May 30th, 2024

Viva Vitality: Grow more for less – create bountiful garden without breaking bank

By Genevieve Mathieu on April 19, 2024.

This year, many of us will be looking to the vegetable garden to save money on groceries. To avoid growing a $64 dollar tomato, we wanted to share some ideas to help you grow more for less.

Reuse potting mix

New potting mix is best for starting seeds as previously used mix may contain fungi that cause damping off disease which can kill or weaken seeds or seedlings. But don’t throw out the old potting mix from last season! It can be reused for bumping up seedlings into larger pots, or for outdoor container-growing.

Cheap and cheerful

Skip buying a heat mat. Those few warm-season plants that benefit from added heat will still germinate without it; they just take a few more days. Indoor seedlings need supplemental light. An expensive full-spectrum light is for growing plants to maturity indoors, which most of us are not doing. Try an affordable alternative like buying a grow bulb for an existing lamp, LED shop lights, or borrowing a light from a friend. Seeds do not need to be fertilized in the first few weeks of life. After that, only apply fertilizer if your potting mix does not contain any.

Start from seed

Test old seeds before throwing them away; they might surprise you! Place 10 seeds on a moistened paper towel inside a zip-top bag and see what sprouts in the next week or two. If only half sprout, just plant twice as many! If you do need a new supply of seeds, look out for local events like Plant Swaps and Seedy Saturday/Sunday to find seeds, plants, tools, garden books and more. Many communities have seed libraries created to help gardeners share seeds they have saved or purchased with one another.

Plant in ground

Raised beds are trendy but less practical on the prairies where their improved drainage means applying more water. Buying the raised beds and the soil to fill them is also costly. Unless you need the accessibility of raised beds, consider growing an in-ground garden. There are some great native soils in southern Alberta that usually only need some added organic matter (like compost) to grow a beautiful garden.

Sharing is caring

Talk to friends and neighbours. Many gardeners have at least one perennial that is trying to take over and are happy to split it and give some away. Some delicious examples are rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, walking onions, chives, lovage and (so much) mint.

Genevieve Mathieu is the Garden Program Coordinator with Community Food Connections Association (CFCA)

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