Frugal Gardening Despite All Odds and Inclinations

baking the old soil

“What’s for dinner, honey?” “Oh, a roast of recycled squash soil and vermiculite. Want a salad with that?”

I write elaborate shopping lists, then do my best to be frugal by striking items off one by one, identifying what can be done to replace each. What’s left is a list that contains nothing but the essentials, and each item that remains is something I’ve carefully thought through.

Frugal Delay Tactics

Right now I need to repot a few cramped little plants, set in a few more seeds, including a restart on the squash. But I’ve been avoiding this for weeks – first it was too hot, then I was too tired. Now I’m too impatient, knowing that within a month I’ll have a VegTrug. But the plants don’t care that I’m impatient, and they want to get started now if there’s any hope of being harvested for dinner in a few months.

Frugal Potting Soil Make-Your-Own

  • a bag of peat moss
  • a bag of coarse builder’s sand
  • a bag or stack of garden loam or compost
  • a large scoop (will be used to measure a “part”) – plastic juice jug, bottom and sides cut off
  • a bin to mix in – old potting soil bags – I save them because they reseal
  • garden gloves – struck from list when I found my left glove. I’m golden now.

I’m also salvaging the potting soil from the dear departed indoor yellow squash, whose heritage lives on in the Bunny Buffet. I harvested the last squash and uprooted the rest early this morning. Its leaves had been drooping and looking generally unhealthy. Better to feed the bunnies than continue to cajole this back to life.

Frugal Planting Decisions

Here comes the dilemma. Do I pot the seeds now and hope they are up by the time the VegTrug arrives, or do I wait for it to arrive so I can see the layout in person?

Or do I scratch using seeds altogether and hie down to the big box garden center and pick up real plants that are used to being outside?

Frugal Bottom Line

This will be the biggest single gardening acquisition of my gardening career (which started in March, so don’t be too impressed). I am agonizing over what it’ll take to do it right, properly, productively and frugally. I should be banned from the local garden center-slash-hardware store – at least until I calm down and see this VegTrug in person.

How to share your gardening success without being creepy


We've got a tomato!

The first tomato arrives!

It’s considered poor form and downright creepy to put bags of zucchini in people’s driveways or on their front porch or next to their pool chairs while they sunbathe. Breaking into cars to leave boxes of strawberries is likely to get you sent up on felony auto theft charges.

So, what do you do if you’ve got a bumper crop of beefsteak tomato plants – and you don’t even like tomatoes all that much?

If all these tomato plant seedlings (also known as “vines”) decide to bloom and bear fruit (yes, they’re fruits!), I’ll be knee deep in more tomatoes than we could consume in a lifetime. My options are:

  1. Make 140 gallons of homemade spaghetti sauce (HAH)
  2. Can the tomatoes (fat chance)
  3. Pick off the blossoms before they “set” and hope that’s all it takes to stop tomatoes from growing
  4. Research what it’ll take to start a local farmer’s market, and sell off the tomatoes
  5. Pull off  paradigm shift and morph the patio into a Victory Garden (more on these later)
  6. Give the plants to someone who has kids and loves to garden but missed the window

I’m figuring that last option is the most likely. I’m not nearly domesticated enough to pull off #1 – and where would I put all that sauce?

If I opt for #2 and can them, I’d have to learn how to can stuff. Then I’d have to convince my dearly beloved to dig me a cold cellar and put up shelves and a weird hanging light that casts scary shadows in horror flicks. We’d then shlep all those canned tomatoes down into the cold cellar, where they’d sit for nine years, until the San Andreas Fault twitches and shatters 90% of the glass jars and drowns us in tomato goo. I’ll pass, thanks.

If you’re a nice neighbor and still have a stack of those Topsy Turvy Tomato planters like the ones on your patio, offer one or two to that neighbor who has kids, loves to garden, but doesn’t have the time to prep a patch to receive the vines.


Garden Economics 101

Seeing sprouts: Priceless

The way I figure it, when our first tomato hits the plate, it’ll cost $750 per ounce, give or take a few thousand.

Then again, a Boeing 777-300ER cost $298.3 million in 2011, and that’s before you start even thinking about insurance. It’s a matter of perspective!

Now I could gather up every receipt for every bit of seed, potting soil, garden trowel, hardware cloth, concrete blocks, cable ties, self-watering pots, plastic carrier thingies, sun hat, sunblock, peat pot, baby plant, big gallon buckets, cutting board, huge plastic bowls, and dripper for Miracle Gro – but I won’t. Others have done this already, and here’s a few:

I’m new at this gardening stuff when compared to those who have gardened all their lives and raise state-fair-prize-winning pumpkins upward of 150 pounds without batting an eye. I know I haven’t bought everything I’ll ever need. Heck, I still need a rocking compost bin and a proper suite of multi-purpose garden hoses. But I liken the garden adventure to a credit card commercial:

  • Flower Seeds: $2.98
  • Hand Trowel: $5.99
  • Gardening gloves: $7.50
  • Seeing sprouts in a peat pot: Priceless