Landscape designer, horticulturist and author Maureen Gilmer’s book, The Small Budget Gardener: All the Dirt on Saving Money in Your Garden hit the bookstores a few years ago, but her frugal gardening advice will never go out of style.
In fact, you can snatch up a copy of her book at a bargain, too. I found new and used copies of this great little guide on Amazon for under $1 (plus shipping).
The Small Budget Gardener will appeal to any gardener who wants to save money on gardening. And that describes just about every gardener I’ve ever met. Who isn’t looking for ways to find inexpensive or free alternatives for soil amendments, tools, seeds, plants and garden structures?
The author writes from her own money-saving experiences and recommends all gardeners pretend they live 30 miles from town, as she once did. That means every trip to the store to buy gardening gear is carefully considered before hopping in the car.
“Think of budget gardening as a giant scavenger hunt where you can discover hidden treasures in the least likely places,” she writes.
Gardeners can repair before replacing something, repurpose before purchasing or use their imagination to create a suitable alternative from a pile of branches, twigs and sticks. The goal is to spend as little money as possible.
I like Maureen’s approach and appreciate how she cheerfully announces she’s a gardening tightwad. She starts with a list of basic hand tools and gives guidelines for buying them and ideas for how to find tool treasure at estate sales. Discarded metal tools are turned into garden art.
She has frugal or free options for fertilizers and cheap options for making homemade weed killers.
I think it would be fun to go with her on a manure safari to find free sources of bulk manure. I’d take my bucket into dairies and stockyards, farms, ranches, horse stables, fairs, agricultural colleges, rooftop pigeon coops and petting zoos.
The book includes a good section on soil solutions and one of the most concise instructions I’ve read on how to make compost and leaf mulch. Another excellent section for vegetable gardeners is about propagating free plants. She makes seed sowing sound simple, especially for beginning gardeners.
“The key to a low-cost veggie or kitchen garden is to avoid falling for all the smaller products for sale everywhere from the grocery store to the garden center.”
Instead of an expensive tool locker, use an old ice chest. Plant fingerling potatoes in a durable woven plastic bags that holds animal feed. Create support structures for climbing plants from long sticks collected from prunings. Recycle a Christmas tree into a conical pea tower. Tap school cafeterias for heavy-duty plastic jugs, restaurant-size cans or other reusable containers to use in the garden.
Maureen understands how easy it is for gardeners to make the mistake of spending more money on growing food than they should. All of her tightwad gardening tips and small budget buys are aimed at helping gardeners eat for free or at least on a reduced budget.
After reading her book, you’ll be able to see the possibilities for a tepee trellis with every stick you want to throw away.