Gardening on Small Budget sometimes misses Big Picture

It seems that everyone is interested in saving money these days and with the economy the way it is, who can blame them? Family budgets, State and Local budgets, and the USA's government budgets have all taken a beating. Gardening funds have shrunk as well.  So, what's a gardener to do?  "The Small Budget Gardener" written by Maureen Gilmer (Cool Springs Press, 2009) has many answers to that question.  It contains a plethora of tips, ideas and examples of how to have a great garden while still watching the bottom line.

A few weeks ago I was given the book to review by Cool Springs Press and I took it upon myself to not only review the book for the money it might save a gardener, but also how the choices made to save a buck could affect the bottom line of garden's ecosystem.  For the most part, the tips and ideas Maureen writes about definitely fall into the eco-friendly category and I commend her on educating her readers on the values of composting ("Free Dirt"), watering wisely ("Never Thirsty"), reusing materials ("Don't Throw it Away: Recycle & Reuse Everything"), and taking care of the environment.  Her detailed accounts of designing to save energy ("Nature's Climate Control"), and propagation ("Making Babies: How to Propagate Free Plants") are very well thought out and will certainly help gardeners of all experience levels create better gardens.

Through out the book Ms. Gilmore has two recurring themes called "Tightwad Gardening Tips" and "Green Choices". "Tightwad Gardening Tips" are great, simple ideas to refer to again and again and will definitely help the new or experienced gardener.  However, after reading many of the "Green Choices" I got the feeling that being "green" and "organic" was something that was great to do if you could afford it but if you're strapped for cash it's okay to choose an alternative, not-so-friendly to the environment solution. That seems to me to be taking the easy way out.  Shouldn't all of our choices be "green choices" when it comes to designing, building and maintaining our gardens?  Using railroad ties seems to be all right if you can't afford something else, using lawn fertilizers with herbicides is ok if it costs less than hiring someone to weed your lawn, and buying the over-fertilized, GMO'd plants at the big box stores are fine because they are so much cheaper.

So, when is saving some "green" not really being "green"?  I guess for me "The Small Budget Gardener" misses the big picture when saving gardening dollars for short term gains - in my "book" ecosystem sustainability is a long term investment.


  1. Hear, hear! The point you're making here is a very important one. Short term savings are not really savings if they create huge long term costs. -Jean

  2. I agree with you completely. Glad you gave this a review.

  3. I totally agree with you! I do not like the attitude (which I have noticed in several ads and editorial-type writing) that going green is all right if you've got the money, but otherwise one gets a free pass. My husband is a student, and I don't earn very much as a freelancer sometimes (esp. right now), but we've gone 100% organic with some permaculture principles in place in our temporary, rented space. There really is no excuse...

  4. Hmmm... it also sounds a little irresponsible. Railroad ties? Aren't they treated with every awful chemical imaginable? At least I think they are. I'd hate for people to think that's okay for raised veggie beds... I liked your take on this.

  5. Thanks everyone for the support of this post/book review. Maureen Gilmore is a very accomplished author and speaker, who inspires many people with her ideas and designs. My hope is that she and others who speak to people on gardening make the right choices when talking "green". As Kermit the Frog from Sesame Street always said: "It's not easy being green"!


  6. I recently had a similar conversation with someone about this - green is long term in my opinion.

  7. Yes! Let us all get our acts together to be responsible for our earth! I hope we still have time to remake what others ahead of us, and most of us now, are doing which pained our dear earth. She is now complaining and the deep moans of pain are affecting us indiscriminately. I hope many read your book, God bless your book, you and us all. thanks.

  8. Going green is something that all of us should strive to do. A lot of people, however, are not going to do it all at once. Long habits are hard to break. As gardeners become better educated and see that they and their gardens benefit, they will be more willing to go green. Hopefully, as the demand for organic products increases, eco-friendly choices will be available at the big box stores where many people shop.


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