Now that we've hopefully brushed the last of the winter snow off our backs, it's time to start thinking about spring. And what better way to kick it off than to create a spring garden at home?
If you'd like to get your hands dirty, but your personal finances are tight, check out these five tips for creating a budget-friendly spring garden.
1. Make your own compost: Creating your own compost is a great way to save money, according to the University of Illinois Extension. Purchase or build a small wooden bin and add coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable waste, some twigs, grass clippings, leaves and a bit of dirt. Don't add meat or dairy products to your compost heap -- although, a small amount of used egg shells can be good for the soil. Keep your compost slightly moist and turn it with a shovel once per week.
2. Get plant seeds for free: Check out the websites Freecycle and Craigslist for free plants, and visit HeirloomSeedSwap and Seed Savers Exchange, which host seed swaps. Do some research at your public library or on the Internet to see if there's a local garden club you can join or plant exchange you can participate in. And, you can also use seeds from the fruits and vegetables you buy to eat.
3. Reduce pesticide use: Karen Bussolini is a lifelong gardener, garden photographer, writer, speaker, NOFA-Accredited Organic Land Care Professional and an eco-friendly garden coach. She says you should "plant flowers that attract beneficial insects and let them do the dirty work of pest patrol while you enjoy their beauty. Any daisy-shaped flower and most herbs will feed pollinators and tiny insects that consume pests."
4. Use a rain barrel: A rain barrel is a great way to reduce your gardening water bill, according to the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. However, it needs to be more involved than just sticking a garbage can out back next to your garden. Place one under your downspout so it collects more rain, and get a spigot that you can connect to a hose. You can likely find a decent one on eBay for about $50.
5. Get your soil tested: Where I live, soil can be tested for just $3, so instead of paying $50 for a testing kit, check the diagnostic or extension services tabs on your county's website. This information can help guide you in the right direction when choosing plants for your garden. You can also find out what additives you may need to improve your soil's quality.
Once your garden is up and running, give it the same love and care you did when you created it. Get the kids involved with weeding and write out a watering schedule if you don't have automatic sprinklers. Saving money on a spring garden is great, but only if you put in the proper maintenance time.
David Scott is a homeowner in Georgia who writes about home improvement, DIY projects, frugal living and green initiatives.