Thursday, August 09, 2007

Living large on the cheap in T-town - yard edition

Being on a budget can really suck. But after a dear also-budget-grumpy friend commented today that she was secretly envious of how I'd been able to fix up my yard this year, I realized all the many ways I've been able to rehab my yard this year, locally and on the cheap. So, a few tips to share ...

Fixing your lawn is easy. I hate dandelions. I even wrote a poem about my hate for dandelions last year. I've learned that adding soil ammendment, overseeding, and mowing regularly can work WONDERS. Mega-wonders. Sod might be an easy fix, but it comes with its own clay-laden, raccoon attracting mega-problems, so I say, get yourself a load of TAGRO Mix, a big bag of lawn seed (region appropriate!) from GardenSphere, apply in fall and spring, and reap the rewards. Oh yeah, and TAGRO is dirt cheap. Get it? DIRT?! CHEAP!? Ok, it's not dirt, it's soil amendment, but it's still funny ...

Find a friendly fairy gardenmother (or father) in your neighborhood. I've been blessed with an outspoken neighbor who if she hadn't had kids would have been an extremely type A CEO and making millions, and probably she would have been dead of a stroke by now. But she has a kid. She has two. And she's taken to motivating the kids and the neighbors to be better, be better, be better. I say this with love, and gratefullness, and with the knowledge that she or one of her kids could easily be reading this blog ... she's found it before. And you know what: She's a great leader. She literally gives us the tools to make our backyard something more pleasant for her to look at. She can hone in on free things like nobody's business. She knows who's getting rid of what, and who else in the neighborhood just might be able to use that what. Our garden is full of cuttings from her bodacious dividing flower bed, our raised garden bed is fenced thanks to her salvaging, and our projects are done thanks to her prodding. And we're all the happier for it. I so owe her a bottle of wine ... good wine.

Save your seeds. Did you know you could do that? Has it ever occurred to you that the seeds in the center of whatever you're eating could grow you your own whole plant that you don't have to pay for? I'm a farm girl and I hadn't even taken the time to make the correlation. My husband this year, genius that he is, started saving seeds from melons and other foods and starting them for fun in the windowsill. And we might just reap the fruits of our labors ... if not this year, then quite possibly next when we kind of maybe know a little about what the heck we're doing. And if you have a garden, there are many, many more sources to save those seeds from. Apparently you don't have to buy new ones every year. Who knew? Carrie Little at Mother Earth Farms knows what she's talking about in this regard, and keep an eye out at www.tacomagardens.com for a possible seed saving workshop in the near future!

Need a cheap plant? Then you really should check out the local Native Plant Salvage project. For a bit of effort, you can do a good deed and get cheap or free plants. That's awesome. And you can usually find their events posted at www.tacomagardens.com as well.

I think that's enough for now ... but a quick disclaimer: I ain't a gardening guru, I'm a gardening idiot learning as she goes. Don't expect to see my yard in any magazine anytime soon ... but I'm having fun, and taking it one step at a time. And I'm enjoying the journey.

16 comments:

jen said...

Thank you for this. I need to do Serious Yard Penance. I have been very very bad. It's great to hear suggestions for dandelions that don't start with "get yourself a big jug o roundup."

tacomachickadee said...

In addition to the adding nutrients and seeds suggestions, there are these great garden tools that help you pop those suckers out of your grass ... a bit like a mini hand shovel, but very long, very narrow, and very pointed. And they pluck those weeds right out of your grass ... is a fabulous feeling. Like smacking a tennis ball in the sweet spot on the racket every freaking time. We got ours at Chirp & Co. in the Proctor District. Went in looking for a gift, came out with the world's best dandelion sword ... did I mention my hatred for dandelions? My brother gives me crap about letting nature be nature, but I just can't give those suckers a free pass unless they're in my tea.

jamie said...

We've got the Weed Hound (from the makers of the Poop Hound) for removing dandelions. Works extremely well. We got it at a natural lawn care event where they sold mowers and such shortly after we bought our house, but I think they sell them at Blowes and Home Cheapo. Probably elsewhere as well.

As far as amendments, I am also no gardening expert, and my lawn looks pretty awful this year, but as much as a Tagro fan as I am, I don't think it can be considered a lawn fix-all...presumably a soil test should be performed to determine exactly what nutrients are lacking in your lawn, and then go from there.

