Guest Author - Lili Pintea-Reed
One way to lower grocery costs and improve the quality of your meals is to garden. Even people who live in apartment settings can garden either with containers on windows and porches, or by joining a garden co-op which charges a small fee for space. Another often over looked source of food is to plant perennial plants, shrubs and trees which bear fruit.
To get started you need seeds. Check out your local discount stores for inexpensive seed. Iíve gotten some in early spring sales for ten cents a pack. For those crops in which you only want a few plants (broccoli or cauliflower for example) these little packs are just fine. You can plant in almost any discarded container. I use egg cartons, egg shell halves, and milk containers cut to size, but anything water proof will do. Soil can be plain garden dirt sterilized by baking in the oven, or a cheap bag of potting mix from the discount store. It depends on the time you have to fiddle about.
To sterilize soil, break up the clods and remove worms and put them back into the garden. Then place the dirt in a heat proof container and bake at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for around an hour. This will kill the damping off fungus and nematodes which might be present to eat your plants! In nature bright sunlight does this, but most seed starting takes places indoors where the light is not strong enough to kill damping off in the soil.
Fill your seed starters with the soil mixture and plant as directed on the seed packs. Keep moist and warm and soon youíll see the little plants. This late in the season once they have two sets of true leaves start leaving them out in dappled sunlight for a few days before moving them to the garden. This called hardening-off and prepares the plants for the sunny, windy world of the garden. If you donít have room for a separate vegetable garden tuck veggies in with your flowers. The best peppers I ever grew were in my flower bed last year!!!
The cheapest way to get perennials and larger permanent plantings is as discards and gifts from other gardeners. You can swap many plants and get some free by this sharing. Try joining your local garden club to find other gardeners. If you donít have the time or resources to network with other gardeners, you can by plants cheap at season end sales or early season specials. Iíll list several online sales below.
Check out the permaculture sites online for ideas for plants and trees which bear fruit, so they are more than just decorative.
Forest Gardening Resource Page:
Fertilizer for your garden can be gotten by composting yard waste and kitchen scraps. City and apartment gardeners can compost too, by using worm composting. In this method worms can unobtrusively compost your kitchen garbage into food for your plants Ėwithout freaking the neighbors with a compost pile.
The Compost Page :
Poisonous and expensive sprays can be replaced by a whole series of recipes for sprays which use kitchen ingredients. Here are some cheap sprays for various garden problems culled from all sorts of newsgroups and garden hint lists:
Mix 1 gallon white vinegar, 1 cup table salt, and 1 tablespoon dishwashing liquid together and spray on weeds. To do so, remove approximately 2 cups of vinegar from the jug, pour in the salt and dishwashing liquid, then return the 2 cups of vinegar to the jug. Close the lid and shake to mix. Transfer to a spray bottle (after shaking to mix the ingredients) as needed. It works as well, if not better, than Chemicals, but is much cheaper. Be careful, it will kill whatever you spray it on!
If you go purchase vinegar, 10% acidity, 20% acid would be better, and spray it on the weeds in the heat of the full sun, you will have an effective weed killer.
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FOLIAGE FERTILIZER SPRAY
GARRETT JUICE (Basic foliar feeding spray) NOW AVAILABLE COMMERCIALLY
To make a home brew, use the following per gallon of water 1-2 cups manure compost tea 1 tablespoon liquid seaweed 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses 1 tablespoon natural apple cider vinegar. For more serious disease infestations: 1 tablespoon of Epsom salts 1/4 cup garlic tea 1 rounded tablespoon baking soda or potassium bicarbonate.
To turn this mixture into
GARDEN-VILLE FIRE ANT CONTROL, add two oz. of concentrated orange or 1 cup of homemade citrus oil.
HOMEMADE CITRUS OIL - Fill a container half full of citrus peelings or old fruit, the rest with water, let soak for a week or two, use about a cup of your new concentrate per gallon of spray.
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FRUIT FLY TRAP RECIPE
Here is a recipe to use in your fruit fly traps, the recipe is not my invention.
1 litre of water
2 cups of urine
3 teaspoons vanilla essence
1 teaspoon vegemite
1 cup sugar
Mix ingredients together pour about 1 or 2 cupful of ingredient into each trap, place traps in and around fruit trees etc.,. Renew the solution each 10 days.
All feed back positive or otherwise most welcome.
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SKUNK and OTHER FOUL SMELLS - 1 Quart Hydrogen Peroxide, 1/2 cup Baking Soda, 1 teaspoon Liquid Soap.
Rub into fur and rinse with tap water. DO NOT STORE THIS MIX!
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COMFREY TEA FOR DOG SKIN ALLERGIES - Cook a mess Comfry Greens, dilute the cool pot liquid down to iced tea color, and pour into the dog's fur.
It's VERY POWERFUL so don't use more than ONCE A MONTH and ONLY when needed.
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REPELL PEST ANIMALS
Mix in one 20-gallon hose end sprayer (can buy a sprayer at any plant nursery):
8 oz. Murphy's oil soap 4 oz. Castor oil 1 oz. human urine 1 teaspoon alum dissolved in hot water 3 oz. Tabasco hot sauce
Spray the desired area until the sprayer is empty. Will not harm plants, grasses, shrubs or trees.
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INSECTICIDES, INSECTICIDAL SOAPS AND MOSQUITO REPELLANTS
Olive oil insecticide soap
4 tbsp lye 3 tbsp cold water (should be soft water or rain water) 1 cup olive oil
DO THIS IN A WELL VENTILATED AREA (i.e. outside!) USE A GLASS, ENAMEL, WOOD, or STAINLESS STEEL BOWL.
1. put cold water in bowl.
2. add lye and stir until dissolved (this is the part where you need to be careful -- the lye can bubble around, so don't get burned and keep your face back).
3. once the lye is dissolved, slowly add the oil while stirring.
4. stir for 5 minutes.
5. pour into a plastic tub, and let it set.
The setting process can take a day or two, so be patient. To use it, I grate the block of soap into powder with a cheese grater (the fine side), and add 1 tsp of powder to 1 cup of soft water. If using a sprayer it's wise to sieve the soap mixture before putting it in the bottle to get out any soap chunks.
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Here is a formula for making your own "WHITE OIL":-
1 Cup Vegetable oil
1.5 Cups of water
1 Teaspoon of dish washing detergent
Mix in a blender, then use in place of commercial product.
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Start out by roasting garlic in the microwave, squeezing the pulp out and spinning it in the blender with a little oil.
Then add water and some blue food coloring, and put the concoction in the fertilizer dispenser that hooks to the hose.(the color was so you know when it was done dispensing)
Mixing garlic powder with water works just as well and is less trouble.
Just spray it all over the grass, vegetation and everything.
It will be effective immediately and the smell does go away quickly.
It lasts for me about 2 weeks or until we have a hard rain.
The stuff is pure magic. It also keeps the gnats and "no see 'ems" away, and even deters the yellowflies.
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Use sugar water (1 lb. to 5 gallons) to drench soil
1 lb. sugar to 50 feet of row
1 tsp. sugar in planting hole (unclear, but this may be the rate when planting large-seeded plants like melons or squash)
3/4 cup sugar in hole when transplanting tomatoes.
To Give your plants a mineral boost use Epsom salts:
Like your body, your plants will suffer from a lack of nutrients. Just a spoonful of Epsom Salt is like a multivitamin, and can prevent weak stalks and yellow leaves. And for big, healthy vegetables, sprinkle Epsom Salt around the base of each plant.
Epson Salt Page: