For people who are homesteading, managing expenses is a challenge. You want to be self-sufficient and yet some of the things that you need to do don’t happen overnight. They require an investment of both time and money.
These things are true of gardening. It’s natural to want your garden to yield enough food for you and your family. However, you must strike a balance between pushing toward self-reliance and not blowing through your gardening budget.
That’s why we’ve put together this list of 5 cheap gardening tricks to help you achieve self-reliance.
#1: Pre-sprout Your Seeds
This first trick is one we like because it saves a lot of guesswork if you have old seeds in storage. (And let’s face it, most avid gardeners do.)
Instead of buying new seeds or risking a disappointing harvest if the old seeds don’t sprout, try pre-sprouting them in a little water. That way, you can clear out the duds and plant only those seeds that have germinated.
Larger seeds like peas and beans can be soaked overnight and then left to sprout. Smaller ones will germinate on a damp paper towel.
#2: Till Coffee Grounds into Your Soil
Is your soil low in nitrogen? If so, try saving your used coffee grounds and tilling them into the soil to add nitrogen.
One of the best things about this method is that you don’t need to compost coffee grounds before you use them. Simply collect them and till them into the soil.
Not a coffee drinker? Go to your local coffee shop and see if they’d be willing to share. Most coffee shops simply throw away used grounds. If yours participates in a green initiative and donates them, find out how to become part of the program.
#3: Use Mulch
Mulch serves three purposes in a garden:
- It protects the soil, holding in moisture and reducing your water use
- It breaks down and enriches the soil
- It prevents weeds from growing in your garden
When you look at it that way, it seems clear that every gardener should use mulch.
Keep in mind that different types of mulch serve different purposes. Plastic mulch is ideal for heating up cold soil in the Spring. Carbon-based mulches like wood chips cool down the soil and should be reserved for use later in the season.
#4: Make Compost Tea
Do you want an inexpensive way to fertilize your plants? Try making compost tea from manure and garden clippings.
If you keep rabbits or other animals, simply mix some manure in a bucket with weeds from the garden and some comfrey leaves. Fill the bucket about one-third of the way, then top it off with water.
After two weeks, you’ll have a nutrient-rich “tea” to use in your garden. Because this mixture contains manure, be careful not to get it on the leaves of plants that you’ll be eating. Pour it around the roots and make sure to wash everything thoroughly before you consume it.
#5: Catch and Kill Slugs without Chemicals
Slugs will destroy your garden if you let them. One of the best ways to get rid of them involves using metal pie plates and beer.
Place a disposable pie plate in a depression in the ground of your garden. Pour a small amount of beer into the dish. (You may want to place plates at regular intervals if you have a large garden or a big slug problem.)
Leave the dishes overnight. When you come out in the morning, you should find a collection of tipsy slugs in the dishes. Remove them and either drown them in soapy water or if you have chickens or ducks, feed them to the birds.
These five tricks can help you make the most of your garden even if you have a small budget.
Do you have a cheap gardening trick you’d like to share with us? Tell us in the comments!