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Cheaper gardening: 'green' to save green

Gardening, like any passionate interest, can become spendy if we get carried away buying every new gadget, tool and exotic plant that catches our eye. But there are many ways to save money, too, which catches my eye.

Many of the suggestions you see here involve reusing and recycling — so you can be "green" at the same time you're saving a little "green." There's no doubt you can add to this list, too.

Let's start with the simple, plastic gallon milk jug. Cut the bottom out, and you have a cloche to put around a small transplant to help protect it from frost. Poke a few holes in the bottom of a jug to make an efficient water delivery system for tomatoes or other large plants or shrubs. Use the hose to fill it, and let the water trickle out right to the roots. A little pea gravel in the bottom keeps it from blowing away. Cut the jug diagonally to make a handy scoop; cut it another way and you can put your belt through the handle and use the container for picking berries.

Strips of old pantyhose make great ties when you need to stake a plant. Cut the leg crosswise into 1- or 2-inch strips, then cut the strip open to make a stretchy plant tie. If you grow melons or cucumbers on a trellis, suspend the heavy fruits in the panty part of the pantyhose, then tie it to the trellis to prevent vine breakage.

Cut up a discarded venetian blind for plant labels. Hint: writing with a pencil outlasts writing with a felt-tip marker.

If your hose has sprung a leak, turn it into a soaker hose. Puncture it with an icepick or small screwdriver every few inches, clamp off the end, and you'll have a soaker hose that's just the right length. Or if your hose has split near the faucet end, repair it by buying a "kit" to make a new hose end from the hardware store or garden center.

Watch garage sales and garden center sales to save on tools. Tools that aren't used often might be shared with a neighbor; renting larger tools and equipment rather than buying them can save a lot of money, too.

Reuse pots. When they're empty, wash them, rinse with a 10-percent bleach solution to kill any lurking fungi and store until needed again. Clean salad tubs or other restaurant and store containers the same way, and use them as mini greenhouses to start seeds next spring.

Perhaps the biggest money saver of all (besides reducing the size of your lawn) is to compost all of your yard and kitchen waste. Use the compost to feed and enrich the soil.

Share seeds. A one-ounce envelope of lettuce seed, for example, contains about a thousand seeds. Why not trade some for radish or spinach seed with a friend or neighbor? Trade with others when dividing perennials, or swap a few plants like alyssum — which self-seed and come up in abundance the next year — for some daffodil bulbs, perhaps. You'll save money and maybe gain a friend.

Coming up: On Tuesday, June 16, Marsha Waite will teach a class on Organic Pest Management at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, 569 Hanley Road in Central Point. The class is from 7 to 9 p.m. and costs $5. Call 776-7371 for more information.

Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. E-mail her at diggit1225@gmail.com.