Cheap as Dirt Garden Amendments

Garden season is fully in swing!  You do have a garden going right? It works well with any austerity plan or SHTF plan.  Providing good, cheap, wholesome food, with positive ripple effects into your family’s physical and financial health.  It’s always a delight to work in the garden, but I’ve found that these  Cheap As Dirt Amendments make things go smoother.

Compost – DIY yourself some compost, your garden plot will thank you.  Lots of veggies do well with a “side dressing” of compost as they start to form their edible parts.  Side dressing is just fancy garden talk for dumping some compost neatly next  to the row of veggies. Compost is literally made with kitchen waste and lawn debris. Add sun and rain water, and voila! Compost! Cheapest way imaginable to insure the health of your planting soil.

Egg Shells – Egg shells are super cheap, again we’re talking about kitchen waste here folks.  Keep a couple of shells per tomato plant in your garden.  If you usually plant 5, then  keep a dozen shells, if you usually plant 10, make sure you keep at least a couple dozen eggshells. In the spring, as you plant your tomato plants, crumble up a couple of eggshells in the bottom of the transplant hole, this helps prevent blossom end rot.  This works for peppers and eggplants as well. Eggshells can also be ground up into a dusting that will deter slugs, in much the same way as diatomaceous earth does.

Newspapers – Newspapers work great as a mulch layer, they’ll effectively block weed seeds for quite a awhile before breaking down. They are essential to the “lasagna method” of starting new garden soil. Newspaper pots are a cheap way to make compostable seedling pots.

Straw – You can DIY straw, even on a small lot.  Some grasses (ornamental or prairie grasses) make a lot of straw naturally.  Some heirloom varieties of grains make lots of straw. Or you can buy it cheap at most farm stores or garden supply stores. Spread on your plots it can help modulate temperature and moisture levels in your soil, keeping conditions right for strong healthy plants. Soil can cause diseases in tomato plants, and I’ve found that a bed of straw around the base of the tomato plants really minimizes those soil-borne diseases.

There’s no excuse not to keep these around. Use them generously in your garden for best results.  They are  cheap and effective solutions to common garden needs.

Got any others to add to my list? Do comment and let us know.

– Calamity Jane

8 comments… add one
  • TiredOldGuy May 22, 2012, 7:21 am

    Depending on your area, the local garbage dump may be a good source of DIY building materials. A lot of the newer dumps make tradesmen put their cuttings, surplus materials, etc. in a separate warehouse area – which are then sorted out by the staff and sold at extremely low prices.

    You won’t find enough to build a house of course, but putting together raised planter beds, support stakes, even a small greenhouse are all possible. I recently purchased some bricks for a raised bed for $2 a trailer load, which was a lot cheaper than the quoted price at the local hardware store.

  • Tim May 22, 2012, 8:45 am

    This may sound obvious (and otherwise ‘stupid’), but the wife & I have discovered that those fake, realistic-looking, rubber, toy snakes are fantastic for deterring invasive rodents & rabbits. just coil it up around you plants and forget about it. It’s not 100% effective, but it’s a great non-toxic, zero maintenance, ‘dollar-store’ solution for us.

    • TiredOldGuy May 23, 2012, 4:11 am

      Hey, as my old science teacher told me – If it works, it isn’t stupid.

  • Brandon May 22, 2012, 10:04 am

    Grow “green” manure like vetch, clovers, buckwheat, etc. and periodically add them to your garden.

    Also if you have room you can divide your garden into sections and let one area go fallow (no crops) for a season. You can plant your “green” manures here and naturally amend the soil in that location. Clovers and other plants naturally fix nitrogen into the soil.

    When you harvest the “green” manure try cutting the plants down and leaving the roots in the ground. This will provide earthworms and microorganisms food making the soil even richer.

  • Survival Topics May 22, 2012, 1:29 pm

    We burn alot of wood for heat. Any bark that comes off the wood (which is a large amount since our wood is split and dried) is thrown into the compost pile. It composts into excellent mulch. We only burn hardwoods (maple, beech, ash), it may not be wise to use softwood barks due to tannins.

  • T.R. May 22, 2012, 9:48 pm had a very cool idea of making limited space gardens out of pallets . it was in the how to section .

  • JL May 23, 2012, 8:32 am

    To prevent cutter worms you can wrap the ends of zucchini or squash with aluminum foil. After the plant has grown out wrap just a tiny piece around the “joint” of the plants. Human urinre will keep some larger animals away.

  • john May 24, 2012, 8:42 am

    I have managed to grab a lot of free stuff for the house and garden, plus, give away stuff that would have been in the landfill once I was done with it. People many times give away seedlings, we grew veggies from free seedlings last year.

    My city gives away free compost, so we not only use it for the garden, but, I use it to fill in lots of holes and to improve and hopefully eventually grow food in the clay packed areas.

    CL in my area offers free wood chips and pallets and instead of PT wood, I use pallets for fire wood racks now.

    I picked up (3) 55 gallon blue barrels with removable tops off CL for $20 for rain barrels. I think the rain run off is much better then the city water for plants. Plus, it is free and it is always good to have 200+ gallons in case you need it for drinking or flushing toilets, I am working my way slowly to a 500+ gallon store of rainwater.


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