Anyone who has does much gardening knows how expensive it can get. Quality plants, soil amenities, tools, hard landscaping feature - it adds up. I am far from being a true minimalist, but I am trying to taking a few steps in that direction. One big step has been with the mulches I use. Since moving to Prague, Oklahoma in June of 2009, I have been using pecan shells generously supplied by Reese and Ted Capron and their Pecan Farm. They give me a call when their 50 gallon barrel fills up and I talk my son Thomas into going with me to load the barrel into the truck and bring it home.
As a mulch pecan shells work great but do have some drawbacks. The big plus is that they are effective in keeping weeds out and look beautiful. The pieces are small, spread smoothly, last a long time, and usually have lots of small pieces of pecan meat in them to the joy of my son and all the birds who visit to dig and play. The down side is that being a very dense wood they absorb a lot of nitrogen. Knowing this one can easily compensate and with time they return the nitrogen to the soil. Reece and Ted have helped me spend less, use a local resource, and have a beautiful garden.