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6 Tips for Saving in the Garden

Swapping plants and collecting rainwater can cut your growing costs.

4. Roll out the rain barrel

Water bills, especially in the summer, can add up fast unless you have your own well. But plants and flowers need a lot of water to thrive. To save on watering costs, you can collect rainwater instead of tapping the municipal spigot. You can buy a basic rain barrel, starting at around $100, that attaches to a downspout. Check local ordinances for any limitations on rain barrels, and make sure to put a screen on the barrel to keep out unwanted debris.

5. Water wisely

If you live in a dry climate, you can save money on watering costs by using a drip irrigation system or soaker hoses. Both distribute water at the soil level, where the plants need it most. An overhead sprinkler may cost less up front, but a lot of the water ends up getting lost to evaporation or the wind. Another option, albeit slightly more exerting, is to use a hose or water canister to water your plants manually, which could end up being therapeutic for your own health as well as your plants'.

6. Make your own fertilizer

A necessary component for a healthy garden, fertilizer doesn't come free — unless you make your own. You can do so by starting a compost pile, which is basically a collection of partially decomposed organic material that can be added back into the soil to nourish plants. Throw almost anything organic into your compost, including rotting leaves, leftover vegetables, banana peels, coffee grounds, carrot peels and even eggshells.

You can designate a small corner of your garden for a compost pile. Keep in mind that it could take up to a year for all of the waste to break down, so start composting this season with next season's garden in mind. Some local governments provide compost bins to residents at little or no cost to encourage waste recycling. Do a search on your city or county website, or check with your local cooperative extension.

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