More Tips to Save Money by Growing Organically

March 23, 2009

Today’s blog entry is the conclusion of yesterday’s article titled; “Go Organic to Shrink Your Gardening Budget”

These handy money saving tips and ideas for the backyard gardener were provided and written by Fern Marshall Bradley, Co-Editor of The All-New Illustrated Guide to Gardening: Now All Organic!

Forget the Bagged Fertilizer — Buy Seeds Instead

rye-cover-cropIt’s true! A packet of cover crop seeds such as buckwheat or oats will add as much fertility to your garden beds as any bag of synthetic fertilizer can. And that’s just the start of the story…

Using synthetic fertilizer is a vicious cycle, because the chemicals in the fertilizer kill or repel beneficial earthworms and other organisms that help build a healthy soil. Plus, chemical fertilizer easily washes down through the soil when it rains, ending up in the groundwater we drink!

You’ll save big in the long term by planting cover crops instead—they prevent soil erosion, they encourage earthworms and other good guys, and they enrich your soil naturally.

Simply sow the cover crop seed on lightly loosened soil, rake it in lightly, and water it to speed germination. Within 4 to 8 weeks, you can cut down the crop with shears or your lawn mower, and all that rich green material will naturally break down, leaving you a nutrient-primed planting bed that will produce bumper crops of veggies, fruit, or flowers.

Reduce your Water Bill by Capturing Rainwater

Depending on where you live, as much as 50 percent of the water you use goes to keeping your garden green and growing. That’s a big expense that will only get bigger as water supply problems increase around the country.

But for less than $100, you can buy and install a rain barrel that will capture the rain that falls on your roof, providing you a free supply of water for your gardens virtually indefinitely. Rain barrels are available from home centers and mail-order suppliers, and it takes no special skills to install one.

Grow Gourmet Salad Toppings on the Cheap

micro-greens1Micro-greens are all the rage at fancy restaurants and farm markets, but boy are they expensive! Here’s a secret: you can grow your own micro-greens at any time of year on a sunny windowsill for a fraction of the price.

Simply save leftover clamshell containers from the deli and buy some organic transplanting mix that’s enriched with compost. Clean the containers well, use a barbecue skewer to poke several drainage holes in each one, and fill them with moist mix.

Then sprinkle veggie seeds (be sure the seeds haven’t been treated with pesticides) generously over the soil surface, cover lightly with more mix, and set the containers in a catch tray on the windowsill. Mist daily until sprouts appear, then water as needed to keep them growing.

Within three weeks, the sprouts will reach the two-leaf stage, and you can snip them with scissors to garnish salads, sandwiches, and entrees. Use lettuce, arugula and other salad greens, as well as broccoli, kale, dill, cilantro, basil, even peas.

Author Bio: Fern Marshall Bradley, co-editor with Trevor Cole of The All-New Illustrated Guide to Gardening: Now All Organic!, is a writer and editor whose favorite topics are gardening and sustainable living.

A co-author of Reader’s Digest’s Vegetable Gardening, she also conceived and edited The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control, and The Experts Book of Garden Hints, among others. Bradley is a former gardening books editor for Rodale.

Other Related Vegetable Gardening Posts:

  • Thanks for the fun tips!

  • Great tips! I love the rain water one, the plants love the rain water as well. I have much less trouble with blossom end rot on my tamatoes when they’re watere with rain water as opposed to tap water. To save even more money build your own rain barrels. My system was made with 7 food grade 55 gallons plastic barrels that we bought used from a factory (they held corn syrup). Those and all of the PVC to connect them cost me less than buying 1 pre-made rain barrel. Here’s what they look like:

    If you don’t have the skills to connect them all together, buy a recycled drum and connect it to your downspout, just make sure you screen it for insects & debris. I only paid $10 for each barrel.

  • Here’s info on my 1000 litres system:
    It collects water from a 20 m2 roof, and it’s almost too big for my garden, because I had to dump half a tank before winter last year. 1000 litres of water are worth $8 around here.

  • Buy local when possible. It benefits your local economy, benefits your local farmers, and benefits the environment (with regards to reduced energy for shipping). It generally also benefits your wallet.

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