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Thrifty ways to save money in the garden

In economic terms, plants like this tomato offer a higher return on investment because they give multiple fruits on each plant. (Photo Credit: torugatoru)

In economic terms, plants like this tomato offer a higher ‘return on investment’ because they yield multiple fruits on each plant. (Photo Credit: torugatoru)

Increasingly, people want better and more creative ways to feed their families. As the price of food rises, and more questions are being asked about what’s in (or not in) our food, gardening is becoming a popular approach to not only put nutrient-rich meals on the table, but also stretch food dollars. Here are some ideas to make gardening even more budget-friendly.

Yield more: When deciding what fruits, vegetables or herbs to plant, consider the harvest you will end up getting from each plant. Some plants yield several fruits, while others only give one fruit per plant. Think of it this way: one carrot plant will yield one carrot, while one tomato plant will yield many tomatoes. What does this mean? If you spend $3.00 on a tomato seedling and it yields 10 tomatoes, the cost per tomato is $0.30, plus the water and other resources it takes to grow the plant. So, the fruits, vegetables or herbs you plant can help you stretch your food dollar further.

Seed money: Starting your plants from seeds is very budget-friendly. One packet of seeds can cost as much as one packet of seedlings from your local greenhouse. But if your packet of seedlings cost $5, you get between 4 to 6 plants. If you spend $5 on a packet of good quality, locally grown seeds, you’ll likely get about 20 to 30 seeds. Think back to that tomato example: If you spend $3.00 on a packet of tomato seeds (with 10 seeds in the packet) that’s $0.30 per seed. If a plant from one of those seeds yields 10 tomatoes, that’s $0.03 per tomato, plus growing costs.

Swap for success: Thoughtfully purchasing or acquiring seeds contributes to a great quality garden. Buying locally grown seeds may not save money over commercially produced seeds, but the local seeds will yield fruits, vegetables and herbs that are harder and more suited for your growing area. Seed packets usually hold more seeds than you can use in one growing season. Consider swapping or trading seeds with friends, family and neighbours to add variety to the foods you grow without additional costs. Cost sharing among several gardeners in your community is another frugal strategy for this upcoming gardening season.

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Use what you have around the house to start seeds and seedlings, like this rice bag. (Photo Credit: Mikmaq Mama)

Be resourceful: When starting seeds, skip the store bought seedling pots and mini greenhouses and instead, use what you have around the house. Use newspapers for origami pots, turn upcycled clear plastic containers into small greenhouses, and use egg cartons or modified paper towel rolls as planters. Using what you have around the house can go a long way to helping you get the most food for your dollar.

Rain supreme: Nurturing a garden requires constant care and attention: weeding, watering, pruning. Watering can get costly, especially if you use a municipal water supply. Collecting rain water is a smart way to keep your garden fed, without running up your water bill. Also, rain water doesn’t contain chemicals or chlorine. You can either invest in a store-bought rain barrel or easily create one with what you have at home. Nourishing your garden with rain water is a free and healthy way to raise your food.

Tools of the trade: It’s hard to garden properly without the necessary tools, but that can get expensive. Start by looking for second-hand implements in thrift stores, at Value Village or at yard sales. Online sources such as Freecycle, Kijiji or eBay are other good places teeming with good quality, second-hand items. Paying retail prices for tools can drain your garden budget, so maximize your resources and get creative.

In a world of rising food costs, many families are looking to gardening as a way to stretch their hard earned food dollars. Take advantage of your own creativity and local resources to help you achieve your goal. Budget-friendly, nutrient-rich meals are certainly within the realm of possibilities, even in the face of financial constraints.

Mikmaq Mama dedicates her writings to sharing her culture and lifestyle with curious readers. She encourages readers to join her in living a greener, more sustainable lifestyle. Read more at mikmaqmama.weebly.com

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