By Tina Whobrey
I love to garden and try to every year in some capacity. My plans typically include: at least one cherry tomato, at least one heirloom-ish tomato, and about 6-8 basil plants (I LOVE pesto and make some for the freezer as well). The rest of my plans depend on what I can get my hands on. Before continuing, however, I should make a few things clear… I am not the person who just ‘gets it’ when it comes to gardening. I am also not the person who looks to Pinterest for ideas and sets out to achieve “said-project” the next day. I am the person who plans to start my garden late-April, but then all of a sudden it is the beginning of June and I’m like, “I really gotta get going on starting that garden!” That said, I do something every year and enjoy every minute of it!
We live in a townhouse with a small patio out back and a small space to work with in front. As well, we live on a budget. I hope I can share some ideas that others find useful. I’d also love this to start a conversation in the comments because I know there are many other ways to garden on a space/money budget.
I had a lot of spaces needing to be filled last year. Most of it was in shaded areas, and of course I went right to thinking “hostas”. In the stores, hostas are pretty expensive. Friends and neighbors can provide the same thing for cheap or free! If you know someone who has had hostas, even for a few years, they are probably ready to split them. I looked around, offering to do the ‘splitting’ for people, and it ended up that a friend actually brought me the splits in cups and bags! I also split some of my own plants that were ready and filled in spaces that way. Other plants good for splitting include: sedum, coneflowers, oregano, or poppy. There are rules to follow (which I did not) and plenty of info online!
I also hit up a couple of plant sales. People around town hold them like garage sales. I didn’t even know it was a ‘thing’ until I passed a sign while on my way to the Co-op’s annual plant sale! I turned around and picked up 4 hosta plants for $4 each! At this point, it may be a little late to find many of these, but I still keep my eyes peeled.
There are tons of ideas online about this topic…many are super cute and others are practical. In my space I tend to stick to a couple basic spaces. I dug up a little bit of grass right outside our front door to line the house. I also use hanging pots (mine are plastic ones from a few years ago and I just re-plant in them). Large tubs are really handy as well! I get the ones with the rope handles and then just drill holes into the bottom (very important!). This is the part that makes me feel like I’m totally cool and crafty..getting out my drill and my large drill bit and drilling into plastic tubs. Go me! I actually use my tubs for tomato or bean plants and they do a really nice job.
Soil can be so expensive. And mulch adds up as you realize that you need way more than you thought. Not any more! Go to the Landscape Recycling Center. Warning: if you don’t know about this already, your mind may be overwhelmed with “how did I never know about this amazing place?!?!” the first time you go. You can go with a garbage can and fill it with mulch for $5. You can buy their 7 gallon bucket for $10 and refill it for FREE for the rest of the year (and you can bring other containers with for your “refill”). Seriously. Also, I just learned that they have free firewood too. Last year, I got soil for 4 large rubber bins, and mulch for around my entire front and side of the house, for less than $50. *Bring a shovel if you can. *Garbage cans filled all the way with mulch are heavy. *Your vehicle may get dirty. **Totally worth it.
Too expensive? Too late in the season? Not enough space? Forget about it – have fun gardening!
Tina Whobrey moved to Chambana with a friend in 2000. Since then she has attended Parkland, ISU, and finally the U of I, where she earned her Master’s Degree in Education. She taught middle school Social Studies for five years, married her favorite person in the world and moved to NY state. They decided C-U was “home” and moved back to have their son, who is now 1 ½ years old.