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Six Easy and Frugal Spring Garden Tips for a Better Garden

Spring Garden TomatoesSpring is almost here and if you like fresh garden vegetables, it won’t be long before you’re getting the soil ready for some seedlings or seeds. Making the right preparations for your spring garden is crucial to a successful garden. Turning the soil over and adding the right amendments can make the difference between a kitchen full of garden delights or a pathetic little weed patch (I’ve had those before). Here are six tips that I’ve used over the years that have worked well for me

GYPSUM

Add gypsum to your garden as a soil amendment. Gypsum is beneficial in many ways for almost any type of garden. It’s especially useful if you have clay soils, which can be a challenge to garden in. Gypsum will break the clay down and eventually give it a nice “tilth”. It’s relatively inexpensive and can actually be free. If you have done any projects that involve sheetrock or drywall you can recover the Gypsum quite easily. Sheetrock is made almost entirely of Gypsum. It’s not difficult to remove the paper coating on gypsum. Leave your sheetrock out in the yard (preferably in an inconspicuous place) and after a rainfall or two the paper will peel right off. What’s left can be easily crumbled and tilled into the soil when you’re preparing your garden for spring planting.

LEAVES AND LIME

If you’re surrounded by trees and have a huge pile of leaves left over from the fall you can turn some of them right into your soil when preparing it in the spring. I’ll take some of the leaves waiting for the compost pile and run over them a few times with the lawn mower on low speed to shred them into smaller pieces. When turning the soil over in the garden I’ll add the leaves as well as some lime (the pelletized stuff in the garden center, not the stuff you put in tequila) and turn it onto the soil.

10 10 10

No, I’m not stuck on 10, But 10-10-10 general purpose fertilizer has been the mainstay of my vegetable garden for as long as I can remember. It’s economical and the large bags available in garden centers and farm supply stores will last you two or more seasons. Once again, when I’m preparing the soil for spring planting, I sprinkle some 10-10-10 in along with the lime, gypsum and shredded leaves.

SIX PACKS

Those half gallon containers with the foot tall tomato pants you’ll see in the nursery look tempting don’t they? Don’t waste your money unnecessarily on them. I always try to buy the six packs (plants, not beer) of whatever vegetable I want to put in the garden. They are a fraction of the cost and if you’ve prepared the soil, your small seedlings will take off and catch up to those more expensive plants in no time at all. You’ll probably have some extras, and that’s OK. Find a spot in the garden where you can tuck them away. If any of the sets you put in the ground don’t make it, you’ll have a backup to replace them.

BEER FOR YOUR SLUGAHOLICS

Slugs are insatiable beeraholics. So much so that for their final resting place, they’ll chose a luxurious bath in a tray of beer. Place a shallow tray, the lid from a mayonnaise jar works well, on the ground in your garden and fill it with beer. The slugs will do a Mardi Gras dance to the tray. Once there, they’ll gleefully drown out their sorrows in a final hoist of a pint (so to speak). It won’t take much beer to fill the lids, what you do with the beer you don’t use is entirely up to you!

BEER CAN ARMOR

Cutworms are a royal pain in the butt. I’ve had seedlings that were coming along nicely suddenly decimated by the little goobers. They’ll usually leave nothing but a pathetic little seedling laying on its side, and a stalk in the ground as a memorial to their short life. Over the years I’ve come across a little trick that has helped a lot. Use a can with the top and bottom cut off to place over the seedling. You should have a few beer cans leftover if you’ve already gone after the slugs. You may have to cut the cans in half, the ideal length of the can is around three inches. Make sure the can is placed about one inch into the soil. This should keep the cutworm damage down to a minimum, if not get rid of it altogether. Keep the can in place until the plant is sturdy with at least three or four sets of leaves on it. You want to take it out before the plant gets too big or risk either damaging the plant when you remove it or having a goofy looking can around your plant for the entire growing season. By the way, they don’t have to be beer cans; I just thought it would get your attention :)

PEPPER SPRAY YOUR PESTS

Although this isn’t really a spring garden tip I wanted to share it with you anyway. I just found out about this a few weeks ago and am anxiously waiting to try it out later in the growing season.  A gentleman I work with told me about this. Basically you make a tea with hot peppers and add a little dish soap to it. He uses a cupful of dried habanero or scotch bonnet peppers to a gallon of hot water and lets it sit in the sun for a a day or so. You add a bit of dish soap to it and after straining it, put it in a spray bottle and spray your plants with it. According to my friend, it keeps away bugs, deer, rabbits, snakes and the neighbors’ kids. Just to be on the safe side, wait until the plants are mature before using this spray.

My friend did tell me that he is stepping up the formula a notch this year, he’s grown Indian Ghost peppers (Bhut Jolokia) to use instead. I asked him if he had a hazmat suit and that if he didn’t, I might visit him in the hospital after he first uses it.

