Indoor gardening can start out as a way to save yourself cash by growing your own crops rather than shelling out for someone else’s harvest. But along the way, the costs of maintaining a hydroponic garden can add up to some serious scratch. Here are a few easy ways to save money by taking advantage of free or low-cost resources.
Blend your own soil. Bags of organic potting soil can cost more than $10 for 1.5 cubic feet. You can pick up a bag of organic peat moss for half that price. Mix fruit and vegetable scraps from your kitchen with yard waste, like leaves and grass clippings; let them decompose for a month or so and you’ll have compost, the best soil conditioner and slow-release fertilizer for your plants. Add two parts peat moss to one part compost to make the healthiest potting soil for your indoor crops while saving on the cost of the bagged product.
Set a timer. Lights, pumps, fans, dehumidifiers—your indoor garden can steadily draw power 24 hours a day. While many growers use timers to turn on and off the lights on a set schedule to control their plants’ life cycle, you can reduce all of your equipment’s power usage by plugging devices into timers so they go on and off at regular intervals.
Let there be sunlight. The energy needed to power lights is one of the biggest costs to indoor gardening. You can reduce that expense by setting up your grow room where windows allow in natural light, so you can use electric lights only as a supplement.
Catch the rain. When the sun isn’t shining, you can save money on your indoor garden’s water bill by collecting the rainfall. You can do it by simply leaving buckets out during any storms, but a barrel hooked up to the gutter downspouts on your home will capture rain even more efficiently and let you store it more conveniently.
Shop secondhand. The cost of new grow room equipment can add up fast. You can bring down the total by searching for used gear at yard sales and online at Craigslist and similar sources. You can take an old light fixture, for instance, and with new bulbs it will be as effective as one that’s never been used (just be sure to use appropriate bulbs for that fixture to prevent problems with it). Air pumps and tubing from home aquariums work well in small hydroponic systems. Local garden centers accumulate lots of leftover plastic pots that you can pick up at a discount for planting your indoor garden.
Go for concentrates. Many popular pest control products, such as insecticidal soap and B.t. caterpillar killer, come in concentrated formulas, which are more cost-effective because you add the water yourself. Better yet, you pay less (per ounce of usable formula) for shipping than ready-to-use products.