“A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” – Dave Ramsey
When I decided to garden it was because I was told it would be a cheap way to relieve stress. I’m sure in some realm of the world that is true, but as with all things I went above and beyond. I didn’t start small and I didn’t start with a few items. I headed to Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, and Menards and purchased everything I could get my hands on. I watched videos that told me I needed something and headed to the store to buy it. I was going to grow the best veggies and I didn’t care how much it cost, until I did. Something told me to calculate how much I had spent to create the garden and when I saw that number I was done. The first year I had spent $1000. That number only included what I could remember spending.
To make myself feel better I included tools and supplies. Let me explain tools. We had to purchase pick axes and shovels so guess what, I dropped that into the number. My husband needed knee pads since we were on the ground digging out rose bushes. That got included in the total. The list goes on and on as to what got included but truth is I would have included everything known to man to justify that number. That was an insane amount of money for a first year gardener. Want to hear the funny part. The first year all I grew was green beans. My soil was essentially clay so nothing was strong enough to make it.
The second year I vowed that I would not spend that much money. That $1000 green bean was madness. Guess what I spent the second year? I spent $2500. Let me say I’m being real liberal with this number. Liberally low. The second year I decided to try straw bale and container gardening. That meant I needed to buy bales and containers and have them delivered. I also had to frame out the garden to hold these bales. Bales required fertilization, watering, and plastic sheeting to heat the bale. This was all before I dropped in one seed. I had to purchase potting mix, manure, and vermiculite to mix in the containers and I needed greenhouses to start all my seeds. I also needed more seeds. Notice I keep saying “need”. I didn’t need this stuff but the bug had already bit me so the money was spent.
The second year was successful. I grew turnips, mustard greens, collard greens, watermelon, two varieties of potatoes, strawberries, four varieties of cucumbers, three varieties of tomatoes, three kinds of peppers, onion, scallions, garlic, four varieties of carrots, peas, six varieties of lettuce, sweet potatoes, mint, thyme, sage, and the coveted green bean. I grew so many veggies I was sending bags to people. I could not keep up and soon Unicorn Crossing became Unicorn Jungle. So now here we are at year number three.
Let me state I am not a gardening expert and I have used my friend Google as well as my new friend YouTube to guide me. You would be amazed at what you can learn if you just phrase your question the right way. I actually started getting so much information I went into overload and had to calm my ass down. I got out my trusty journal from last year and started making some corrections. This is where I can help you. This is where I hope I can save you some money so you don’t fall into the traps I fell into. This is where I hope I can save you some money.
First Tip- make a friend. You need to make a gardening friend. This friend will tell you about what works and doesn’t work. This friend will be a sounding board so you can bounce ideas off them. I’m basically saying talk to them before you start buying random shit. This friend can also share seeds with you. Each seed pack has at least fifty seeds depending on what you buy. You don’t need fifty cucumber plants. You and several friends can split up the seed packs thus saving money.
Second Tip- Decide ahead of time what you want to grow. You don’t need ten varieties of cucumbers. Im talking to myself more than I’m talking to you. Your first year start with one variety of each veggie you want to grow. Master that variety and then move on to others.
Third Tip- Start with the basics. Dirt, location, seeds. That’s all you need to get started. If you want to start with containers get 10 containers. NO MORE. If you want to try straw bale gardening start with five bales. NOT 20. If you want to start with grow bags order one set. NOT THREE. Buckets are another option. Please follow the same rules as you would with containers. Listen you will eventually end up with more stuff. Start small and let you garden grow with your skills. Farmers didn’t need grow lights, heat mats, or fancy gadgets. They planted stuff and watched it grow. Garden burnout is real. Don’t get yourself all worked up before you drop a seed.
Fourth Tip- Don’t buy cheap soil. I got cheap soil thinking this is where I would cut cost. Stop laughing. This sounds stupid even as I type it. Spending $2500 and getting cheap soil. My new go to soil is Miracle Grow. If you don’t use Miracle Grow pick another brand you recognize or have researched. Cheap soil grows nothing. I ended up putting ten bags of garbage soil into my compost heap which couldn’t be used until the following year. I then had to turn around and buy what I should have started with.
Fifth Tip- Raised beds are a good option. They do have an added up front cost but if you have bad soil or a bad back this is a great option. All you need for a good raised bed are four pieces of wood and cinder blocks that have slats to hold the wood. They sell these at all home improvement stores.
Gardening does not have to be expensive if you start slow and are mindful. Resist the urge to go all. For millions of years people have grown food with just the basics. While fancy techniques may be handy later, build your way up to that. The easiest thing would be for me to tell you to create a budget. I will admit that is hard when you don’t fully know what you need. What I will say is have a max budget of what you can spend. There are dozens of ways to make gardening even cheaper than what I will advice you. Remember our friends Google and YouTube.
As I get more tips throughout the growing season I will be sure to drop those tips here. As for now, Let’s Grow Some Stuff!!