Tips can help dirt-cheap gardeners save a few dollars

• Meet Marianne Binetti during book signings and seminars at the Tacoma Home and Garden Show in the Tacoma Dome: 2 p.m. Thursday, “Dirt Cheap Tips for Gardeners” and free seeds; 1 p.m. Friday, “Color your World – Cool new plants for 2009” with free plant samples; and 3 p.m. Saturday, “Dirt Cheap Tips for Gardeners.” Book signings feature her latest books, “Container Gardening for Washington and Oregon” and “Herb Growing for Washington and Oregon.”

• Meet Marianne Binetti during book signings and seminars at the Tacoma Home and Garden Show in the Tacoma Dome: 2 p.m. Thursday, “Dirt Cheap Tips for Gardeners” and free seeds; 1 p.m. Friday, “Color your World – Cool new plants for 2009” with free plant samples; and 3 p.m. Saturday, “Dirt Cheap Tips for Gardeners.” Book signings feature her latest books, “Container Gardening for Washington and Oregon” and “Herb Growing for Washington and Oregon.”

The last week of January is the start of the “home and barden show” season and this month I’ll be speaking about all the cool new plants for 2009 and some dirt cheap tips to save money in the garden.

Gardeners have always grown and bloomed during recessions and one way to save up for all the cool new plants you’ll want to try this spring is to practice these Top Tips for saving money:

1 – Grow from seed.

Still the best bargain around, ever since Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden. Gardeners have been collecting, storing and replanting seeds from their favorite plants since the dawn of civilization. But if you buy or order seeds today you can still fill a yard with flowers and produce for just a couple of dollars.

My vote for the easiest seeds to grow with the biggest return on the investment are beans, salad greens, Swiss chard, spinach, sunflowers, alyssum, cosmos, and sweet peas. All of these can be seeded directly into the soil so you don’t need pots or a greenhouse to get them started. Plus, they yield crops or flowers that provide food for body and soul.

2 – Make a compost pile.

You’ll use less fertilizer, less water and have healthier plants just by recycling your garden and kitchen garbage into great soil. You don’t need a lot of space or even a compost bin to practice “sheet” composting and turn a patch of lawn or weedy area into a place to grow vegetables or flowers.

3 – Control pests without pesticides.

Not only will buying pesticides cost you money, but a good portion of every weed killer and insecticide is never used. By learning to use “kitchen cupboard” remedies for outbreaks of aphids, mites, black spot and slugs you’ll not only save money but not add to the collection of half-used pesticides in the garden shed.

4 – Recycle and reuse.

From strips of panty hose to use as plant ties to refreshing and than reusing potting soil, gardeners have come up with plenty of ways to recycle in the garden. Container gardeners can start seedlings in paper pots, egg cartons or recycled nursery flats and for a bountiful container of vegetables dirt-cheap gardeners have had success growing crops in everything from old bathtubs to chipped pottery found at garage sales.

5 – Share the wealth.

This means sharing plant cuttings, perennial divisions, seeds and gardening knowledge. Joining a garden club or horticultural organization is a fun way to find out what works for other gardeners and pick up on great deals at local plant sales.

This month, members of the American Horticultural Society will be admitted free to the Tacoma Home Show with identification. Volunteer as a Master Gardener and you’ll also be able to attend area home and garden shows for free.

• • •

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site, www.binettigarden.com.

Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.

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