, even during early March. A 3 shelf mini greenhouse at Big Lots for $20 or building a cold frame, can help you get your seeds off to a great start, added Milissa.
Linda said she has been looking for organic/heirloom produce and seeds all winter and has a good amount that she’s harvested herself or have gotten cheaply.
Christina in No KY writes, “The best ways to save money are to start your own plants from seed, and only grow what you eat! You can use any container as a pot (if it was used the year before wash it out with a weak bleach solution so soil-born bacteria are killed). If you use plastic or foam, put in drainage holes!”
Facebook fan Teresa suggested turning a fan on your seeds. She wrote, “If you start seeds indoors, put a fan on them throughout the day. It helps them build stronger stems with the wind blowing on them.”
Reader Liza said she doesn’t like to start tomatoes from seed. She wrote, “I have tried that a couple of times and have had better luck buying store bought very well established plants.” (She also mentioned if anyone had any advice for her on starting them from seed, she’d like to hear it!)
Soil and Mulch
Christina in No KY writes, “The one place you do not want to cut costs is the seed starting mix. You must buy this stuff, and it really pays to buy good Seed Starting Mix, not potting soil, garden mix, humus, or any thing else. The seeds need a very light mix that holds moisture but doesn’t get gummy.”
Kelly did some mulching with straw. She wrote, “The straw really cut down on weeds and held the water in the soil a lot longer so we had to water less.”
Linda added that she has been composting for a while now and even have started a worm bed, so she has some good organic material to add to her garden.
Several of you seemed to have faced the challenge of properly supporting your tomatoes and beans. Here are some of your suggestions:
Reader Kelly suggested using cattle panels (available at your Farm & Fleet store) to support tomatoes. She and her husband drove T posts (metal fence posts) in the rows of the garden – one on each end, and then attatched the panels with wire. Her husband wove the bottom part of the panel and the top part of the panel over the posts and she said they held just as well as the wire. She also used some old woven wire that she got for free for her pole beans to climb on. She attached the wire to fence posts to create the support.
Reader Linda also voted for bull pen material. She used bull-panel (left over from building steer pens) as a trellis for her pole beans and will have her cucumbers grow on another smaller panel.
Reader and friend Lorna suggested skipping tomato cages as they’re not strong enough to support most plants. She wrote, “Our old neighbor used to drive 2×2 boards deep into the ground and tied the plants to the boards as they grew. Simple. Easy. His tomatoes were the most amazing I’ve ever seen in Northern MN! Over six feet tall and loaded with fruit.”
My friend Scott shared on Facebook that he loves the Topsy Turvy. If you go this direction, you don’t need to worry about support for your tomatoes!
Several shared some additional resources worth noting:
Lorna shared one of her favorite blogs, Living the Frugal Life, and I think it may be my new favorite.
Friend Marje suggested the University of Minnesota Extension Service. It has a lot of great info.
Reader Milissa wrote, “Check out You Tube, there are tons of videos on seed starting, newspaper pot making, seed savings, etc.”
Just re-reading all of these tips makes me excited for spring! Stay tuned as Jessica brings us some more gardening advice later this month.