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3 tips to help gardeners save money

By Paula Pant · Bankrate.com
Friday, May 9, 2014
Posted: 12 pm ET

It's springtime! Now that the danger of frost has disappeared in most parts of the U.S., gardening enthusiasts are picking up their shovels, pulling on their gloves and planting seeds to kick off the growing season.

Gardening can be an expensive hobby. The cost of tools, seeds (or pre-started plants) and compost can quickly reach the hundreds of dollars. How can you cut back on these hefty expenses? Here are three frugal tips.

1. Choose drought-resistant plants

Your water bill is one of the biggest variables during the growing season. In some parts of the nation, water is relatively cheap. Even heavy additional use of water only results in an extra $10 or $20 per month on top of the normal bill.

But in other areas of the nation, where water is pricey, some gardeners see their water bills skyrocket by $150 per month or more.

If you live in a part of the country where water costs a lot, save money by opting for drought-resistant plants like yarrow, pineleaf penstemon, sedum or Russian sage.

2. Create your own compost

Compost can be expensive. One bag typically costs between $2 and $5 at major home-improvement stores, depending on its variety. If you have a large garden, you might need dozens of bags.

Instead, create your own compost in your backyard by mixing produce scraps (such as banana peels, apple cores and even eggshells) with fallen leaves and yard debris. Keep these in a confined environment that gets some oxygen exposure, and turn the heap regularly.

It's a fun project that will give you some fresh air, exercise and savings. That's a win-win.

3. Run the numbers

Don't start a vegetable garden just because you assume that growing plants will be cheaper than purchasing store-bought produce.

In fact, buying fruits and vegetables at the store sometimes can be cheaper, especially if you plan a container garden (because you need to pay for pots and soil) or if water in your town is expensive.

"Saving money" shouldn't be your primary motivation to grow a garden. Engage in the hobby only if you think gardening is fun, you want more beautiful blooms in your yard, or you want fresher and more nutritious food.

Paula Pant helps people ditch the cubicle and live on their own terms. She's traveled to 30 countries, owns six rental property units and hasn't had an employer since 2008. Her blog, "Afford Anything," is the gathering point for a tribe that refuses to say "I can't afford it." Follow Paula on Twitter: @AffordAnything.

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