Frugal Gardening Tips

Are you planting a garden this fall? Whether you’re a veggie growing pro, or new to gardening, you’ll appreciate the tips below. Getting a garden started can be quite expensive which defeats the main reason most of us a growing a garden – to safe on food cost. Take a moment to read through the frugal tips my friend Tawra from Living on a Dime is sharing below. You’ll be off to a great start and enjoy fresh produce without breaking the bank.

Gardening On A Dime

by Tawra Kellam

People are often surprised to find out that even though I’m a cookbook author I went to school for Horticulture. (I never wanted to be a writer. I wanted to own an herb farm.) Growing your own plants can not only save you lots of money on your grocery bill, but a nice landscape can improve the value of your home. If you’re creative, you can have a great garden with very little cost. Here are some of my favorite tips to get you started:

Woman knelt in vegetable gardenTools:

Watch people who are moving. Ask if they are leaving their lawn equipment and if you can have it or buy it cheap.

Use an old mailbox out in the garden to store your clippers, plastic bags and gloves. (This is my most used item in my garden!) It is especially wonderful because the kids and Hubby don’t know where my tools are, so I don’t have to worry about them borrowing the tools!

Use wedding tulle found at fabric stores instead of shade cloth to shade plants from the sun or to keep the birds from eating your fruit. It’s much cheaper. Better yet, ask a just married bride if you can have the tulle from her wedding.

Cheap Plants:

If you see plants at a store that are in bad shape but not dead, talk to the manager. Ask him if he will give you a “deal” if you take them off his hands. Most of the time they will because the plants look bad and they don’t want to mess with them anymore.

Last year I was able to purchase over 50 large 1/2 gallon-gallon sized perennials for $50. (over $600 retail) All but about 5 of them lived and I was able to take those back and get my money back. Most home improvement and discount stores have a guarantee that if your plant dies within one year, you can bring the dead plant and the receipt and they will give you your money back or give you a new plant.

Buy seeds on sale at the end of the season. Put them in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator for better storage. Seeds usually last many years beyond the “past due” date on the packet.


Ask a tree trimming service to give you their wood chips for mulch if they are in the area.

Some cities also have a free mulch program where the city tree trimmers dump all the wood chips. Call your local County Extension and find out if there is one in your area.

If you just need a few bags, look for torn open bags at the home improvement store. Our local store has a pile where they dump all the torn open bags of mulch and rocks. They sell the bags for $1 each, saving you up to 75% off! Most just have a few chips missing.

Use shredded paper or newspaper under mulch. This way you can use fewer wood chips.

Keep a shower curtain or tarp in your car at all times. This way if you find a good deal on mulch or plants you can take advantage of the deal right away without messing up your car.


Use deli trays with lids to start seeds. They are mini greenhouses!

Ask the cemetery if you can have the pots they throw away after Memorial Day. (You can dry the almost dead flowers for potpourri.) Look in dumpsters. Many garden centers at the discount stores throw away the dead plants, pots and all. Ask permission first.

Use Styrofoam peanuts in the bottom of pots for drainage. You can also use small plastic six inch pots, soda cans or plastic bottles in the bottom of larger pots so you don’t have to use so much soil and to make the pots lighter in weight.

Misc. Tips

Use milk jugs as drip irrigation. Poke 2 or 3 small holes in the bottom of the jugs and place next to plants. Fill with water and they will slowly water you plants all day.

Use Christmas lights around fences to add sparkle in the middle of summer. Hang them in trees or line paths with them for extra effect.

Use vinegar in a spray bottle to kill weeds. ONLY spray the weed. It will kill any grass or plants you want to keep if you get it on them.
For Kids

Have kids water the plants after they swim in the kiddy pool. Have them take buckets of water from the pool and water the plants when the pool needs to be emptied.

Buy or ask for sandbags after heavy rains. Use the sand for paths or for the kid’s sandboxes. (Only use sand from clean floodwater situations.)

