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Frugal container gardening tips

By Paula Pant ·
Monday, May 20, 2013
Posted: 4 pm ET

One of my closest friends is a gardening enthusiast. She loves digging around in the dirt, monitoring sunlight and water, and watching seeds grow.

But there's just one problem: She lives in an apartment. That means her garden is confined to containers.

Urban container gardening can get expensive. The cost of planter boxes and potting soil adds up pretty quickly. But there are ways to save money.

Choose plastic or resin pots

Decorative ceramic or stone pots are incredibly expensive. One big-box hardware store near my home charges $70 for a single 22-inch diameter stone pot.

Fortunately, pots made from plastic or resin are a relative bargain, starting at $2.28 for an 8-inch diameter pot. If you need larger quantities, buy plastic nursery pots in bulk. A 20 pack of three-gallon plastic pots costs only $25 at the local store.

Reuse container trays

If you buy pre-started plants, reuse the container trays for future plantings. I sometimes buy 18 packs of annuals and reuse those trays to start seedlings. Once the seedlings are large enough, I'll transfer each one into a pot, where it will remain for the rest of the growing season.

Make your own seedling starter mix

Be wary about using soil in your seedling container trays. Standard soil can carry bacteria, which can harm indoor seedlings. Unfortunately, a good "seed starting" mix can be expensive.

Save a few bucks by making your own mix. Just blend four parts sphagnum peat moss with two parts compost (which you can also make yourself), one part perlite and one part vermiculite.

Invest in a small greenhouse

Many nurseries sell little "greenhouses" that are effectively wire racks covered with plastic tarps. These cost $25 to $30 and provide an excellent space to store your seeding trays. The greenhouses can fit neatly on most apartment balconies, and most have dual zippers that allow you to adjust the humidity levels.

If you're starting a lot of seeds, I've found that a small greenhouse provides a much more economical option than buying peat pellet refills.

Take cuttings

Cuttings are one of the cheapest ways to grow perennials like vinca vine, rosemary and mint. Simply take a cutting, dip it in rooting hormone (which costs about $3 for a jar that will last you for an entire season), and then plant it in your seed starting mix. Cut diagonally with a sharp razor or scissors for best results.

Paula Pant blogs at about creating wealth and living life on your own terms. She's traveled to nearly 30 countries, owns five rental units and works for herself. Follow Paula on Twitter @AffordAnything.

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Beverly J. Price
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