As I am writing this blog, I am surrounded by a very large mud pit. Everywhere I look there is mud and it is raining. Not my favorite kind of day. The clouds are gray and there is rain, rain, and more rain. There are hints of spring popping up on the homestead, but I am fearful the bits of spring I see may be prematurely confident. What is a homesteading girl supposed to do on a day like today?
Start dreaming ! I dream in the form of seeds. Seeds are so hopeful. I love the pretty pictures on all the seed packages that suggest you will grow an abundance of beautiful vegetation. It is true not every seed packet I purchase actually lives up to my expectations. Regardless, on a rainy day the cute little seed packets bring me a bit of joy over things to come. In my past pursuit of spring joy, I may have been guilty of collecting too many seed packets. Honestly, you can spend a lot of money before you even plant. Considering the current economic climate, I have been carefully weighing all my homesteading ventures. My husband is the numbers guy in our house. He will often ask me, “Will this really save us money?” “What is the start-up cost?” Sometimes his realistic perspective pops the bubble on my homesteading dreams. As a result I have learned some cost-saving tips over the years to save money when starting a productive garden. Here are a few suggestions, in case you are dreaming on a gloomy day, too.
- Don’t be afraid of cheap seeds. Frequently I will purchase seeds at discount stores like Dollar Tree or Dollar General Store. The seed packets at discount stores tend to be small and don’t usually contain that many seeds. When planning my garden space I try to be aware of how many seeds I need for each crop. For example, I need a much larger quantity of seeds for green beans than I do radishes. The seeds that I most commonly The seeds that I most commonly buy at discount store are lettuce, radishes, Marigolds, and Cosmos.
- Buy local and in bulk. Check your local hardware store or farm store for bulk seeds. The seeds are usually sold out of containers or buckets. At my local farm store, I can measure and scoop seeds into a packet, which I then label. The cost is much more reasonable even though you don’t get the pretty pictures. I usually purchase yellow squash, zucchini and green beans seeds at my local farm store. If you are planning on planting several rows of the same crop you are better served buying in bulk. You can break your garden budget trying to plant enough crops to preserve.
- Save your own seeds. This suggestion is the most cost-effective one on my list. Certain seeds are easier than others to save and plant the next year. Most seeds that you save require a period of time that you dry them, and then put them in a brown paper bag. Make sure they are dry and temperature controlled (not too hot and not too cold). The most success I have had in seed saving have been with Sunflowers, Zinnias, Popcorn, Peas, Pumpkins and Okra. Make sure you label your bags, or you might have a surprise garden if you can’t identify your seeds when it comes time to plant them.
- Limit your seed catalog purchases. I love getting seed catalogs. On cold, late winter nights, I sit by the crackling fire burning in my wood stove, and dog ear pages on the seed catalog. It reminds me of my childhood and circling what I wanted for Christmas in the JcPenney catalog. Of course, I never got what I wanted from the JcPenney Christmas listand the same can be said for my fancy seed catalog. I usually only order a few specialty seeds that I cannot find in local stores. For example, this year I ordered Pimento Pepper seeds. I hope to smoke my own peppers this year, and possibly make my own Paprika.
- The last suggestion on my list is possibly my favorite tip. Check the clearance bin. If you know me well, you know that I am a bargain shopper. Who doesn’t love a good clearance bin? At the end of the spring, you will see stores start marking the seed packets down. In our local area, it is usually mid-May that you start seeing seed sales. Check with local stores to see when they will either move seeds out or put them on sale. Buying seeds out of peak season saves a lot of money. If it is too late to plant the item, put it in a safe spot and save it for next year. Discount stores will usually mark seed packets down to less than a dollar each. I remember one year I bought seeds for ten cents a packet at my local Dollar Store! I felt like I won the seed lottery!
Planning your garden can be lots of fun. I usually try at least one new crop every year. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. If you have a gardening friend, think about sharing seeds that you have saved and swapping garden tips. Someday soon, I will happily look out on my growing garden that started out as just a bunch of hopeful little seeds.
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