Save scraps of soap when they get too small to bathe with and put them in an old nylon stocking. Knot and hang the nylon on an outdoor faucet.
Homemade Tough Hand Cleaner

1/4 Cup grated Fels Naphtha soap ends
2 Tbsp. mason’s sand or pumice
1 Cup water
Place soap and water in a saucepan. Place over low heat; stir until soap is melted. After mixture cools, add mason’s sand or pumice. Store in a cottage cheese container or margarine tub. To use, dip fingers into soap mixture and lather hands. Rinse well. This works well on greasy tools, also. Be sure to rinse and dry tools thoroughly.

Tawra Kellam is the editor of Living On A Dime
Tawra and her husband paid off $20,000 debt in 5 years on $22,000 a year income.


How To Tell If A Watermelon Is Ripe

Summer is the time for cookouts, picnics, and watermelon. If you’re like me, you can’t wait to break open the first watermelon of the season.

Sometimes your rush ends up in disappointment because the watermelon you’ve chosen just isn’t tasty, which means it just isn’t ripe.

Let’s discuss how to tell if a watermelon is ripe so when you crack it open, it tastes like summer.

watermelon1The trick to finding a ripe watermelon is to go beyond its appearance. Unlike some fruit, you can’t rely on your sense of sight to determine if you’re about to buy a nice, ripe, juicy watermelon. Take a banana, for instance. If the peel is yellow, chances are it’s ripe. With a watermelon you also have to call on your sense of sound and your sense of smell.

Watermelons, no matter what variety – small round or large football shaped – have a particular sound when you knock on them. A ripe watermelon will give you a “thud” sound when you knock on it with your knuckles. Hold the watermelon close to your ear by cradling it in one arm, then knock on it with your opposite hand; like you’re knocking on a door. You should hear a dull sound, not a high ringing sound. Do this to several watermelons until you get the sound that doesn’t resonate a lot; it sort of disappears into the watermelon. This may not make any sense until you actually thump a few!

The watermelon scent is very distinctive and is another clue to a ripe watermelon. Once you’ve chosen a watermelon with the right sound, you need to use your sense of smell to finalize the deal. Take your watermelon and walk away from the bin so your nose isn’t confused by too much watermelon scent. Get your nose close to the watermelon end and sniff. You should get a delicious watermelon scent.

If your nose is still confused by all the watermelon aromas, walk over to the coffee aisle and do the old wine tasting trick. Clear your nostrils with a whiff of coffee scent. Wait a minute, then sniff your watermelon.

Now that you know how to tell if a watermelon is ripe, dive right into that beautiful pile at your grocery store or farmers market. Bring home a ripe, juicy watermelon for your family today and enjoy the fruit that says “summer is here!”

Summer CookingWhen the weather gets warmer, the last thing you want to do is stand over the stove, cooking a big meal. Not only is it hot in the kitchen, but the thought of eating a hot, heavy meal just doesn’t sound very appetizing.

That’s exactly why I put together this ebook –
Summer Cooking – Keeping It Cool

Summer is the time for easy meals and refreshing beverages. You want to get in and out of the kitchen fast, but, you also want a meal that’s satisfying. A bowl of lettuce and tomatoes just won’t do.

In this ebook you’ll get lots of fresh and fabulous meals that will get you out of the kitchen fast, but also be flavorful and filling. Click on and buy this great little ebook and start enjoying deliciously simple Summer meals today!

Early Garden Harvest Project – Canning Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

Many conversations among gardeners this time of year start with the phrase “What am I going to do with all this rhubarb?!”

It seems this prolific vegetable (which answers the other question “Is rhubarb a vegetable or a fruit?”) takes over many spring gardens even before the real earnest planting begins.

My friend Tracy Falbe of Canning Local gave me a delicious solution to the “problem” of having rhubarb taking over the garden.  I thought I’d share her recipe right here for you to use when your rhubarb starts piling up.  Enjoy!

In spring when gardens are still only promising seedlings and fruits trees are just setting their fruit, strawberries and rhubarb are ready to harvest. The flavor combination of strawberries and rhubarb has been appreciated for a long time, and with home canning you can capture that first crop of spring and enjoy it for a whole year…or until you eat it all.

