Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Newbie Gardening-limited space, limited budget!

My husband and I just moved to south western Idaho from eastern Washington for his first job out of college.  We are pleased as peaches to be out of apartment living (we wanted to find a place that we can stay for a few years because we moved so many times during our marriage so far that we'll go insane if we have to re-pack and move anytime soon!)  Right now we're renting, so it's not like it's our final dream destination, but we'll take what we can get :)

Someday, we want to have backyard chickens, a garden, beehives, compost, and aquaponics.  Due to the rental status, none of that can really happen the way we want right now.  But we're making the most out of what we have :)

Here are some ideas that we're working on and I'll try to update things as they go!

Saving Space----

We don't have a huge backyard, and even if we did, it wouldn't matter as it's all grass and we don't want to have to undo our work and reseed or pay to lay sod when we move out.  So, we are having to get creative.

Using existing structure-We have a patio table and set of chairs, but we decided to move it off of the small cement patio onto the grass under a tree because we frankly won't use it much, and the tree it's under will at least provide some shade whereas the patio is not shaded.  So the whole (small) cement patio is going to be our garden space.  There is also a random brick area that can fit a few pots so we'll put it on there too.  Basically anywhere that doesn't kill the grass and gets decent sunlight. I'm loving this concept of container gardening because you don't have to have a built in garden, and you can move it if you need to (we've changed the location of ours once already so they have better sunlight.)

Thinking vertical-We have a wood fenced-backyard.  I bought a couple of shoe organizers off of Amazon and am impatiently waiting for their arrival to transplant some strawberries, herbs, and greens into.  I'll probably stitch on some plastic bags onto the back to provide a little water vapor protection so we don't speed up the wear and tear on the fence.  I'm hoping it will look something like this:

Think mobile-We haven't done this yet, but if I can find something at the right price (or save up for next year), I would LOVE to have a mobile garden.  I got to thinking about it when I thought of "chicken tractors".  If you're not familiar with the fun poultry contraption, it's basically a temporary area that you hold the chickens and they can pick at the bugs in an area and then you move them along every once in a while-that way they don't decimate your yard.  I thought about using some sort of cart where you can either plant directly into it, or put your potted plants in it and then every day or two you can easily move it along so the grass doesn't die off from lack of sun.  Something like this?
Saving $---

Despite my husband getting a new job, we're strapped for cash from our move.  Our last apartment management wouldn't give us a break so we are having to pay double rent for a couple of months (oh the fun!)  So we've been creative on starting our humble garden.

Search Craigslist for freebies-Some plants grow like weeds.  Strawberries, green onions, raspberries, and yarrow are all plants that spread out of control and people have posted in the last week that people can come by and grab some starts for free.  Granted, we've invested some time and gas money into getting them, but I consider that a hobby fee ;)  I'm also hoping to pick up some free lemon balm and soap wort starts this week.  I'd love chives and peppermint as I know they grow wild too but haven't seen any ads for those yet.  Also, if you're looking for free fertilizer, I sometimes see free goat or chicken poop on there...though I'm sure you'll want to figure out the composting/treating for those.

Regrow foods you bought from the store-There are tons of articles out there on food scraps that you can re-grow (i.e. http://www.diyncrafts.com/4732/repurpose/25-foods-can-re-grow-kitchen-scraps/2)  We are re-growing our first celery plant from kitchen scraps.  We also harvested some pumpkin seeds from a nice pumpkin pie variety we had been given and will plant them when it's time.  Our celery took quite a while to grow any roots and it's touch and go with it being "wilty" now that it's in soil, but we're trying to balance the right amount of sun and moisture to get it strongly rooted and turn it into a continually producing treat :)

Seed libraries-I wish I had known about this before we blew a lot of money on seeds at the store!  There are seed libraries, so basically you check out heirloom seeds like you would a book, and at the end of the season, harvest some seeds to bring back to the library and continue the cycle.  What a neat idea!  We'll have to do this next time before buying hybrids from the store (whose seeds don't produce well from what I've read.)  Do an internet search to see if they have any in your area you can participate in.

Think non-traditional-Knowing we were going to do "container gardening", we briefly took a glance around Walmart's garden section.  They have some beautiful large pots.  For $20 each.  Let's see, I only need 10 of them or so....so $200 later, plus soil, plus starters/seeds......yeah, not in our budget.  A friend of mine suggested calling a local nursery and asking if they have pots.  We found one nearby who let us to his stash.  Basically, they have the pots that trees come in but they can't really reuse them so they just stack up.  He charged us $1 for pots that were about 5 gallons or so each.  Not a bad deal!  And they already had drainage holes!  As for plants that need more root space than a 5 gallon pot can provide, we bought some $5ish storage tubs from walmart (18 gallon capacity) and drilled our own holes in the bottom.  Viola!  I know there are some beautiful vertical gardening plans out there as well, but for the price and ease of the shoe organizers, I couldn't go wrong.  Someday I may get something a little different, but I'll enjoy trying these out!

Use what you have on hand-Aside from the starts we got from craigslist folks, the only start we bought was for asparagus.  The rest are seeds.  Some can be sown directly into the soil, some have to be started inside (i.e. tomatoes because they don't tolerate the early spring temperatures).  To save money by not buying starts at the store, we bought our own seeds and are using empty TP tubes, eggs, and an egg carton.  We put them in a pan that we have and put plastic bags around it to keep in the humidity.  Since they need warm temperatures, I've been putting them outside during the day and during the evening I have been putting them on the dryer when it's going or on the lowest setting of a heat pad (making sure it doesn't get wet) to help the seeds germinate.  No fancy grow kits here, just using what I have around. 

So anyway, there are some of my tips and experiments we're trying.  I'll try to update as things progress.  Let me know what you think and if you have any other ideas to contribute!

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