I don’t know what I was thinking the year that I bought three dozen tomato plants (they were small), plus enough planting mix to cover a small farm. And as long as I was there, I picked up mulch, root stimulator, liquid fertilizer, time-release fertilizer, pest control, slug and snail bait, metal cages (one per plant) and special green tape to tie up the branches. And that was just on the first trip to The Big Fancy Garden Center.
Talk about an agricultural nightmare. My first attempt at gardening produced the best-looking foliage in three counties but hardly any tomatoes. I could have fed my entire family for a month on all the money I wasted.
Thankfully, I’ve learned the only difference between a gardener and a cheapskate gardener is the amount of money they spend to achieve the same results.
You can’t find better ties for plants and trees than strips of pantyhose material. (Not into that type of hosiery? An old t-shirt cut into strips works equally well.) They’re stronger than twine or tape; best of all, they’re free if you plan to toss out those ruined. And when used in the garden, they blend right into the environment.
Crush eggshells and add them to the soil surrounding your tomato plants at least once a month. Calcium encourages the formation of healthy plant and root growth.
BOOST THOSE BUDS
If your tomatoes, eggplants and peppers begin to bloom, give them a healthy watering with this potion: 2 tablespoons Epsom salts in 1 gallon of water.
They’re easy to control. Wash them off with clear water. They will return but keep hosing every few days. You could buy an expensive pesticide, but the instructions say, “Repeat every few days.” Water is best for all involved.
Puree 2 cloves of garlic in the blender on high for a minute. Slowly add 1 quart of water and continue blending for six minutes. Strain and add 1/8 teaspoon liquid soap (not detergent). Cover and store in the refrigerator. To use, mix 1 part garlic mixture with 10 parts water and spray for pests or on plants with fungal, viral and bacterial diseases.
Save your coffee grounds (or pick up a bag at your local coffee shop, no charge). About once a month, add a thin layer to the soil of acid-loving plants like azaleas and gardenias.
SNAILS AND SLUGS
Hit snails with a direct spray of 1/3 household ammonia mixed with 2/3 water. Slugs usually hide way before the sun comes up, so leave a butter tub half full of beer in the garden in slug areas. They’ll crawl in the tub to drink the beer, get intoxicated, fall in and drown they go. Hic.
Scientists at Purdue University developed this buttermilk spray to fight spider mites. Use it whenever a daily spray of plain water doesn’t work. Mix 1/4 cup buttermilk, 2 cups wheat flour and 2 1/2 gallons of water. Shake ingredients thoroughly and spray on plants.
Mix 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon household ammonia, 1 tablespoon Epsom salts, 1 teaspoon salt in 1 gallon water. Shake or mix well. Use as plant food once a month for all your flowers and plants both indoors and out.
Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, ”Ask Mary.” This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.”