I shall start this column with the confession that I am totally biased. When I hear someone complain about the cost of a plant, or fertiliser, or gardening tools, or doing anything in the garden, I automatically think “Compared to what?” I think gardening and gardens are an investment in our health, our wellbeing and the value of our property. After all you put something in small and it gets bigger and more valuable – well at least hopefully it will, if you choose the right plant!? People spend a fortune on renovating inside or even building an outdoor entertaining area and then complain about the fraction they spend on the plants. The hard landscaping in a garden can be the expensive part – not usually the plants themselves. And in my totally biased opinion, it’s the plants that actually add the beauty (Ok, some rock walls and features can be beautiful too!?).
People also spend a fortune on gym fees, entertainment systems and infotainment subscriptions without realising that their garden can provide all of this. Exercise, reality and lifestyle (not reality and lifestyle TV) all just outside your own door.
Anyway if you are concerned about the cost of gardening, here are some practical steps you can take to reduce your costs (or investments!).
Make your own compost. Adding organic matter such as compost improves plant health and also helps to reduce supplementary watering requirements. From a common sense point of view, why would you put your kitchen and food scraps, and garden refuse in the rubbish bin and then go out and buy compost? It makes no sense – make your own.
Make your own mulch. If you have a medium to large garden, the garden prunings you create can be turned into mulch in a number of ways. Some gardeners simply throw everything on the ground where they are; others chop up everything with secateurs so that it is in tidier small pieces; some run the mower over their prunings to make mower mulch; and others put everything through a power mulcher.
Grow your own plants from seed, cutting or division. Many of the great gardeners that I know have created amazing gardens on shoe string budgets by getting cuttings or divisions from friends, or buying one plant and propagating more.
In most cases small plants establish better than a larger ones, and usually within a couple of years have outgrown the larger specimens planted at the same time. It is far better to plant a small plant into soil that you have improved than a larger plant into poor soil. Remember plant a $1 plant into a $10 hole.
Keep plants healthy.
Keeping your plants healthy is the best way of preventing them from getting pests or diseases and then you won’t need to spend money on insecticides and pesticides.