by Tammy Taylor
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Y’all know I love my veggie garden. There’s just something about grabbing that wicker basket on my way out the door and strolling out to the gated garden, spending lots of time in there just harvesting fresh veggies while enjoying the sunshine and singing birds, the butterflies and the beauty of the garden itself.
I was enjoying time in the garden recently while transplanting some tender heirloom seedlings that I started in my indoor greenhouse several weeks ago. But in our part of NE Texas the spring breezes can get pretty stiff and I often have problems with the wind bending & killing my tender seedlings. So I set out to find a way to protect them until they grew strong enough to fend for themselves. It got me to thinking about how many things I accomplish in the garden by thinking outside the box & using what I have right here on the ranch.
For instance, I found a clever way to protect those seedlings. I pulled some small twigs with many dividing branches and pushed the stem into the ground on the north side of each of my tender seedlings. When the south wind blows the twig will keep it from bending the stem of the seedling. So far it’s worked great. And it’s FREE.
Mulching The Garden
I also needed a way to cover the bare soil between the seedlings. As any gardener knows, bare soil WILL be filled by Mother Nature but in all probability it will be filled by something you DON’T want in your garden… weeds.
Then I remembered that just two days earlier RancherMan used the tractor to mow between the fence & the road. The rye grass there was tall and there was lots of it! I figured that rye grass is a cool-weather grass so even though there were probably rye seeds in the grass it shouldn’t interfere with summertime veggie growing. And I often plant rye grass in the garden in the fall anyway to grow a living mulch during the winter, tilling it all under in the early spring.
So I took my rake and a large bucket out to that section of the property and raked up bucketfuls of this beautiful hay and brought it into my garden, laying it out between the plants. It worked like a charm keeping the soil cooler as the temps heated up, preserving moisture in the garden as well as covering the soil to prevent weeds and grasses from popping up. Hey less weeding in the garden is a definite WINNER for me!
Compost Can Be FREE Fertilizer!
Of course I rely heavily compost. I have a *Compost Tumbler (and I LOVE it!) but you can make compost in wire cages, pallet sections or just on the ground! And your compost materials can actually be free. On top of the traditional food scraps, I use Repurposed Cardboard for my ‘browns’ requirement. And heck since we have cattle, I’m often adding Manure too!
Are you nervous about composting? Don’t worry, Compost Doesn’t Stink! Properly balanced compost simply smells like rich healthy earth. If you’re wondering where to start, I wrote a helpful Guide On Composting.
Weed Control Using Repurposed Paper
And I wrote recently about how I wet down some feed sacks, cut out a hole for my plant and lay the wet paper on the surrounding ground. I then cover with hay or grass clippings to hide the paper & give it a more finished look. This means I won’t have to mow or weed-eat in this tight space that would otherwise be near impossible to maintain.
Plus the paper cover helps keep the soil temperature steady while also preserving the moisture around my cucuzzi plant helping it to grow fast & strong. I’ve never grown cucuzzi before & I can’t wait to see what it will do!
Repurposed Items To Tie Plants
But that’s not the only way I use feed sacks. I have blackberry vines growing in the garden next to the exterior fence & I’m using the heavy cotton string from that bag of cattle cubes to tie the vines along the fence, making them grow where I want them to. This helps keep the vines off the ground (where they would root and spread like wildfire making this plant a nuisance) and it also keeps the vines growing in a more convenient height & spread-out pattern to simplify the harvest of those sweet berries. As the vines grow they cover the string making it almost invisible so this area of my garden stays beautiful as well.
I’ve also used strips cut from plastic bags to tie my plants. The beauty of this is that the plastic gives a bit as the plant grows. I’ve tied tomatoes to a trellis and my grapevine to the fence using strips of plastic bag. Heck as much as I hate plastic & try to shun it coming into our home, I’ll be dang sure to use it fully before throwing it away!
Plant Markers, No Charge
And here’s a cute idea: I planted various herbs as part of my edible landscape at my front porch. To identify these plants I took rocks that are found on our property and a black paint pen and marked the name of each herb on the rock – Basil, Sage, Oregano, Thyme, etc. It gives a rustic country look to my landscape.
I even got a huge amount of bark mulch for FREE using a tip from my county extension agent. Who knew??!!
I used those wood chips to line walkways throughout my garden and in subsequent years I’ll till ’em in to help improve my soil every year. And once again… FREE!
Now what about your garden? How do you repurpose things around your home to keep down the cost of gardening?
My Favorite Garden Hacks
- Easy Garden Planning Spreadsheet
- Getting A Jump: Planting An Indoor Greenhouse
- Repurposed Cardboard Seed-Starting Pots
- Using Cheap Biodegradable Weed Block
- Low-Cost Vegetable Gardening
- Repurposing Empty Feed Sacks In The Garden
- Easy Compost For A Healthy Garden
- Propping Tender Seedlings
- Cheap (or FREE) Wood Mulch For The Garden
- Homestead Hack: Remember Where You Planted Seeds
- How Vegetable Gardening Can Change Your Life!
- Easy Deep-Soak Watering
- Planting Potatoes In Galvanized Trough
- …and much more!
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