The current economic recession has brought about a surge of interest in vegetable gardening. For those that are venturing into growing vegetables for the first time, the start-up costs can get out of hand in a hurry. Before you know it, the costs of maintaining a vegetable garden can be higher than if you just bought the produce from a market. Here are twelve ways to save money vegetable gardening:
12 Ways To Save Money Vegetable Gardening

Plan Ahead

Before digging that first hole, or before even buying that first shovel, create a garden plan. By planning your garden beforehand, you will know exactly what you will need to get your vegetable garden started off right. You can figure out how many plants you can grow, determine what you will grow, the arrangement of the vegetable garden, and what supplies and equipment you will need. Planning is a great way to control gardening costs.

Set a Vegetable Gardening Budget

This goes along with number one. Part of creating a vegetable garden plan is setting a budget and sticking to it. A budget helps to create accountability. Establishing a predetermined budget helps to track expenses that may other wise go untamed. A rock-solid budget is probably the most important tool you can use to save money on your vegetable garden.

Create a Compost Pile Instead of Purchasing Fertilizers

Using compost in your garden is the best thing you can ever use for growing robust, healthy, and productive vegetables. Compost is full of all the beneficial nutrients that your vegetable plants crave; plus it helps to improve the soil. There is nothing wrong with using organic fertilizers, but to save some extra green (and get more green in the garden) compost is the way to go. The great thing about composting is that you use items that are already available in the yard and in the kitchen. Here is a list of items I bet you didn't know you could compost, but can: 30 Unusual Items You Can Compost.

Grow From Seed Instead of Transplants

Usually buying a tomato plant, for instance, from a garden center will cost anywhere from $3.00 to $7.00, depending on the size or the variety. You can buy two to three packs of seeds for that same price. Using seeds over transplants can end up saving you a lot of money during a growing season. To put it in perspective, one year I purchased all my vegetable plants from a local nursery. I ended up spending over $200 on plants alone. Using seeds would be a fraction of that; probably around $20 - that's 10 times less than what I paid for the transplants! It is very easy to start your own seeds indoors before the season begins to get a great jump on your vegetable garden.

Save Your Own Seeds

If you don't already, start saving the seeds from vegetables this year so that you will have them for next year's planting. Doing this will save even more money than number four. As a matter of fact, if you save your seeds from this season, you will spend zero on seeds next year. That's ZERO, nada, zuelch, nothing. Now, that is saving some money. Saving seeds is not very hard to do, and can pay off in the long run. You can even pass your favorite seeds on to your children or other relatives. That is pretty much how heirloom vegetable gardening began.

Participate In Seed Exchanges

This goes with number five nicely. There are many seed exchanges that are held in most communities, neighborhoods, and online. One very popular seed exchange on the internet is Seed Savers Exchange. There are also some website forums that have a board set-up for seed trading, such as the one at GardenWeb. This is a great way to trade seeds with fellow gardeners and acquire the seeds you really want at no costs (except maybe the postage).

Shop for Supplies at Discount Retailers

I like to go to discount retailers and browse for items I use in the garden from time to time. I do not know what I would do without Big Lots, Ollie's Bargain Outlet, or Dollar General. You may not have these particular stores in your area, but I'm sure you have something similar. I love going to these stores to buy small odds and ends that I need in the garden. I have purchased items such as weed fabric, knee pads, gardening shoes, water hoses, and small gardening stools at half the price I would have paid at even Wal-Mart! Sometimes these discount retailers are hidden gems for saving money. You can easily find some inexpensive tools and supplies if you look in the right places.

Buy Quality Tools and Equipment

This one might sound like it's contradicting the tip above, but there is a difference between inexpensive and cheap. If you go to the discount place and purchase a $15 shovel, but that shovel only lasts three months, that's not a good purchase. If you go to Lowe's and purchase a $30 shovel, but it lasts three years, then that is a much better purchase than the $15 shovel. You may have to pay more up front for high quality garden tools, but they are worth it in the long run. Plus, usually high quality tools are more ergonomic, therefore possibly saving you some pain and doctor bills in the future. It is well worth it to invest in high quality tools up front.

Don't Purchase Tools or Equipment That Is Not Absolutely Needed

If you are like me, every time you walk into a Lowe's or Home Depot you end up walking out with some new vegetable gardening gadget you did not intend to buy. Avoid the impulses to purchase every little new gardening tool you see. Impulse buying is the number one way to wreck a budget. Go to the store, get what you absolutely need, and get out!

Make It Yourself

There are many things used in the vegetable garden that can be made at home. Tomato supports, seed pots, fencing, raised bed gardens, trellises, arbors, and hundreds of other items that could cost a small fortune if store purchased. Develop creative ways to construct items that you need in the vegetable garden. Most of the time, the materials needed might already be available to you.

Use Homemade Insecticides or Fungicides

Store bought insecticides and fungicides can be very costly and not very good for the environment. Try using regular household products such as baking soda, vinegar, or liquid dish washing soap as alternatives. There are many recipes for creating homemade insecticides and fungicides that will naturally combat just about any problem you may encounter in the garden. They are better for the environment and much more cost-effective.

Use alternative watering sources

Using alternative watering sources such as soaker hoses, rain barrels, and drip irrigation can save on water costs. Even if you use a well for water, using these items is a great way to conserve precious water supplies. Using soaker hoses, or drip irrigation, has a two-prong effect - they conserve water by slowly releasing water at the base of the plants preventing water runoff, and helps to prevent fungal diseases like powdery mildew.

There are thousands of ways to save money vegetable gardening. Just take the time to plan out what you want to accomplish, and use some creativity for finding ways to save money. If you have some money-saving gardening tips, please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

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