Learning how to can jams and jellies is an ideal way to develop home canning skills. Only a big kettle for creating a boiling water bath is needed along with a few canning jars. The jam is simple to cook and only uses a few ingredients, so actually making the jam will not distract you from focusing on the canning process. Jams are also very safe projects for beginners.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam Canning Recipe

2 cups crushed fresh strawberries
2 cups finely chopped rhubarb
1/4 cup lemon juice
5-1/2 cups sugar
1 package fruit pectin (approximately 2 ounces)

You will need 6 to 8 half pint canning jars for this recipe. You can use old jars as long as they are free of chips and cracks, but always use new lids so you get a proper seal. The screw-on bands do not need to be new. They are just to hold the lids in place during processing. Sterilize your jars and lids by submerging them completely in water that is a minimum of 180 degrees Fahrenheit, but less than boiling (212 degrees). Some directions say to boil the jars and lids, which is probably fine, but the jars I buy say on the package to make sure the lids do not actually boil, so always consult your manufacturer’s directions for sterilization.

I sterilize the jars in the boiling water bath kettle. After letting them simmer a few minutes, I shut off the heat and leave the jars and lids in the kettle while I cook the jam. You can take them out and fill the jars with hot water if you prefer. The point is to keep them hot and clean while you are preparing the food.

Wash and hull the strawberries and crush them. A potato masher works well to smash up the berries. Then wash and chop the rhubarb. Put the fruit in a large stock pot and add the lemon juice. Slowly stir in the fruit pectin and bring the jam to a hard rolling boil that still bubbles when you stir. Foaming will occur and this can be alleviated by adding a teaspoonful of butter. Once the jam is boiling hard, keep stirring and add all the sugar. The sugar will gradually dissolve. While stirring constantly bring the jam back up to a hard boil for 1 minute. When the cooking is done, turn off the heat. You can skim off the frothy foam from the top.

Pour the hot jam into your sterilized jars. A ladle works nicely and if you have a canning jar funnel it will make the job a little neater. Do not fill the jars all the way to the rim. Leave 1/4 inch of headspace at the top of the jar. Wipe the mouths of the jars very clean and place the lids on the jars. Secure the lids with the bands. You only need to screw them on hand tight. If you have some jam leftover that will not fill up a jar, just put it in the refrigerator and eat it up within the next few days (or minutes).

With your boiling water bath at a boil, lower the jars into the water with a jar lifter. Make sure a rack is in the bottom of the kettle so that the jars do not rest directly on the bottom. Also do not let the jars touch each other. Boil the jars for 10 minutes and then immediately remove the jars. Set them on a towel in a draft-free location and do not disturb them for at least 12 hours. Touching them while they are cooling could disrupt sealing. You will likely hear the jars pop within a few minutes of removing from the boiling water but resist the temptation to touch.

The next day, you can test the seals of the lids by pushing on their tops. There should be no movement or buckling of the lid. It should be rigid and firmly attached to the jar. Then remove the bands, wipe the jars clean, put on clean bands, label with the date, and store in a cool dark place for up to one year. You will love your homemade jam and it makes a nice gift as well.

I recommend picking up a reference book about home canning to have in your kitchen as well as a visit to my website Canning Local – Putting Your Produce Into Production where you can read about all the basics for using a boiling water bath and pressure canner.

Planning Your Child’s Garden – The 5 Elements To Consider

Is there anything more fun for a kid than digging in the dirt without getting scolded?  I think that’s what gardening with kids is really all about – getting up to your elbows in dirt and grime.

Most kids are born gardeners.  After all, look at the time and great care they take to develop imaginary cities, roads, and castles in their sandbox.  It doesn’t take a lot of coaxing to get a child to turn that planning, digging, and cultivating into a garden.

Gardening requires only a few simple elements no matter what your child’s age is – location, sun, water, soil, and seeds or plants.  To get started, we’ll take a look at the 5 elements and how to make choices that will get a nice little garden started that your child will be proud of.

1) Location – This is important for several reasons.  Of course, you want a location that is suitable for your child’s age.  For very young children, you may want to consider a container garden that you can keep on a patio instead of a spot of ground away from the house.  The location will also depend on the next couple elements.

