How do you save money with gardening?

A couple years ago I posed this question: Does gardening really save money? It seems like every time you read a magazine article about saving money on groceries, the author suggests planting a garden. To be honest, I’m sure we’ve suggested it a time or two on this very site. It’s a no-brainer, right? Food from the store costs big bucks. Food from the backyard or balcony is FREE!

My garden (not this year’s)

Well . . . I’ve remained skeptical about this. My start-up costs for my first year of gardening outweighed the amount of produce I ended up harvesting. While it’s certainly possible to throw some seeds in the ground and wake up to a fresh crop of gourmet lettuce a few weeks later, the reality of gardening seems more complicated than that.

Why don’t you . . . garden organically?

A while ago I asked, “Why don’t you use cloth diapers?” The responses were so varied and interesting that I decided to make a new series of “Why don’t you” questions. No judgment!

Today’s question is, why don’t you garden organically? Do you find yourself drawn to chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides? Maybe you do it because your parents did it that way. Maybe you get hit by horrible insect infestations or your grass withers up and dies without a regular injection of chemicals. Or . . . what?

Natural Dandelion Solutions

I hate them.  If I was truly zen I’d make lovely dandelion chains and just get over it.  But when they raise their fluffy white heads out of the rest of the lawn, I want to leap from my chair and choke them out.

Instead, my children usually reach them first and make wishes while blowing the seeds all over the front lawn.  At that point I usually surrender.

Luckily, we did figure out some natural dandelion solutions last year that are far superior to polluting weed killers that keep our kids off the grass for a few days.

We tried corn gluten since it both fertilizes and doesn’t allow the dandelions to flower.  Great, right?  Nope.  Those persistent yellow spots kept appearing on our lawn.  Then we used Burn Out(which is made out of natural clove oil) to zap the dandelions individually.  It worked!  You have to wait for the right temperature and sunlight, but they die in just a few hours without all the chemicals!  Then the corn gluten can do its thing and the lawn really looks nice without any caution warnings about kids and dogs.

End of Summer Accomplishments

Around this time last year, I wrote about my End of Summer Regrets (Or, Green Things I Failed to Do). I am sure everyone has been wondering for the last twelve months if I would turn things around this year. Would I plant a garden? Would I go to U-pick farms and pick fruit? Would I can and freeze produce? Would I unlock the secret to reversing global warming? The wait is over! Here’s the report on my summer’s eco-activity:

Gardening. Check! I maintained a green, organic lawn. (Then I let it turn brown to conserve water. So it is not green in all senses of the word.) I planted an organic vegetable garden, and then I complained about my garden being a huge, gigantic failure. And then I (and my garden) bounced back. Then I had an overabundance of tomatoes, for which I was grateful.

The Saturday Question: Organic Pesticides and Herbicides–What Have You Tried?

I’m all about organic gardening. In fact, even since I became a homeowner in 2004, I’ve managed to use completely nontoxic methods. Now that I’m in my new place, however, I have a problem: aphids. My new yard features about fifty-five rose bushes, and a couple of them happen to be bug-magnets. I tried an organic spray, which does get rid of the aphids–but also turns the leaves strange colors. I’ve bought bags of ladybugs, but they didn’t seem to stick around long enough to do much good. For now I’m just keeping my eye on the aphids and cutting off the leaves and blossoms they congregate on. Any other solutions?


My Green, Organic, Carbon-free Lawn

When I first read Dr. Alan Greene’s Raising Baby Green, I found it strange that he devoted an entire chapter to gardening. What does gardening have to do with a baby? I wondered. Now I think my view of green parenting was a bit limited. Sure, we should reduce, reuse, and recycle, but it’s also important to avoid polluting the environment with chemicals–chemicals your baby will be exposed to if you plan to spend time in the yard this summer.

I’ve been a homeowner since 2004, and my organic lawn has always looked like something off the cover of Better Homes and Gardens. (Slight exaggeration.) How do I do it?

End of Summer Regrets (or, Green Things I Failed to Do)

Reading about Life Domestic’s Little House on the Prairie-style adventures in canning peaches and the Lean Green Family’s overabundance of tomatoes filled me with a tinge of green regret.  After finishing Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle I should have been all revved up to harvest local fruits and vegetables and preserve them all for the wintry months ahead. . . . Yet somehow it didn’t happen.


What did I miss out on this summer?

1. I didn’t plant a garden. We moved into our new house in late June, and after all the unpacking it was too late to get anything in the ground. Next year!

Building Raised Beds For an Organic Garden

A few years ago when I was pregnant with Roscoe, I had a sudden Saturday urge to grow zucchini and hustled off to the hardware store to buy the wares for a small raised bed.  I sat in our driveway with the drill and awkwardly put together a rather pathetic little garden box that has nonetheless yielded some beautiful basil and tomatoes over the last few summers.  In this photo Roscoe is trying to prevent the weed-filled bed from being captured on film. 

This year with the help of my neighbors, I plan on putting together a more respectable raised bed.  Although I could just plop the plants in the dirt, raised beds provide excellent drainage for plants and also allow you to heap in all your own rich new soil.