That’s not an error in the title. I put that dollar sign up there on purpose.
And that’s because, unless you’ve got naturally rich, loamy soil in your yard, then you’ll probably drop some change on soil amendments during the first years of your garden.
As you become more accomplished, you’ll likely incorporate composting and things like cover crops–maybe vermicomposting–into your gardening skill repertoire, saving yourself some cash. (Need a book on this topic? I know of one.)
But that kind of composting takes time, something eager-beaver neophytes with visions of spring gardens don’t have.
Along these lines, Meredith asked here last week:
Question: About soil. I’ve read a lot about it and think I understand the basics, BUT, all soil amendments that are necessary (I think) are costly. Unless you have resources, physical and otherwise, you have to buy manure, compost, garden soil, some kind of fertilizer. This really does add up. I know that over time, you can create your own compost, and I believe in the value of using all those bags of leaves people rake up for me as mulch to cut down on the need for watering, but … what do you think? How can we small home gardeners get around spending big bucks at the nursery for soil amendments and plant feeding?
To my way of thinking the two simplest, cheapest, most effective routes that I know to enriching the soil in a new garden are no-dig garden beds and compost tea. You can read about the former in a 2009 article that I wrote for a regional magazine. As for compost tea, you can purchase it or go DIY with this recipe. (No, you don’t have to get fancy with the hose system as illustrated. Remember: Gardening is an art. Feel free to tinker accordingly.)
Hoping to tap the wisdom of Twitter’s #gardenchat crowd (led weekly by @BG_garden), I threw out this question today:
3X this wk I’ve been asked re: “cheap, quick” soil amendments for NEW veg gardeners. Your advice? Post to follow.
From @yarnmaven: Guess it depends on the soil, but is there anything better than compost?…. [Compost]-tea is good and yes, will probably go further. You can make it or buy it…. One can spend a lot of time and money doing more and not get any better results. Compost is a broad category…. Fish and seaweed [emulsions] are second on my list – together [with compost tea] they are a triple threat!
From @Rosemont_Farm: Leaves free from neighbors; woodchips free from elec/ trimmer cos; free poo local farms; free coffee grounds Starbucks…. I grew up w my dad making compost tea from our rabbit poo, I always thought he was weird but boy did we have a garden!…. dad would let is sit for 5 days (about 1/3 full 5 gal bucket topped w water) then pour off around plants…. rabbit manure is very gentle to grow w, I used to make piles of pretty fresh poo & put squash seeds in – worked a-ok!
If your soil is really dreadful (rock hard or too sandy) you might want to explore bag gardens, too. (Personally, I’m a little leary of these in hot climates where that plastic may degrade and give off strange, unnatural stuff, but I wanted to bring it up anyway.)
Also, for further exploration on this topic–and for anyone interested in gardening for food on the cheap, I highly recommend Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community by H.C. Flores (Chelsea Green Publishing).