Enjoy!

Do you have any frugal gardening tips to share with us?

 

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John Schmoll is a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. He's passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes so that they can live lives free from the shackles of debt and empowered to make their money work for them. You can check out his other sites: Frugal Rules, for ways to improve your financial literacy; and Sprout Wealth for tips on different ways to make more money. John has been featured on Forbes, Lifehacker, Yahoo Finance and US News & World Report and more. If you're wanting to grow your blog, check out my blog coaching services to see how I can help you take your site to the next level.

18 comments

  1. Jose, thank you!!! I’ve been looking forward to this post! I’m so excited to have some tips from an experienced gardener and am hoping we’ll have a huge crop this year to carry us into next spring or so. My only frugal gardening tip is that we only plant what we’re sure to eat, and that we try and can and/or freeze everything so that nothing goes to waste.
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…Daylight Savings Time: What You Might Not KnowMy Profile

    • Your welcome Laurie! I’m looking forward to getting the garden in, and really looking forward to some fresh veggies! Now id we can only figure out how to keep the chickens from destroying the broccoli when we let them out, we’ll be all set!

  2. We still have snow on the ground but as soon as it’s gone I’ll be out getting my hands dirty. I already started all my seeds for veg and flowers and will post about it on Monday. I save all the leaves every year, bag them and stuff as much into the compost bin as I can. Cheers!
    Canadianbudgetbinder recently posted…The Saturday Weekend Review #10-Daylight Savings 2013, Door To Door Sales Begins!My Profile

    • I’m looking forward to it! Unfortunately, I haven’t started any seeds. Time seems to get the better of me. I usually end up getting the six pack of seedlings, and I definitely stay away from the large pots with half grown plants!

  3. Love the end of winter, with all the plans for a new garden season.
    We’ve been hard at it this weekend, planning and building new beds.
    The blister beetles in my remote garden might even like pepper spray. I tried a combination of garlic and pepper spray, and nada…Could have sworn they were even doing a little mocking dance, the little b******. Knocking them down into a soapy water bath did the trick, but it was tedious. This year, it’s diatomaceous earth all the way. For them, and the grasshoppers. And good riddance.
    Haven’t had any trouble with cutworms and slugs, but there’s always a first time. Good article, Jose, nice to see another PF Blogger slash gardener.
    Andrew @ 101 Centavos recently posted…A post for International Woman’s Day 2013 (only a couple days late)My Profile

    • DE is good for a lot of things other than pool filters. It’s commonly used on chickens to kill lice and added to their feed to keep them worm free. After posting that article I got the garden bug and spent the day tearing out old wood retaining walls (short ones) and putting in brick with a sand base, I’ll be setting down some brick raised planter this week to get ready to get some veggies in. I need to get my hands on some broccoli sets though before it gets too late! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Great Post Jose, man you are a great writer! Anyway, I am excited about the gardening season, but wondered if you had any tips on how to keep deer out of my cantelopes. Got a 4 foot fence around them, they just jump right over it. Guess I could do a 6 ft, but wondered if their was some concoction to keep them out like the slugs?
    Jim recently posted…Death Panels Phooey, Here Is How It Will Really WorkMy Profile

    • Thanks! I live in a rural area where there are tons of deer but have never had a deer problem. It’s probably because everyone has dogs around here. I don’t know of any concoctions for deer but I think Tractor Supply might sell some. You might also try welded wired fencing placed over the cantelopes. A short section bent into an arch and placed over the cantelopes. Sort of like a Quonset hut. Let me know if your try that. I’m going to do something similar to keep the chickens away from the broccoli. If nothing else works you may want to consider formula .30-06 :D

  5. Just want to send big congratulations to the author of this post, this is a really awesome and easy to use example! love it!
    dallas car accident lawyer recently posted…Johnson & Johnson Recalls Knee Replacement DeviceMy Profile

  6. To keep deer out of your garden plant cilantro and rosemary. Deer hate the smell of these plants and will stay away. They are also good for keeping flies away. You can also use aluminum pie pans hung up by a string.

    • Awesome, Later in the season you can chop up the onions, tomatoes and cilantro, make some salsa and if you have leftover beer from the slug bait you can have a salsa party!

  7. I use the pepper spray trick as well for my garden. Works great on aphids. For creepy crawlies, I set up a jar in the soil, kind of tilted and half buried. In the jar, I put molasses to lure in bugs. Once they go in… they’re stuck! Muahahaha.
    CF recently posted…Doing my 2012 Taxes with Turbo TaxMy Profile

  8. Pepper spraying your plants is a sheer stroke of genius!! I will be trying this out on my garden to get rid of all the pests I have been getting this summer. Fantastic tips, thank you
    Lucy Oliver recently posted…Grinding Coffee – Burr Grinder Versus BladeMy Profile

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