Elle said...

I'll admit I skimmed. But to comment on your paragraph regarding seed saving. It is worth a note to mention that seed saving usually only works depending on the seeds. Major seed manufacturers genetically engineer seed to have a suicide gene. This means that seeds saved from a previous year's plant will not produce the same result in a crop. What people fail to realize is that many of the seed companies are owned by Monsanto. This includes Territorial Seed Company. Monsanto is a major player in genetic engineering of food crops.

To circumvent this problem it is best to find seeds from an Heirloom seed exchange. True heirloom seeds will always be true to form when grown from a previous year's harvest.

jamie said...

elle said: "What people fail to realize is that many of the seed companies are owned by Monsanto. This includes Territorial Seed Company."

Nooooo! Say it ain't so! That really bums me out, we've been big fans of Territorial...might have to rethink that now.

tacomachickadee said...

Well, Jamie, I agree that no cure is a cure-all for everything ... but I figure lawns aren't that complicated. And if your lawn problems are bare spots due to wear and tear, lack of watering, weeds, letting the fall leaves melt upon your lawn, or having raccoons tear up your thank-you-Asarco-replaced lawn, then the combination of a quarter-inch of some sort of soil amendment/compost/fertilizer, some overseeding, lots of watering and, basically, more attention than you gave it before has a pretty darn good shot at working. :)

tacomachickadee said...

And Elle -- SCARY! You'll have to let us know how to do this heirloom seed finding thing. Guess what you've got the hubby obsessed on now ... in the meanwhile, we'll see what does or doesn't pop up. Our recycled orange trees are pretty so far ...

intacoma said...

Yup, your right about the whole kid think reading the blog ;) hilarious.

cheers,
-in-tacoma

intacoma said...

and when I say think i mean thing, please note the 12:00 timestamp I may have been drinking... o_O

Camille said...

Do you know how to live on a budget in L.A.? Matt and I putting our heads together for some serious number crunching next week. We don't have a yard or any kids...where does that money go?

Thank you for the happy birthday wishes! Looks like you gals had a great time at the Beach House, loved the pictures on Lena's blog.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the comments about Territorial Seed being owned by Monsanto, I have to let everyone know that this is NOT TRUE. Thankfully. Don't take my word for it, though. I called them myself and asked them and you can too. Territorial Seed is still owned by Tom and Julie Johns. The mistake probably came from the fact that one of the major suppliers to Territorial (and every other independent seed company on the planet,) Seminis, was purchased by Monsanto. See article here: www.seedalliance.org/index.php?page=SeminisMonsanto

This does bring up the point, though, that when you are doing business with Territorial, you may be giving money to Monsanto. But, again, this is the case with nearly every seed company out there. The thing to do is to pressure the seed companies to cease doing business with Monsanto and their subsidiaries.

sunshinewhiskey said...

I did a search to find out about Monsanto and it's connection to Territorial and am learning through your blog about what you all know. One thing I'd like to add though. If you look in the Territorial Seed Catalog under any plant almost, which I'm doing right now, you'll see a code, the name of the cultivar then below either (F1), or (0P). F1 means it's a hybrid plant and the seeds may not breed true if you plant them in your garden, but if it has an (OP) then it's open-pollinated and you can save seeds just fine no matter what the source. There may be more specifics depending on how the specific plant is pollinated, but it's generally true. This is to the best of my knowledge and if someone has conflicting information I'd love to hear it.
Thanks

infosearcher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
infosearcher said...

Territorial used to buy seed from Seminis before it was owned by Monsanto. I called and asked. They do still buy some seed from Seminis, which is now owned by Monsanto, but Territorial is still operated out of Cottage Grove, OR, and privately owned and operated by Tom and Julie Johns. Also, Territorial will make available a list to you, if you ask, that lists the seeds they sell that are purchased from Seminis, as they understand that some of their customers are not comfortable buying Seminis seed. I got the list and made sure that I didn't buy any of these varieties, that way I'm sure I'm not supporting Monsanto in any way, but still supporting a great seed company that is based in a small town in Oregon.

tacomachickadee said...

Thanks for the fact-checking! It always pays to fact check ...

tj said...

As of 2012 catalog Territorial Seed no longer sells any Seminis seed or any other brands of seed owned by Monsanto.

Tom Johns
Owner & Pres
Territorial Seed Co.