Marianne Binetti: These 10 tips can help gardeners save some green

On GardeningJune 18, 2014 

Heuchera plants, those colorful foliage perennials, thrive in shade and love our climate.

TONY OVERMAN/STAFF FILE, 2009

Right about now, with the growing season in full swing, is a good time to approach the topic of budget gardening.

Here are my top 10 ways to save money in the garden:

1. Add empty water bottles or plastic six packs from annuals to the bottom third of large containers. Extra drainage means you’ll buy less potting soil, keeping the pots lightweight.

2. Yes, you can reuse your potting soil from last year. Just stir it up and mix with a bit of fresh potting soil. Remember to fertilize used potting soil.

3. Divide your happy perennial plants and spread them around the garden. Daylilies, hardy geraniums, hosta and heucheras are plants you need buy only once. You can even trade your extras with other gardeners.

4. Speaking of heucheras, those colorful foliage perennials love our climate and look great all year, especially in containers. You just need to know the secret — break off their tops when they grow long necks like a giraffe — and poke the stems right into the soil to root.

5. Large lawns are expensive to maintain. Add a split rail fence to partition off a section of the lawn, let the weeds grow tall and bloom and call it a wildflower meadow. The bees will thank you.

6. Make your own slug-killing spray — put one-third ammonia and two-thirds water into a recycled spray bottle. Spray this directly onto those tiny slugs that appear on your plants right after it rains. You can also use this mixture to wash the windows. (Bonus: The ammonia converts to nitrogen and feeds your plants.)

7. Never pay for plastic or other weed-blocking materials. Newspaper at least five pages thick and cardboard under wood mulch works better and is safer for the environment.

8. Make dirt-cheap pathways, patios and play areas by laying cedar chips on top of newspaper. Cedar chips are also called playground chips and the cedar repels fleas, keeps down weeds and smells great. Cedar repels water so don’t use cedar shavings, or chips around your plants. Hardwood chips are better for mulching around plants.

9. Make compost — this is as simple as a piling up your garden debris behind a shrub or as efficient as a three bin system. Old compost from the middle of a pile is perfect for improving your soil.

10. Subscribe to a local newspaper, attend local garden tours, buy from local nurseries and admire what grows best in your neighborhood. When it comes to gardening, local information is the key to avoiding costly mistakes.

Meet Marianne

June 21: The Enumclaw Garden Tour, featuring seven gardens. The event benefits the Enumclaw Region Healthcare Foundation. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Tickets at enumclawrhf.org or call 360-802-3206. Marianne will speak on budget gardening.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.

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