It's easy to spend a lot of money at the garden center this time of year, but it's not necessary. In fact, if you get clever, you'll be able to keep your yard and garden looking beautiful on a shoestring! Here are a few ideas to develop your inner frugal gardener:
--Bye-bye, aphids. Plant four or five peeled cloves of garlic near the bases of your rosebushes. In a few days, all the aphids will disappear. This nontoxic treatment is natural and remains effective for a long time.
--Share yard tools. It's unlikely that any one family will use all of its yard and garden tools all the time. That's why it makes sense to share the cost and the use of expensive equipment. You'll need to decide who services the shared lawn mower or stores the rakes and leaf blower. If you are flexible, it's a great way to reduce the cost of homeownership.
--Hummingbirds, no bees. If you apply Vaseline to the feeding spouts of your hummingbird feeder, the bees will not bother it. The Vaseline makes the bees get stuck, which they don't like. Meanwhile, the hummingbirds are unharmed by this sticky situation.
--Perfect pool filter. Position a piece of nylon hosiery or a knee-high over the end of a garden hose, tying it securely. While you fill your swimming pool, this will act as a fine filter to catch all of the sediment from the pipes that you do not want clogging up your pool filter.
--Dirt-cheap. Next time you are at the home improvement center or garden store, ask about "ripped bags" containing dirt or mulch. Typically when the bags become torn, contents are re-bagged and sold for half-price.
--Sheer coverage. Stop buying flimsy, expensive row covers to protect garden veggies from hail, cabbage butterflies, leaf miners and other airborne menaces. Instead, purchase old sheer nylon curtains at garage sales and thrift shops. These are usually cheap (or even free from family and friends, if they know you'll take them off their hands) and will last for many years. Sheers repel hail and hot sun, yet they let in plenty of light, air and rain. After harvest, shake out the dirt, launder in hot water and store for next season.
--Almost-free landscaping. You can get shrubs and other plants for your yard and garden for free (or just the cost of transporting and transplanting) if you know where to look. Many nurseries have "boneyards," where they toss plants they deem unworthy of sale. Neighbors and strangers alike will often give you cuttings, seeds or divisions of plants you admire. If you know anyone who is part of the grounds crew of a large college or university, ask him or her to pass along any goodies he or she removes at work.
Mary Hunt's column, "Everyday Cheapskate," can be found at creators.com.