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Tips for Starting a Garden

One of the cornerstones of frugal living is gardening. After all, there are few things that help you save money on food better than growing your own. My husband and I enjoy planting a garden [3]. We prefer to plant items that are fairly easy to grow in our area, that we know we will eat a lot of, and that cost a little more at the grocery store. We don’t have a lot of time, and we don’t have a ton of space, so we are creative about our garden, and we are choosy about what we grow.

If you are thinking of starting a garden, there are a few things to keep in mind if you want success. Here are some tips for starting a garden:

1. Know Your Space

You want to know your gardening space. This means that you should have an idea of what plants will grow well [4] in your climate. Your local master gardener or nursery owner can help you figure out what will grow best.

You should also know how much space you have for a garden. Rather than take up a good chunk of yard in our suburban neighborhood, my husband and I built garden boxes along the back and side fences, and created an herb garden in a box next to our house. This makes it easier to get to the plants and care for them, and we get the same square footage for growing, while leaving plenty of open space in the yard for play.

2. Start Small

If you have never gardened before, it is often a good idea to start small. Choose only a few plants, and see how you do with them. Don’t plant too much, either. If you know that you are going to be pressed for time, only plant items that you know you will eat regularly. Grow your garden little by little as you learn the ropes, and as you have a little more time to care for a larger garden.

You can also find better success with some plants if you grow starter plants inside the house, and then transplant them later.

3. Use Some Sort of Soil Helper

We like to mix steer manure and compost into our garden boxes. Adding something to the soil can help your plants grow better. There are a number of natural and artificial fertilizers [5] as well. (We have found that compost and steer manure work fine, without extra help.) You will need to turn the soil every year to loosen it up for growing, and this is an ideal time to mix in your soil helper of choice. If you have really poor soil, it might not be a bad idea to buy some top soil to bring in initially. We did this our first year.

4. Take Care of Your Plants

You will need to weed around your plants, and watch for pests that can damage your plants. There are organic pesticides that can be used if you don’t like the idea of spraying other types of bug killers. You might also need to watch for rodents. We had to use traps on voles last year — especially since they seemed to like my strawberries! There are humane traps, as well as deterrents that make use of sound, that you can try if you don’t want to kill the pests.

What tips do you have for starting a garden?