June 7, 2021
Have you noticed your neighbourhood is a bit greener these days?
Balconies, planter boxes, flowerpots, community gardens, backyard mini-crops and front-yard terraces; Canadians are getting into gardening in an even bigger way this year relative to last.
Not only is moving dirt between your fingers providing much-needed healing and therapy for those struggling with the ambiguous loss the pandemic has brought to our lives, but it’s also helping thousands of people who’ve chosen to grow fruits and veggies to reduce their grocery bills by up to $500 over the next few months.
Whether it’s for your soul or your wallet, here are a few ways to save money on gardening this year.
Draw up your plans and research before you plant
Sketch out how you want your garden to look, and what you’d like to grow. As you probably know, depending on the season, the quality of your soil, the space you have and even the grading of the landscape, certain plants, flowers, grasses, fruits and vegetables will grow better than others — avoid planting things that are long shots to survive. The folks we bought our house from two and a half years ago had tried different types of grasses in the backyard three times, but soil quality and timing prevented the grass from taking root and thriving. It resulted in thousands of dollars gone to waste.
Amazing gardens and gardening skills aren’t built in a season, and neither is your budget
Great gardens take time to develop, and the costs can be steep if you try to do everything at once. As you’re crafting your plan, align it to what’s realistic for your budget.
As with all big-ticket items, spacing out major gardening projects, and their respective costs, can ease the burden on your cash flow. Prioritize what aspects of the project are most important. In my front garden, for example, we have a portion that is on a steep incline, so much so that the soil is eroding. Thus, one of my top planting priorities is investing in robust shrubs that will help to anchor the soil — I’ve de-prioritized building a raised flower bed in the back until next year.
(Don’t forget to factor in any increased water and electricity costs, trips to your garden centre and more into your budget.)
Not sure what to plant? Test it out on a smaller scale
When I was single condo dweller, I loved growing different types of herbs, small-scale veggies and flowers in planters — some indoors, others on the balcony. It was both educational and therapeutic. I learned what I liked to grow, to nibble on and include in my sauces, and which plants weren’t for me.
When you’re getting started, start small (literally giving each seedling room to flourish), learn what’s going well or not, and let that inform what you grow more of later on. There’s a misconception that gardening, especially for food, is all about the size of the harvest, when really, it’s better to focus on planting what will be used and enjoyed by you and your family (maybe a few friends, too).
Starting small will keep your costs down, and hopefully avoid unnecessary waste. It can also help to have specific recipes in mind, when you’re rearing fruits and veggies.
Scale it up or down based on your time availability
Planting is only one stage of gardening. There’s then hours of maintenance — watering, weeding, making compost — which means that what you plant and build needs to fit your lifestyle.
If you have less time, especially at the beginning of the gardening season, purchasing transplants that are on sale at your local nursery can be a good way to save time and money. (This could mean you’ll need to be a bit flexible with what you’re planting.) If you’re someone who has a bit extra in your budget, perhaps from all the saving you did during the pandemic, you could invest in some professional gardening help for some ongoing maintenance or pesky and important projects you might not have time to complete.
Buy what’s on sale or second-hand
It’s a good thing to invest in quality tools, but getting them second-hand is a terrific way to save. I’m currently on the hunt for a used rain barrel from my neighbourhood’s swap-and-save site. The prices are less than half of what they cost new.
You can buy piles of items from the dollar store: gardening gloves, buckets and containers for the harvest, plant clips, poles and cages. If you take good care of these, they’ll last you multiple seasons.
You can also save money on soil if you buy in bulk, and ask for a discount if the gardening product you are purchasing is slightly damaged. DIY your own compost and see if you can get your hands on free mulch (perhaps from a local tree-trimming company looking to get rid of shredded chips).
Gardening is going to cost money, but by carefully planning, you’ll have many happy returns on your investment.