• Yes, low-VOC (volatile organic compound) paint is expensive, but a water-based rather than oil-based paint will also make a significant dent in indoor pollution.
Better still, choose lime plaster or limewash (lime paani), which you can leave exposed, unlike plaster of paris. Limewash lets the wall breathe and develops a lovely patina over time. If you must have colour, some mineral pigments work very well with alkaline lime (such as the red iron oxide that was used in traditional floors).
If you want a feature wall, choose solid colour, not multicoloured patterns and textures. It’s cheaper too: You’re saving on extra coats of paint as well as texturizing materials and tools. Exposed brick works just as well. You can also put in botanical or hand imprints as the plaster sets, or have stucco applied in pats for a “choppy sea” surface.
Thrifty gardening to suit the times
How much does one plant cost? The earth. Not just the seed costs, but also soil, water, nutrients, the price of your care, time and hard work... The falling economy has made several gardeners take a second look at their plants. For some, there is less time to work in the garden since they are working longer hours to keep their jobs. Others are taking a second look at the bills of seasonal seedlings, fertilizers and equipment.
• Consult a horticulturist or garden planner. They buy plants in bulk—it’s cheaper than driving around nurseries for plants to fit your budget.
• If you’re worried about the gardener’s wages, get a low-maintenance garden: more evergreens than annuals.
• It’ll soon be time for summer flowers. Gomphrena or cosmos don’t cost much, but if you have to prioritize, you may want to spend on fewer flowers this year.
• A little hard work can save you money and you can still have your flowers: Grow them from seed. It’s more tedious but the difference in price can be tempting. You can get a bed of flowers or vegetables from just one packet (Rs10-50). Cosmos, gomphrena, sunflower, and marigold are some of the easiest to grow.
• Start an exchange programme with a friend or neighbour who shares your love for gardening. Exchange cuttings on gardening and also plants that you may have one too many of. You could trade extra bulbs of lilium or split one down vertically to stretch reserves or split a packet of expensive seeds.
Ferns, coleus, dracaena, sansevieria and cholorophytum are easy to propagate.
• Join a gardening club like the Kitchen Garden Association of India. You can get reasonably priced plants or seeds at events organized by them.
• Make your own compost from garden trimmings.
• Go easy on gardening books and magazines for now. Read up at libraries or on the Net.
• Do read up to avoid mistakes. That way you’ll know, for example, that the best time to plant seedlings is early in the morning or at sundown.
• Go for repeat harvests.
Cauliflower is not as economical as, say, the gourd family. Cucumbers, pumpkins, ridged gourd, tomato and bottle gourd need little maintenance and give more produce per plant.
• Cut back on maintenance. When Nasa trimmed its gardening budget, it held back on weeding pavements, lawn maintenance, planting new flowers and fancy landscaping. Even the grass was not trimmed in areas that were not quite visible.
Window dressing that works harder
Use heavy drapes or tight-woven/fabric-backed chicks. In winter, they keep warm air in; in summer, hot air stays out. Thick fabric minimizes noise too. With blinds, fabric costs are less than half, and you save on pelmets and curtain rods.
Oh, for a house of bamboo!
Attractive, strong (some species compare well to steel) and renewable—that’s bamboo.
• Bamboo floors cost half (Rs180-220 per sq. ft) of what hardwood does. Laminate is cheaper, but not as durable. Bamboo is tough enough for even basketball courts!
• Unlike wooden fixtures that rot over time, bamboo bath accessories last for decades, especially if pegged together by bamboo nails that don’t rust.
• Bamboo blinds, unlike fabric, can simply be sluiced down or rinsed in the shower.