It’s no secret that the economy is taking a toll on our spending practices and limiting the amount of cash we have to throw to the four winds, but there are great ways to reinvest in your yard that will save you hundreds of dollars in the coming seasons! From creating your own topsoil and fertilizer, to saving money on vegetables and flowers by growing your own from seeds, here is my top 10 list of useful items that comprise my “Yard Stimulus Package,” guaranteed to help you save money in 2009, and give you a healthier and more beautiful yard by 2010.
1. A Yard Composter. In 2009, eliminate the need for commercial fertilizer, top soil and potting mix by composting yard and household waste. You can recycle your way to a healthier lawn and garden (even a balcony garden) by saving lawn clippings, leaves, branches, and uneaten food, and layering in in a compost system or a homemade compost bin. Try either a traditional upright composter, or a spinning Composter to quicken the process. For apartment dwellers, try this odorless indoor composting system specifically designed to fit inside an average kitchen cabinet!
2. A Kitchen Counter Composter: A quick and easy way to save your kitchen scraps until you are ready to add them to a full sized composter, this little crock comes in several colors, uses an odor eliminating filter built into the lid, and blends in with any kitchen decor. It’s a great way to store and collect food scraps near your sink, and works well as a visual reminder that will increase the likelihood that you’ll compost and recycle more food waste, and put less into the landfill! It’s a great tool to have, and makes a great gift too for the gardener in your life. Check it out as another money saving way to increase your yard and garden’s overall sustainability.
3. Grass Seed: There have been many advancements in the quality of grass seed available on the market in the past few years. Much of the seed available now has been specifically bred for drought tolerance, disease resistance, rapid root growth, and low-maintenance care requirements. Lawns 10 years old and older can benefit the most from over-seeding, and can be revitalized by the introduction of a stronger grass crop. Nurturing new varieties of grass in your lawn can make a big difference in your lawns overall appearance, health, and time requirements, making a long term difference in the curb appeal of your home, with a small price tag attached.
4. Loose Seed Packets: Seed packets are inexpensive, costing only about 1-2 dollars each, and yet almost every variety of fruit, vegetable, or flower is available to you inside one of these valuable pouches. The trend to grow more food at home has caused a boom in seed production, and now is a great time to reduce your reliance on the big box garden store’s plant selection, and branch out on your own. A home vegetable patch can save you hundreds of dollars a year as produce prices rise, and it allows you the luxury of knowing that your food has been grown in an organic fashion. With this ‘stimulating’ idea, you can grow 15 times the plants you could afford for the price of one mature plant at the garden center.
4. Seed Starting Trays: A great way to save money is through “starting” your seeds indoors, before transferring your plants out into the yard or the vegetable patch. Seed Starting Trays are nurseries for your plants, and allow you to grow more plants away from the threat of frost, predation, or pests, and “start” repeat crops of vegetables and fruits in your home from spring through fall, increasing the amount of food you can harvest through the year. This inexpensive solution provides greater returns in viability than rough sowing into the garden soil, and often comes in biodegradable units that can be dropped into the soil for continued growing. Try a variety that comes with a greenhouse top to increase the ease of growing by keeping your juvenile plants moist.
5. Grow Lights: Unless you are incredibly lucky, the amount of light available in your house needs supplementing in order to “start” your plants from scratch. An adjustable grow light system is one of the easiest ways to provide for young plants, and can take up as little as a foot or two of your basement, or laundry area. Grow lights maximize the number of plants you can grow in your nursery seed starting trays, and speeds the plant growth along in a much quicker fashion than through window light alone. Look for products that can be adjusted in height to “grow” with your plants, and that work well with seed starting trays. One of my favorite grow light systems is the Green Thumb variety, which consists of a low profile support scaffold that eliminates the need for wobbly grow light lamps or the running of electrical wires in your ceiling.
6. A Hori-Hori: This is a great multi-purpose garden tool that everyone should add to their arsenal, especially those who garden in small spaces, and who can’t store a separate tool for every job. One HORI HORI can replace a weeding tool, a hand spade, an all purpose knife, and a hand saw. It’s a specialty garden knife with one serrated edge, and one blade edge, that you can use for digging, planting, prying, weeding, trimming roots, dividing plants, and generally looking like a badass with around the neighborhood. I can’t tell you how many ways I’ve been able to use mine around the home and garden, and highly recommend it as a money and time saving tool to get you out of tight spots while you are working in the yard.
7. A Seed Harvesting Bible: Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners, is a manual to motivate and instruct you on the best ways to grow and harvest both the vegetables themselves, and this years crop of seeds for storage and use next year. This book will help you trouble-shoot the pitfalls of gardening from the seed onward, and help you achieve a sustainable garden plan in 2009 after your first crop. Having the right information is crucial to the success of an organic or sustainable gardening, and this book will help you maximize the return on the money you spend on just one years worth of seeds.
8. A Rain Barrel: Forty percent of the water used by the average American in the summer is used outdoors on the lawn and garden! Reduce your water bills by using a rain barrel to capture up to 95 gallons of free rain water for use on your lawn or garden.
9. A Pot Maker: A pot maker is not only “Becky-Home-Ecy” friendly, but it’s also a great way to recycle your newsprint and paper garbage into seedling pots for your flower and vegetable garden. Creating your own pots is a great alternative to purchasing seed starting trays, and can provide you with eco-friendly, ground-ready planters for all of your young seedlings. These are a great money saving gadget for the committed gardener!
10. Plant Markers: No stimulus package would be complete without plant labels with which to mark off you plants either before you plant them or after. Particularly useful when starting your seeds indoors, or when “companion planting,” these will help you identify where each plant is in the early stages of its development. Use simple Popsicle sticks, or fancy brass or porcelain markers, but make sure to label your young plants so you remember to provide each one with the proper attention, and pruning that it desires, to maximize your crop.
With the items in this Stimulus Package you can turn your yard or garden area into a beautiful, money saving and productive area in 2009. These are my top picks to help you stretch your money in the coming seasons, and now it’s your turn! What are some of your money saving gadgets around the yard?