Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gardening to Save Money?

I find my thoughts consumed lately by gardening at my new house. I think about the how I'm going to lay out my garden and what plants I'm going to grow. I can spend lots of time laying it all out on graph paper and consulting my square foot gardening book. It may be that this is my way of dealing with some of the chaos in my life right now with the move and preparing to quit my job. Taken separately they are each pretty big disruptions; taken together they're a lot to deal with.

In any event, it's still a fun way to while away my free time when I really should be packing or cleaning or some other necessary but inconsequential thing. Gardening is a hobby for me. I certainly spent more on my last attempt than I probably saved in produce. At my last house, I had a 4' by 8' square foot garden. I spent around $100 for the wood to construct the raised bed, the compost, vermiculite, and peat moss, and a little more for the seeds and plants. I was conscious of my spending at the time but I was approaching it as a hobby and not as a cost saving measure.

This time, I need to think a bit differently. I need to be saving at least as much if not more in produce than I spend on the garden in the new house. There just simply isn't extra money for me to spend on gardening. I'm still a little skeptical that I can break even much less save money this first year, but it's not going to stop me from trying. I'm going to try to save money by following these frugal gardening principles:

  • Construct the beds with free or cheap wood from craigslist. The type of wood is important because I do not want to be constructing a bed from wood that might leach chemicals into my soil. I'm hoping I can find some unfinished redwood or non-pressure treated pine to construct my beds. I'm constructing two 4' by 4' raised beds 12" deep. I found from my last experience that with the 4' by 8' bed it was a little difficult for me to reach the middle.
  • Try to find comparable soil ingredients from craigslist or buy in bulk. My greatest expense last time was purchasing the soil mix components. I bought them bagged from a local home improvement store. While it did provide a good soil, it did compact and left me with about 6-8 inches of soil in the beds instead of the 10-12 inches that I was hoping for. I'd rather have more soil of a little less quality. I think some of my plants didn't thrive because of the shallow soil depth.
  • Grow some things out of the raised bed. In addition to the raised beds, I'll be growing summer squash and three sisters directly in mounds instead of raised beds. This will save me some money since I won't have to construct extra raised beds for vegetable that need a lot of space.
  • Share seeds with others. I'm planning on sharing seeds with my family and any others who are growing small gardens. It can result in big savings since I don't need to front so much cash for seeds.

It will be a few more weeks until I can start work on my garden in the new house. Unfortunately, I'll still be working during the time when I need to get the beds ready and start planting. I'm hopeful that growing a garden this year especially since I have the time to tend and water it properly will save us money on produce. I can't wait to get my hands in the earth.

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