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although Gilmer’s advice throughout the book is basically sound, there were a few occasions where her suggestions were outdated (such as advising the use of leftover latex paint to cover new cuts on trees, a practice which is no longer recommended) or otherwise questionable (such as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.