Time to Trade and Test Seeds

You don’t have to have a big yard to grow some of your food and herbs. Pots on the porch or balcony will do fine for parsley, oregano, onions, all those relatively small plants.

If you do have room for a full garden, there are ways to do it less expensively. Maybe there’s a gardeners’ group in your area where people trade their extra seeds, and you won’t have to buy so many.

The frugal gardener knows that last year’s seeds are still good this year if they have been stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Indeed, mine were just in the cupboard, and they stayed good until the next year.

To test them just before planting time, lay ten seeds in between two paper towels and keep them moist. If at least seven of the ten sprout, the seeds are good. In 2013, I planted 2012’s onion seeds and they grew nicely.

You can make compost in a covered five gallon bucket. I’ve done it. Start with a layer of dirt, such as topsoil or garden dirt. Add a layer of kitchen scraps, stir it into the dirt and get the whole thing wet. Stir it every day and keep it damp but not soggy. Add more scraps and more dirt as the scraps become available. Stop adding scraps while there’s still room to stir the compost. You do have to keep stirring it daily even once it’s full. Over time, the scraps will break down into nutritious compost. You can use raw vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, crushed and crumbled eggshells, and dried grass clippings and leaves. Don’t use bones, meat, grease, or cooked foods.




Yard and Garden – Watering

By now everyone has heard about not running the sprinklers in the sunny daytime. More water evaporates that way and goes to waste. At the same time, watering in the evening risks the plants staying damp all night and getting a fungus. The very early morning is the best time to run sprinklers.

On the other hand, sprinklers aren’t the only way to get water to your grass and plants.

In 1998, I had a garden in the yard of a rental apartment. The landlady paid the water bill and wasn’t going to pay for watering a garden. Two weeks after I planted the garden, we entered a six-week drought. I dug irrigation trenches in the garden so that water running in at one end flowed throughout the garden.

Then I went to the hardware store and bought a long length of fat hose. I connected it to the drain hose of the washing machine and drained the water from the washer out the back door and into the garden. (At that time, I used those ceramic laundry disks, so there was no detergent in the water.) The garden survived the drought.

Another good source of water is a rain barrel. As the name implies, it captures rainwater in a barrel for later use. YouTube and eHow have videos and instructions on how to make a rain barrel. You need a food grade fifty-five gallon drum, screen, two spigots and some tools. You can also buy them readymade at places like Lowes. The rain from the barrel can be hand poured, or fed into irrigation ditches.

You can use rain barrel water to wash the car, and if not needed outdoors, to flush the toilet. My grandmother used it to wash woolens.



Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Yard and Garden – Wasps, Bees

For pests like wasps that might be eating the fruit off your fruit tree, the easiest trap I’ve seen is the one from The Complete Tightwad Gazette. Take a two liter plastic bottle, cut a banana peel into strips and drop them into the bottle. Add one cup vinegar and one cup sugar and swirl around to mix. Add water to two inches below the top. Tie a string around the neck of the bottle and tie the string to your fruit tree. The pests will be drawn to the fermenting banana, fall into the bottle and die.

Bees won’t be attracted to this because of the vinegar. If you have bees you don’t want, please call your local county extension to find a beekeeper that will take pollinator bees away. Meanwhile, to keep them away from your yard or deck, try spraying the area liberally with diluted blue Dawn detergent. Put about an inch in the bottom of the spray bottle and then fill it up with water.


Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on in both Kindle and paperback versions.


52 Weeks: Yard and Garden – Pests

To kill insects in the garden, one recipe is to mix a concentrated solution of one cup vegetable oil (any kind) with one tablespoon of regular dish washing liquid in a container with a lid. Shake well, and shake frequently as you use it. Take four teaspoons of this concentrate and mix it with water in a two pint spray bottle. Use this to spray both top and bottom of plant surfaces. Only apply this when the outside temperature is under 85° F. If it is very hot out the mix may damage tender plant tissues.

There are strategies to prevent the insects in the first place. Various plants repel the pests that prey on other plants. If you Google “companion planting” you’ll find several links to charts about plant companions. Here’s one for instance:



Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on in both Kindle and paperback versions.