I’ll tell you a secret if you promise not to tell. My sister thinks I’m a great gardener when in fact, I’m pretty lousy at it. It doesn’t mean that I don’t get things to grow. I just never get the garden I’ve always wanted. But, I have learned some tricks that I’ll pass onto you.
My attempt at growing seedlings ended with one of my Alaskan Malamutes bringing the container of dirt and dropping it at my feet. The seedlings were gone and my Malamute was looking for more. I gave up for a while, thinking that maybe buying starts was a good idea.
It is, to a certain degree, but it can become a very expensive garden if you buy full price. The best thing to do is to join the email list of a local nursery and keep an eye out for summer vegetable sales. You see, most people by this time have already put in their garden and the nurseries and farmer’s markets will usually have excessive vegetable starts. At this point, the nursery and market stands will most likely have a sale.
By keeping an eye out for the sales, I was able to get my vegetable starts from a local nursery for half off their normal prices. I was also able to score some zucchini plants from the farmer’s market for a buck a plant. What’s more, these vegetables are usually more mature and are further along than the ones you buy in the springtime.
The downside is that sometimes beggars can’t be choosers here. If you’re looking for a special plant that is very popular, it’s unlikely you’ll find it at this time. However, you might find some real gems. I was able to pick up maturing dragon’s tongue beans at half price, a small marjoram plant for a mere 50 cents, and if I had been looking for tomatoes, I could’ve found some awesome plants. As it stands, I have four tomato plants that will work as well as enough other vegetable plants that are happily growing in my container gardens.
One thing I discovered is that there is a local seed library that is available for anyone who wants to grow a garden. People save seeds and exchange them, which makes it a cheap way to start a garden. All they ask is that you donate some seeds to the cause at the end of the season.
I discovered this seed library late in the season but decided to take advantage of it anyway. I took a packet of each of edible crops so that I can start them in my mini greenhouse for late summer and fall plantings. My first batch was appaloosa beans, kale, carrots, orach, arugula, and dragon’s tongue (that I had from a couple of years ago). My next batch will be more lettuce and other interesting cool weather plants.
If you don’t have a seed bank near you, you can always start your own seed savers group. All you need are some like-minded friends and postage. Come up with packages of seeds you’ve saved and a list of people who want seeds for the price of postage. Put your name and address at the bottom of the list. Mail your package with different seeds to a friend along with your list. Your friend should take whichever seeds he or she wants and add a like amount of seeds in the package. Your friend then mails it to the next person on the list. That person does the same thing. By the time you have your seed returned, chances are you have a whole new set of seeds to try out. Not a bad deal.
M.H. (Maggie) Bonham is the publisher of Sky Warrior Books www.skywarriorbooks.com and lives in the mountains of Montana with goats, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, Alaskan Malamutes, cats, a patient husband and an ornery llama. Visit her blog Eating Wild Montana.
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