CORVALLIS, Ore. – Gardening doesn't have to be expensive, especially if you can listen to the voice of experience.
The following light-hearted tips for thrifty gardening are passed on from Oregon State University Extension Master Gardeners.
"The advice might save you money, and you could get to know your neighbors better, but it comes primarily from personal experiences, not OSU research," said Gail Langellotto, OSU Extension urban and community horticulture specialist and statewide coordinator of the Master Gardener Program.
Master Gardeners are trained volunteers who share with the people of Oregon their knowledge of sustainable gardening and OSU resources in home horticulture, More than 4,000 people across the state are certified as OSU Extension Master Gardeners.
Thrifty tips for the garden:
- Share seeds and seedlings with friends and neighbors.
- Save kitchen scraps (coffee grounds, egg shells, vegetable cuttings) for compost.
- Let some plants go to seed, so you can collect and save seed, or let them seed themselves.
- Large, clear plastic containers that salad greens come in make good mini-greenhouses for starting plants both indoors and out. The "bottom" is the dome, and the lids become the base, catching runoff water.
- Get your neighbors to split a load of bark mulch, soil, gravel or compost. You also save on delivery charges.
- An inexpensive way to avoid overwatering: use a five-gallon bucket that can be purchased for as little as 50 cents. Drill a 1/8-inch hole in the side of the bucket near the bottom, fill it with water and let a gentle stream of water flow next to the plant that needs watering. You can also add fertilizer or other nutrients to the water in the bucket and have a controlled means of dispensing it.
- Use an old garbage can to make into a compost bin.
- Use the Oregon Trail Card, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, to buy seeds and starts.
- Use clothes hangers for plant stakes.
- Use popsicle sticks and larger rocks to mark what’s growing.
- Use buckets, wastebaskets or milk cartons for planters but make sure to put holes in the bottom for drainage.
- Choose seeds that are easy to grow and produce abundantly. Spinach, leaf lettuce, summer squash and carrots are good choices for new gardeners.
- Learn to propagate plants using cuttings and pass along favorite plants to friends and family.
- Buy a bolt of polypropylene mesh, called deer fencing, from online distributors. It’s perfect for discouraging pets, deer and other animals and can be used for many seasons.
- Maintain equipment and learn how to sharpen and care for hand tools. They will last longer with proper care.
- Repurposed materials such as windows or glass door panels can be used to make greenhouses or cold frames.
- Maintain a compost bin to amend your garden beds and reduce the need for fertilizers.
- Plant cover crops of legumes, such as fava beans or crimson clover, in empty beds over the winter to build your soil.
- Plant intensively to make the best use of your available garden space. Rotate crops.
- Plant fall/winter crops to produce fresh food year round.
- Strips of plastic milk jugs make handy plant tags.
- Place soda bottles filled with dark liquid near heat-loving plants in early spring to absorb heat during the day and re-radiate it at night.
- Save branches pruned from lavender or rosemary plants in summer to make starts you can give away after they have grown roots.
- Save branches pruned from fruit trees to stake bean or pea plants.
- When light is limited, place a mirror behind plants for refracted light.
- Expand limited garden space by planting potatoes in five-gallon buckets.
- Thrifty and organic tool care: Use a drop of olive or vegetable oil to lubricate the joints of your metal cutting tools. Rub a little oil on the wooden handles of your tools. It will seal and protect them and prevent splinters.
- Move heavy bags of potting soil or other heavy objects on an old skateboard.
- To avoid over-fertilizing seedlings and young plants, save the water left over from steaming or boiling vegetables, transfer it to a clean spray bottle and spritz it on leaves once a week for a light foliar feeding.