Secrets of a Cheapskate Gardener

I love a beautiful yard, but I hate spending money to get it that way which explains why I am always looking for do-it-yourself cheap ways to kill weeds, grow flowers and feed lawns.

I have come across some very clever tips and tricks, not the least of which is to reclassify the dandelion as a low-maintenance, hardy ground cover!

DANDELIONS

While you ponder that suggestion, take a look at these clever ideas to make your own landscape supplies.

LAWN FOOD: Mix four pounds magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts) with a bag of your favorite lawn food that covers 2,500 sq. ft. Now feed your lawn only half the amount of this mixture as recommended on the lawn food bag You’ll save a lot of money because you’ll be using less than half the normal amount of fertilizer and this formulation cuts down on the nitrogen which makes your lawn grow so fast. You’ll have the wonderful deep-green color, better root structure and you won’t have to mow as often.

LAWN SNACK: Try this on your lawn every three weeks during the summer. (With every third snack, add 1/2 cup clear corn syrup or molasses to the mixture.)

Pour the beer and shampoo (and corn syrup when it’s the third snack) into a 20-gallon hose-end sprayer jar; fill up the jar with ammonia and apply, following the instructions on the hose-end sprayer. You’re going to have very happy grass. Read more

Carpet the Garden and Other Clever Reader Tips

NO MORE WEEDS. Some years ago we decided to set out 18 tomato plants and–wouldn’t you know it?–the area we chose for the garden was covered with millions of tiny weeds. Preparation of the soil appeared to be overwhelming. In a moment of amazing creativity, we decided to cover the area with an old piece of carpeting, weeds and all. We made 18 3-inch cross cuts, one for each plant. We lifted each cut, dug a hole beneath and set the plants. We had a very colorful tomato patch (the carpet was yellow), vigorous plant growth and gorgeous easy-to-harvest tomatoes. Even during dry months, our tomatoes grew and produced remarkable yields with hardly a weed. Since then we’ve used old carpeting for our strawberries, too. Dolores B., Illinois

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PAINTING TRICK. When tackling a painting job you may not be able to complete in one day, don’t waste all of the paint in the rollers and brushes by cleaning them. Simply wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and store in the freezer. The next day simply remove the wrap and you’ll be ready to pick up right where you left off. Catherine F., Washington Read more

Grow Tomatoes at Home Even if You Don’t Have a Garden

 

For me, about the only thing better than vine-ripened tomatoes is knowing that I grew them myself. Look at that … hands going up all over the room! There’s just something indescribable about a perfectly ripened, brightly colored, juicy, delicious tomato. Or six.

tomato salad

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Sounds so easy, but the truth is that growing a garden can be time-consuming and frustrating, assuming that you even have space for one.

Add to the hard work of planting a garden, there’s a matter of weeding, fertilizing, watering over and over throughout the growing season. My intentions are always superior, but my follow through? Not so much. Read more

Holiday Gifts From Summer’s Bounty

If you’ve been reading this column for any length of time, you know we’re celebrating Christmas in July. And I’ve got a great idea for turning summer’s bounty into gifts for the holidays.

Given how easy it is to grow basil, this year I’m making gifts of pesto—specifically Pesto alla Genovese (peh-sto geh-no-VEH-zeh).

Basil

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Whether you grow it or buy it, basil is the main ingredient in this gourmet food item that is sure to please just about everyone on your gift list.  Read more