2) Sun – Most plants will require a lot of sunshine to make them grow.  You and your child will want to keep track of the sunshine that falls on the chosen garden patch to be sure that it will get plenty of light. In some climates, however, the amount of sunshine may be too intense.  In that case, you must also consider shade.

3) Water – Your child’s garden will require watering.  You can’t rely on rainfall to do the job. When choosing the location of the garden, you’ll want to keep watering in mind.  Make the task simple by locating your garden near hoses and sprinklers.

4) Soil – The dirt found in the location you’ve chosen is important, but not crucial if you’re willing to buy garden soil.  If you’re lucky enough to dig up the sod and find nice rich soil, then a little cultivation and some serious sifting out of rocks, sticks, roots, and debris will yield a nice base for your seedlings.  Gardening in containers may be preferable if the soil and drainage is just not suitable for growing.

5) Seeds and Plants – What vegetable and/or flower should your child plant?  Depending on the age of the child, you will want to plant something that is fast growing and hearty.  A simple selection of tomato, radishes, onion, and lettuce might keep your little one interested.  Mix in some marigolds for color and you’ve got a good start on an entertaining and delicious garden.  The area you have and your particular growing season will determine what your child will be able to choose.

Once all these elements have been discussed and decided, it’s time to plant!  Well, maybe not yet.  Don’t forget to check the planting times where you are.  There may be a surprise frost coming so beware, but get ready!

For lots of fun gardening information especially for kids, The University of Illinois Extension has a great website.  The illustrations are colorful and the instructions are simple and straight forward.  Check their website out by clicking here.  Then start planning a garden that will be fun for your kids – and you!

Planning An Organic Garden? Some Thoughts On Organic Pesticides

The seed catalogs are starting to come in fast and furious now.  Time with my morning coffee is now shared with a pile of seed catalogs, paper, and pencil.

Some decisions that have to be made are how to take advantage of “complimentary plants” to fight disease and the invasion of insects.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t always protect our crop from some plight or another.  So, this year I started to search for organic pesticides to battle bugs and other nasty things that attack the garden.  In my search, I came across this informative article and decided it would be a valuable resource to share.  I hope you’ll enjoy what the author, Will McGee, has to share.

Organic Gardening Pesticide – An Overview

Organic gardening pesticides are products that do not contain harmful chemicals. When looking for these types of pesticides, you should check the label to make sure that it is approved by the EPA. Some organic gardeners like to make their own organic gardening pesticide. Let’s take a look at some ways of reducing the need for pesticides, as well as homemade and manmade pesticides.

The biggest thing that will reduce the need for organic gardening pesticide is to keep a healthy garden. If the garden is healthy, that will help control insects. Keeping and attracting beneficial insects will reduce the pest population, as well as promote a healthy garden. Another option is to plant earlier in the season. Planting earlier in the season will allow the plants to become stronger and healthier, as insect population is low. Crop rotation will also help reduce disease.

Certain organic gardeners prefer to use homemade pesticide over man made. They are very “picky” about the products that go on their gardens. They believe these chemicals are just as harmful as non-organic pesticides. Most homemade items are sprays made of various household products, such at tobacco, chili pepper, and even insects themselves! Certain types of products work best on different insects. Many gardeners like this method not only because of no chemicals, but the fact that this method for organic gardening pesticide is relatively cheap. These types of pesticides have been used for many years by gardeners.

Products that are man made are approved for organic gardening use by the EPA. Be sure to read the label to see if the product is approved. If you are unsure, look at what the product is made of. Organic pesticides are made from plants and animals, while non-organic pesticides are made from minerals. According to recent research, some organic gardening pesticides are actually more toxic than non-organic pesticides. Be sure to follow all precautions and guidelines, just as you would with any other chemical.

Pesticide is a very diverse conversation within the gardening community. Some prefer to make their own, while others prefer to buy. Whatever you decide to do, the choice is yours. Remember, a healthy garden is a happy garden!

Click here for more information about organic pesticide, including recipes. You can also find information on many other topics relating to organic gardening. My name is Will McGee from Atlanta, and I love gardening. Thank you for stopping by!