Tuesday, April 24, 2012

TIGHTWAD TUESDAY - Stretching the Gardening Dollar

I had to run into our local retail store yesterday to purchase a 9-volt battery. The one in my soap making scale finally died and I just don't trust making soaps that I sell at market without measuring precisely. But oh, how I do wish there was some way to make those darned batteries last longer! Is there a precision scale that doesn't require batteries or electricity?

Okay, I am straying from my own topic. While I was in the store, I of course had to take a few minutes to see what new plants they might have gotten in in the garden section. I am on the search for a German Johnson tomato to try. They didn't have any, yet, but they did have the Bradley and the Mr. Stripey heirloom tomatoes. They look yummy and I really want to try them. I tried them last year, but our extreme heat and drought zapped them before they ever really got started, so I am going to try them again.

I also found a mini White Eggplant that looked interesting. I have yet to find an eggplant that I like, but they are so pretty that I still like growing them. I especially like the blooms.... they make a beautiful flower, even if you don't like the veggie that follows, and you can always find someone that wants the veggie part. But this one said that the skin stayed tender and it never got bitter. Wow! Those are the two things that I don't like about an eggplant. I like it when I first bite into one, but I don't like the toughness and I especially don't like the bitter whang. So I got one to try.

So.... how do I pick my plants, you might wonder? Of course, I want the most for my money ... so I fumble around all the plants to find the ones that have the most in them, especially the tomatoes as they are easiest to separate and promote new root growth.

I don't remember how much, exactly, the eggplants were, I think around $2.99. Yes, a bit much, but it is really getting too late to start them from seeds and I managed to find a pot that had 4 plants in it. So that is less than a dollar a plant, MUCH better than that price for just one annual plant! (I am hoping they separate easily. I have never tried to separate any before). Although that still sounds a bit pricey, if I can save the seeds from them (hoping they come back true), that will be the only time I purchase them. Since seeds for specialty plants run around that much, and these are already up and growing, I figure it is still a pretty good deal.

Then there were the two tomatoes. They were in the $1 plants (actually they said 98¢ but rang up at the register as $1). They were all one plant to a pot. But I was determined to find one with more than one plant, so I took my time, gently inspecting all the pots (I am sure those behind the surveillance cameras got a kick). There use to be several plants to EVERY pot, but the growers are much more careful about it now, snipping off all the excess plants (such a waste!!!) to be sure and keep those sales up, because people like me will only buy one if we can find one with several in it. Actually, I would still only buy one, but I prefer one with more if I can find it, stretching my dollar as far as it will go. And, as luck had it, I found what I was looking for on both tomatoes. Tucked away in the back, hiding up under all the larger leaves, was one of each of the two types of tomatoes with 4 plants each in them! Yea!!!

Those tomatoes look really close together and impossible to separate, but they aren't, really. You do have to separate them carefully, and you will lose some roots, but tomato plants put on new roots (further up the stem) fairly easily. As long as they have quite a bit of roots on them, it works great. Once they are separated out (may have to use a knife tip to gently help separate them), you remove any lower stems there might be (pinch them off), plant the the plants half-way or more up their stem leaving at least one leaf set above the ground, and new roots will form all along the buried portion of the stem, creating a very strong plant. So, with 4 plants in each $1 pot, that is only 25¢ per plant! I think that is pretty good!

But it gets even better. Those two tomato plants are heirlooms (Bradley and Mr. Stripey), meaning that any seeds from them will come back true. So if I can be sure to successfully save seeds from both of them (assuming the heat doesn't get them again), I will not have to purchase this variety of tomatoes again. I will have all the future tomatoes of these varieties for as long as I garden, for just $2. The plants are already up, growing good, and even better, their cost is much less than the price of a package of seeds. *whew... takes a breath*  So, where some people might see three plants sitting there in that pic, I see not only a full row, but many, many future rows full!  And to carry this one final step further, my savings will be even greater if, at some future date, I can swap seeds from these for seeds of varieties I don't have. What a wonderful bounty!!!


  1. Thank you for your sweet comment and best of luck with your tomatoes!!

  2. Good tip on purchasing plants there. Tomatoes are the only plants I buy, the rest I grow from seed and seeds saved. I find if I start tomato seeds and then the frost lasts longer then expected outside and I can't get the tomato plants out, they get tall and straggly and none productive. So buying them is my option.

    Your comment about our gift giving day. My older children are Missionaries. One son in Ukraine and another in Northwest Territories. My older daughters live closer to home. We don't celebrate Christmas or Birthdays but have one present day a year. It floats around to when we know all the children will be home........if possible!

    I know different, but all year long we are making gifts for this occasion. I usually post what I am making.

    I shall have to check you blog for your soap making. I tried it twice and it became hand liquid soap as it wouldn't harden. I gave up which isn't like me, but figured we can't do it all. That said I really would like to be able to make soap myself. I purchase Canadian Goat milk soap right now, which is nice, but not the same as homemade.


  3. Sounds like a good idea on your tomatoes!

    Although I really like celebrating Christmas and birthdays... I sure like that idea of ONE present day a year! It sure would make things a LOT easier! I will have to go back and look at some of your posts to see what some of the things are you have made for gifts.

    Soap making - I haven't posted anything yet on my blog, but I have thought about it. I would if I thought people would be interested. Actually, for a variety of reasons, I haven't even poured any lately. But I am running out at home and in my shop and have to get some made. So sorry yours didn't set up. I would be glad to try and help you figure out why and give you some pointers. Just the tiniest little thing being off can mess up an entire batch... but so far I haven't lost any, as I just re-batched and saved most of the messes, lol. Once you get a batch to turn out, you are hooked and it then becomes addictive!


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