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By Clark MacAllister
For the Dawson Community News
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If you are like me, you try to save money wherever you can. We are living in tough financial times, and I am always looking for new ways to save a few bucks here and there.

Many folks often skimp on their landscape as a means of cost cutting. There are many instances in which being too cheap in the garden can cost you in the long run.

Here are some tips to help you decide when to skimp and when to spend:

Shop around different garden centers before you buy. Prices may vary greatly with different retailers. Don't be afraid to ask about volume discounts if you are planning on purchasing a lot of plants.

Avoid impulse purchases. Have an idea of what you would like to purchase before you enter the nursery or garden center. You might need to exercise a little willpower to avoid all of the pretty blooms and foliage.

Try not to overbuy in size or quantity. Do you really need a plant in a 30 gallon container? Consider the mature size of the plant and base your quantity on that. Remember, it takes an awful lot of digging for a large rootball like that.

Beware of miracle plants and miracle potions. Of course, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid catalogs that don't list a plant's botanical name.

Starting your own plants from seed can save you money in most cases.

However, if you only need a few common variety tomato plants, is it really worth buying seeds, starter mix, growing flats, etc.?

Don't skimp on your tools. Quality tools will last a long time and save money in the long run. Also, if you want them to last, only use them for their intended purposes. Shovels are not supposed to double as pry bars for large rocks. Hand-held pruning shears are not made to cut through metal.

Purchase quality seed and check the dates on the package. Seeds can lose viability over time and when not properly stored.

Get together with neighbors and purchase materials like soil amendments and mulches in bulk. This is much more cost effective than buying in small bags.

Regularly check your irrigation system for leaks. Adjust spray head flow and direction as well. You don't want to be watering your neighbor's landscape for free. Install an automatic cutoff valve or turn your system off during periods of regular rainfall.
Divide your perennials and swap with other gardeners.

Move plants that aren't thriving or prune overgrown shrubs instead of discarding them.

Use a layer of newspaper under mulch to cut down on weeds in your annual beds.

Reduce your lawn area to a manageable size with good sunlight. Give up trying to grow grass in dense shade.

Make a compost pile. Compost everything you can, like yard wastes, fruit and vegetable scraps, paper, etc. Use your compost for soil amendments, top dressing turf and for making compost tea for house plants.

Limit your use of pre-emergent herbicides to areas where you have had trouble with annual weeds in the past.

Use proper timing and soil test results to avoid wasting lime and fertilizer.

If your neighbors have similar turf grasses, get together on rental equipment like dethatchers and aerators.

If you have large amounts of moving and digging to do in the landscape, invite some friends over. You'll be surprised how much work good friends will do for a free meal.

If you don't have a mulching blade on your mower, compost your lawn clippings and use them to topdress your lawn. This will save on fertilizer costs.

Spray for insect diseases only after you have determined the cause of the problem. Knowing which insect or disease is injuring your plants will help you choose what to treat with. Using unnecessary and excessive pesticides costs a lot of money and can also kill beneficial insects.

Always properly prepare your soil before planting. Good soil can save a lot of money in reduced water, fertilizer and pesticide use. Always use plants that are adapted to our climate region.

You can also save money by shopping at your local farmers market.

The Dawson County Produce Market will begin June 30 and will run from 7:30 to 10 a.m.

It will be held in the parking lot of the Dawson County Agricultural Center, where the Extension office is located, every Saturday and Wednesday from June until mid-September.

Clark MacAllister is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706)265-2442.