An Alameda Garden: The Small Budget Gardener

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Small Budget Gardener

As we head into spring, and all the garden center temptations that the season brings, it’s good to be reminded that gardening doesn’t have to be a pricey enterprise. It’s so easy to be seduced by the seed and bulb catalogs, not to mention all the totally unnecessary gadgets, amendments, and chachkas that everyone else is hawking. But when we come right down to it, it doesn’t have to cost every dime of our disposable income to create a productive and attractive garden. You just have to be creative and know how to make the most of a little, and it helps to find a good resource or two.

The Small Budget Gardener by Maureen Gilmer (Cool Springs Press) isn’t a bad place to start. Gilmer begins by covering how to shop for quality tools, what fertilizers and pest-control products are worth the expense and what home-remedy alternatives are worth a try, how to shop for healthy plants that are worth the price tag, and how to amend your soil for little or no money. All good, basic information.

She then goes a step beyond the basic budget gardening kind of thinking with two excellent chapters on using plants for insulation, windbreaks, and shelterbelts, and water conservation practices and water-wise planting. Additional chapters on recycling and using salvage in the garden offer creative ideas for planters, hardscape, and garden art that are cheap and green.

The final chapters cover Internet resources, propagation, edible gardens, and government resources. Although the propagation chapter covers the basics of several techniques (seeds, rooting cuttings, layering, plant divisions), I would have liked to have seen expanded coverage of this topic since successful propagation is really the key to being a successful small-budget gardener.

And although Gilmer’s advice throughout the book is basically sound, there were a few occasions where her suggestions were outdated (such as advising the use of leftover latex paint to cover new cuts on trees, a practice which is no longer recommended) or otherwise questionable (such as suggesting the use of salvaged masonry sand for rooting cuttings—sand doesn’t really allow sufficient air circulation around new roots the way perlite does). And note to author and Cool Springs Press: please don’t release a reference/resource book like this without an index. Trying to locate specific information becomes an exercise in frustration.

But as an antidote to the many gardening books out there that promise results based only on the size of your wallet, The Small Budget Gardener offers lots of ideas for clever and resourceful gardening.


  1. I'll have to check it out. I guess if it doesn't have an index, it's supposed to be a fun browse through instead of a reference? Seems silly since it looks like it covers tons of territory. Thanks for letting me know about this one!

  2. I love your banner... so wonderful!

  3. I like the basic concept, and the down-sides of the book make me feel oddly optimistic that even I could write a book about gardening one day :)

  4. A dear friend of mine gave me your book for Christmas. I'm already 1/2 way thought it and I can totally see it as a book to refer to all year long in 2011. HERES TO saving money in any size garden!


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