Pots of baby tomato plants

Seven Ways to Save Money in the Garden

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With the price of produce skyrocketing – and likely to continue – there has never been a better time to grow your own fruit and vegetables. This is guest blog post from the team at Food2Soil, a Canberra startup that is doing great things with turning food waste into fertilizer.

“We like to think we are resourceful and nowhere is this truer than in the garden. It’s not surprising the premise of Food2Soil is reusing, repurposing, and recycling nature to improve soil and plant health. Below are a few additional strategies we both use, that do not cost much (if any) and will help keep your garden happy and your bank balance healthy.

1. Create Gold from Waste

Starting with the most important resource of them all…..drum roll….food waste. 

The best thing you can do is compost your food straps. However, if you don’t have the time, space or motivation, there are other options, such as worm farms, Bokashi bins, FOGO bin (if available) and the ShareWaste app – this app is brilliant, I even use it on holidays, food waste is too valuable to go to landfill 🙂).

[Serina comment: I’ve used this app, and it does indeed work well.]

2. Soil Saver

If you need to buy a lot of new soil or compost, best to do it in bulk through your local landscape provider; they will usually deliver as well. New soil is often microbially dead, so it is best to add a fertilizer such as Food2Soil to inoculate it as soon as it’s in place (or well before planting).

3. Save on Plants

Collect and save seeds. For trees and large shrubs, a good technique is to lay an old sheet down and gently bash the branches of the seed-laden tree (ensure the seed is ripe first or you’ll just be beating the tree up for no good reason!) This works wonderfully for acacias, bursaria and any plant that produces large amounts of smallish seed

Take cuttings from trees and shrubs. It is an especially good time of year to take cuttings as it this works particularly well when deciduous trees are dormant in winter. However, these guys are slow to root well and you need to be very, very patient. Just because there is new growth on the upper part of the cutting doesn’t necessarily mean there are lots of corresponding roots underneath. Gently tug the cutting and if it is resistant to being pulled out, it is likely to have developed roots.

Where you can, start your plants from seed. But a word of warning: for cold climate dwellers, the temperature of the soil will greatly impact germination, also, some seeds need special treatment. For example, hard-coated seeds need to be nicked or heat-treated before they will germinate. So be prepared and do your research for the best results.  

While we are on the topic of seeds, save seeds from your favourite produce, rinse and leave to dry on a windowsill, then bag them in a paper bag for next year (don’t forget to label the bag).

Cuttings from evergreen shrubs can be propagated all year round. It is a good idea to join local gardening sites or groups such as ‘seed savers’. An example of a Canberra-based one is Canberra Organic Growers Society (COGS).  Gardeners are such generous sharers and will happily give you ideas of plants to propagate, and possibly a bucketload of their own cutting too. We have had success with hydrangeas, rosemary and many succulents (these are often the easiest to start with) 

4. Divide and Conquer

Some plants become overcrowded and will benefit from being divided. It is best to gently dig them up and use a sharp spade to divide the root ball to make many small plants. Agapanthus works well, as do peace lilies and rhubarb. These are perfect for gifts or to fill a spot in your garden

5. Trash to Treasure

Collect fallen leaves for mulch. We keep re-usable garden bags in the back of the car and stop when we see a large collection of leaves in road gutters. If you’re lucky, there will be decomposed material as well; you may even get worms and organic compost in the mix… bonus!

If you need building material or sculpture items for the garden, such as old pavers, bricks, statue pieces, pots etc, it is a good idea to visit a local recycling/resource centre first. In the ACT, Tiny’s Green Shed is a good place to start, but Gumtree and Facebook are also great options. 

There are many local farmers or urban growers who may have an abundance of organic material (e.g. straw, hay or manure (chicken, horse, cow etc). Be on the lookout and don’t be afraid to ask someone; it may be beneficial for them as well. 

6. Save on Quality and Concentration

Using concentrated products such as Food2Soil will last you a long time and therefore save money. A 2L of F2S will provide 20 x 10L buckets of solution and the more you feed your garden, the less you will need over time. Once per growing season, and monthly in summer and spring. A 2L will last the average home garden for 6 months.

Quality gardening tools are worth spending a little extra on, they will save you money and heartache in the long run. Trust me, a $3 plastic bucket will only last you as many months as the dollars you spend. Another item not to skimp on is a good quality hose and connections. Cheap hoses will give endless grief in the garden; another example of where I have lived and learned.

7. Plant for Climate and Season

Lastly, we strongly recommend planting according to your climate and season. You will waste money on plants that will die if they are unsuited to the climate or planted in the wrong season. When I first moved to Canberra, I had a frangipani in a pot, grown from a cutting, that I brought from Sydney. Being a novice gardener at the time, I tried to protect it during the first winter, but inevitably it passed. It was a shame, as I love the smell of frangipani in the summer. 

Gardening is a continuous learning journey, full of mistakes and triumphs along the way. There is an abundance of resourceful, money-saving ways to garden successfully. Feel free to share them with Food2Soil team we are always on the lookout for more.”

Note: this is a guest blog post from Food2Soil. Serina uses and likes Food2Soil’s fertilizer. This is not a paid sponsored post, and is shared to encourage sustainability and home growing.

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