Cheap and easy gardening tips that will have your homestead garden producing mass amounts of delicious food!
When I was a kid, I would watch my dad on his hands and knees in the garden pulling weeds, trimming the plants, and generally breaking his back to make sure the garden looked its best and produced the best harvest it possibly could. I never understood why he did the things he did, especially after working all day, but boy the payoff was delicious!
Now that I’m grown, I understand that at least 50% of what he did was therapeutic to his soul. It gave him a chance to organize his thoughts and release any tension he had brewing.
I know this, because that’s what it does for me.
While I really enjoy gardening, I do like it to be as easy as possible. [Insert Scar from The Lion King: “Bad back, you know?”] Plus, I’ve got other chores around the homestead to do, plus work, plus taking care of children, plus…
Cheap and Easy Gardening Tips
We’ve already talked about some great gardening tips for absolute beginners, but with these cheap and easy gardening tips, you be gardening like a pro!
Tip #1: Give Your Plants Coffee
Used coffee grounds or used tea bags are a great soil amendment, especially when side-dressed around nitrogen-loving plants like lettuce, spinach, and kale. Green leafy plants in general need more nitrogen than flowering and fruiting vegetation, and your spent coffee grounds will do the trick.
Dry out your coffee grounds and take them to the garden. Sprinkle the grounds around any of your green leafy plants that need a little boost. Before long, you’ll be swimming in salad greens!
Don’t drink coffee or tea? Not to worry! You can usually get all the used grounds you want from any coffee shop. Go to Starbucks, Dunkin, or any local coffee shop and just ask. You can probably go back often to relieve them of their “trash” and turn it into garden gold.
Additional Reading: Coffee Grounds & Gardening: Using Coffee Grounds As Fertilizer
Tip #2: Buy Tomatoes, Then Bury Them
If you’ve bought a particularly delicious bunch of tomatoes (or anything else with seeds inside) at your local Farmer’s Market, but you didn’t eat them all before they started to go bad, don’t worry. You don’t need to waste a whole tomato. Cut it in half and plant the tomato halves to start your own plants!
Alternatively, you can save the seeds from the tomato (or other fruits) and plant them, instead.
This cheap and easy gardening tip works the best if the fruit you buy was grown locally and organically. Most vegetables coming in from out of the country will have been sprayed with something to keep the seeds from germinating and bearing fruit. Local gardeners who grow organically are your best source for healthy fruit with uncontaminated seeds that will grow viable plants.
(Bonus tip: Ask the vendor what variety the tomatoes are so you’ll know. If you save the seeds from any of your plants, you can label them accordingly.)
Tip #3: Wash Away the Aphids
To get rid of aphids, mix 1 tablespoon of dish soap into 1 quart of warm water. Spray directly on the insects and the infected plant, focusing on the underside of the leaves. This will suffocate the aphids and potentially kill the colony.
For ongoing aphid support invest in a colony of ladybugs. The lady bugs will eat the aphids and continue to keep your plants free from the little buggers. Be sure to build yourself a ladybug hotel so they have another reason to stick around. It’s kind of like a bed and breakfast for your army of aphid-killers.
Tip #4: Get Your Slugs Drunk and Give Them Flowers
This one’s a multi-part cheap and easy gardening tip for keeping slugs and snails out of your garden.
- Put a shallow container of beer in the garden. Snails and slugs will be attracted to the yeast and crawl into the beer where they will drown and die.
- Marigolds typically ward off pests, but snails are actually attracted to them. Plant your marigolds away from your garden to attract the slugs to it instead of your tasty veggies.
- Snails are not fond of plants with a strong fragrance. Lavender, sage, and rosemary are all delicious companion plants that will help deter snails. Plant them in and around your garden to help ward off slimy pests.
Tip #5: Keep Your Tools Clean
Disinfect your garden tools with hydrogen peroxide to prevent the spread of diseases. Remove any dirt and debris from the tools, then spray them down with a 50/50 mixture of water and peroxide. Allow the mixture to settle for a minute or two, and then wipe them clean.
Once your tools are clean, use some boiled linseed oil to prevent the tools from rusting. You can also use the linseed oil on the handles of your tools to prolong the life of the wood, as well.
Tip #6: Give Your Plants a Drink of Their Own Juices
When you steam or boil produce from your vegetable garden, don’t throw away the water. Allow the water to cool and water your plants with it. The water is filled with nutrients that will feed your growing veggies.
Likewise, when you rinse or wash your fresh veggies from the garden, give that water back to the plants. Waste not, want not, am I right?
Tip #7: Water Your Garden the Easy Way
In order to get water where it is needed without soaking pathways and unused garden area (what’s that, though?), use drip tape in your garden beds. This will deliver a slow, steady source of water right where you need it – to the plant roots. It will also save time and water since no water from a sprinkler is lost to wind. (This is a bonus if your soaker hoses are hooked up to rain barrels.)
Your pathways do not need water; thus, the weeds in the walkway will dry up and require less weeding.
Tip #8: Don’t Throw Away Old Newspapers
Lay newspaper between plants and cover with straw to eliminate weeds and retain moisture. This cheap and easy gardening tip works more efficiently when the newspaper and straw are combined than either one does alone. At the end of the growing season, till the paper and straw into the soil to decay.
Alternatively, you can use cardboard boxes instead of newspaper. The trick with both is not to use the glossy stuff. Make sure it’s the plain paper version of either. The glossy stuff contains chemicals that could create a toxic environment in your soil.
Tip #9: Wipe Out Cutworms
Cutworms are appropriately named because they cut down young plants as they feed on their stems. They curl up around the stem with their head touching their tail-end and feast until there is no more to feast upon.
To keep cutworms away from seedlings, place the cardboard tube from an empty toilet paper roll around the seedling and push down so that half the tube is submerged. This will also prevent underground attacks from the cutworms.
Alternatively, you can push a pencil-thick twig into the soil directly beside the stem at planting time. It’s best to do this as you are transplanting so as not to damage the roots of the plant. The cutworm will not be able to reach “nose to toes” which should stop any cutting.
Tip #10: Measure Your Handles
Instead of having to carry around one more tool when you’re in the garden, just use the handle of a garden tool.
Lay a long-handled garden tool on the ground. Stretch a tape measure down the length of the handle. Then use a permanent marker to write inch and foot marks on the handle.
Now when you need to space plants a certain distance apart, you’ll be ready. Talk about a cheap and easy gardening tip that you can keep at hand while you’re working in the garden!
Tip #11: Eggshells are Multipurposed Saviors in the Garden
Crush up some eggshells into the soil to help with those cut worms, slugs, snails, and other pests that try to wreak havoc on your garden. They also help keep cats from using garden beds as litter boxes.
Eggshells have also been said to provide needed calcium to tomatoes and other plants, helping to prevent blossom-end rot.
It is a good idea to bake the eggshells at 350ºF for 10-12 minutes to ensure they’re sanitized, then place them in a mason jar and shake to crush. Whatever is left can be added to the spice grinder to crush finer. The finer the powder, the faster it absorbs into the soil.
Additional Reading: 10 Cheap Vegetable Gardening Ideas – Simple Homestead Living
Do you have some cheap and easy gardening tips? We’d love to hear them!
I know if you’re a gardener there’s some little trick you use every year that helps you do things faster, more efficiently or just easier. Share them with us in the comments below!
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Patrick & Jessie homestead in Middle Georgia with two of their four children and their three dogs. They love gardening, food preservation, and keeping their family prepared for any disaster that may come.