The seasons work like that. Forget about the calendar because some things will happen on a regular basis without effort or timing. I decided to write about a few frugal hacks I’ve employed in my nascent garden. One in particular is an upgrade from last year. The time of that post? Almost exactly one year ago. Friends Grow My Garden was a nod to my expert friends who’ve helped me through, and who probably have pity on my poor plants. I apologize to them both, but my garden gets better every year. So do the hacks.
Unlimited veggies. That was part of the recent prescription from my naturopath. She had good timing. This year my garden has twelve crops, a variety of: lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas, potatoes, squash, apples, figs, raspberries, and the long suffering mushrooms. Okay, so they aren’t all veggies. I wasn’t about to unearth the potatoes that self-sow. The apple trees, fig tree, and berry bushes are perennials. The mushrooms, well, they’re just a mystery. At least I’m already harvesting salad greens. Very cool, especially with the price of romaine lettuce, lately.
Defending against slugs isn’t easy. It rains a lot, here. They’re happy critters, or at least they’re well fed. Last year I realized that slugs might have trouble climbing steel wire. It’s narrower than their wide, slimy bellies. Sure enough, propping the pots on little wire cages meant no slugs all season. This year, a friend downsized by giving me a bunch of the saucers that go under the pots. They were just right for a new variant on the old cage. Much more stable. Still no slugs.
Pots are expensive. Last year, I tried the trick I saw online where the bag of dirt is turned into a big, flat planter. It worked so well I bought two this year. I need a better support for them. One’s sagging a bit. The general idea is working. Now, I want to find a frugal cover that doesn’t get in the way of the plants, lets me harvest daily, but doesn’t let the deer nibble any. The arch of hardware mesh is working, but a good wind dislodges it. So would a deer’s nose, but I’m not telling them that.
If you notice, I use my front deck for those plantings. My house has a great, or at least pretty good, west view – which also means it gets hot. Turning that from a negative to a positive is one reason I used it for my container garden. I don’t want that heat in the house in the summer, so years ago I created a simple hanging awning that provides shade and keeps the windows cool even as the deck stays hot enough for the plants. It’s just a long sheet of canvas remnant with a cord stapled to the top, binder clips holding the cord in place and acting as loops to hang on the cup hooks hanging from the roof. Not exactly a gardening thing, but it was there so I included it.
Beans and peas like to grow tall. Whenever I grew them from garden beds they’d make a lot of progress, then something would munch them down about three inches off the ground. Slugs, bugs, or bunnies, I don’t know who is the drasted culprit. Using the idea of the artful use of wire mesh, I created a vertical tube from driveway rebar, built a platform a foot or so off the ground, and put the seeds in pots. I thought I was very clever and original, and then saw others doing the same thing. I still like the idea. It must work if it is as popular as it seems to be.
Container gardens need frequent watering. Yes, I could walk around with a hose. That means uncoiling and recoiling it. I’m lazy. As part of my emergency preparedness, I replaced one downspout with a chain that leads to a rain barrel. That’s full, now. So, I put a lid on it, put the bucket on the lid, put the chain in the bucket, and let the rain fill the bucket occasionally. If it hasn’t rained, I fill the bucket from another barrel or from a faucet.
It’s payback time, always. The very warmth and light that make my deck work well for veggies makes my living room’s front window a surprisingly good place for aloe vera. I repotted a friend’s aloe a few years ago. In return, I got to keep one old shoot and one new shoot. Shoot. Pardon a pause while I go over and count the number of shoots. I lost count after thirty. I’m keeping a few of them, but the rest are available for free. First some, first served – as long as folks are reasonable about it. Call or email for a good time, er, a time that’s good for both of us, er, proper scheduling.
Frugality is a lot like gardening, it isn’t necessary to become an expert instantly. Start small. Notice what works and doesn’t. Make little improvements. Have fun. Accept help. At its simplest, gardening is: dirt, seeds, water, sunlight, and patience. Weeding helps. At its simplest, frugality is: learning about wants versus needs, meeting those needs, thinking of simpler ways to meet those needs, and making room for a few wants. Budgets may help, but they aren’t required. Food is a basic need. Good food is a blend of want and need. Gardening is one way to meet a need while satisfying a want (as weather, bugs, and nutrients allow.)
I garden more as a want than a need. My harvests supplement my grocery shopping. A few pots can produce a lot, and pay for themselves; but I know folks who grow 80% of what they need, and get food they really want. Fresh asparagus, corn, berries, and tomatoes meet a need in a way that gourmets desperately want. Fine dining on a budget, with free home delivery. And, lots of playing in the dirt. Weeds happen. Haven’t found a way around them, yet.