Monday, 28 January 2013

Keeping the cost of home grown food down

The whole grow-your-own food movement has become very popular as people try to save money, educate kids about the life cycle of plants, or just get out there and enjoy nature. Plenty of large stores are capitalising on the popularity of growing food by selling ready-made container gardens, compost, garden tools etc. But getting started can end up costing more than you’ll save from 5 years of growing veges. This is fine if you’ve got the funds to spend on your hobby, but not if you’re doing it to save money.

Here are some ideas from my own experience for keeping the cost down:

Second-hand tools. Our local second-hand store has a selection of old garden tools that still have plenty of life left in the them. Check out your local second-hand stores and see what treasures they have for sale.

Timber. If you’re building a timber container garden for your plants, check out your local builder’s recycling store. They have all sorts of used timber that you can reuse for your garden beds or use to make a compost bin.

Tyres. Used tyres are completely free. Your local car garage will give these to you for free or otherwise you can take them from recycling centres. We’ve all heard of using tyres to grow potatoes in, but you can grow many veges and flowers in these. Stack them two high for carrots or large tomato plants, otherwise one tyre should be fine for a courgette (zucchini), capsicum (bell peppers) etc, and you can easily get plenty of radishes or spinach in one tyre. You’re probably thinking that a bunch of tyres in your backyard sounds pretty ugly, but if you’ve got kids they’ll be kept busy for hours painting pretty pictures and colours on the tyres. Hand them a pack of coloured chalk, or if you don’t mind the mess of paint, let them paint their names on the tyres.

Don’t go overboard. When I was new to gardening, I went out and bought 20 packets of seeds so I could plant a few of everything. The seeds left in the packets went mouldy after two years so it was big waste of money. Also, different plants have different pests and require different fertilisers so I ended up having to spent quite a lot. If you’re new to gardening, I’d recommend just starting with four or five or your favourites such as corn, strawberries, potatoes, courgette and tomato. I don’t have to use any pesticides on these veges in my area (your region may be different) but the strawberries will be severely attacked by birds so you’ll need netting for those (or a glasshouse).

Compost and manure. Our neighbours have horses so we go over and collect the manure for free, but if you don’t know anyone with horses, charities such as Riding for the Disabled often sell horse manure for a few dollars to raise money for their charity. A local egg farm in our area sells large bags of chicken manure for a few dollars. Add the manure to the lawn clippings and leaves in your compost bin and you’ll save heaps by not buying store bought compost.

Use corn stalks instead of buying netting or stakes. If you plant a bean seed next to a corn seed, the bean stalk will be able to grow up the corn stalk saving you the cost of buying a stake or netting for your beans.

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