Frugal Gardening Ideas: Learn How To Garden On A Budget

By: Laura Miller

Whether you gardenas a hobby or you’re growing produce to feed your hungry family, learninghow to garden on a budget can keep more hard earned green in your pocket. Butgardening on a dime doesn’t mean going without needed supplies. You might besurprised to find the array of cheap garden supplies at your local discount anddollar stores.

Are Cheap Garden Supplies Worth It?

The old saying: “You get what you pay for” is true when itcomes to gardening supplies. The quality of discount and dollar store items isgenerally not as good as what one might expect from a greenhouse or onlinegardening supplier. On the other hand, if biodegradable pots from the dollarstore last long enough to transplant seedlings into the garden, then they’veserved their purpose. So let’s take a look at some useful, yet cheap, gardensupplies one might find at their local discount house.

  • Seeds – Gardeners aren’t likely to find a wide selection of vegetable and flower varieties, but they will find basic radish, carrot and marigold seeds as well as popular types of tomatoes, peppers and melons. These seed packets are usually dated for the current year so you know the seeds are fresh.
  • Potting soil – Use it for potting plants, as a garden additive or for stretching out homemade compost. The quality of dollar store soil can vary, so try one bag before stocking up.
  • Pots and planters – These are available in a wide assortment of sizes, colors and material. They may not be as durable as more expensive types, but are value-rich for gardeners who like the bright, clean look of new pots.
  • Gardening gloves – The fabric is thinner and stitching not as strong, so discount store gloves aren’t likely to hold up for the full growing season. However, they’re great for semi-disposable uses, such as pulling poison ivy or weeding on muddy days.
  • Garden decorations – From fairy garden items to solar lights, dollar store decorations are the cornerstone of frugal gardening. Generally, these items are reasonably priced so there won’t be loads of regret should they get stolen, broken or blown away in a wind storm,

Frugal Gardening Tips

Another method for gardening on a dime is using non-traditionalitems. In the search for cheap gardening supplies, don’t limit dollar storeacquisitions to the gardening department. Try some of these alternativeproducts to meet your frugal gardening goals:

  • Kitchen supplies – Dish pans can be used to hold and mix potting soil. Cookie sheets, baking pans or kitchen trays make wonderful drip trays. Inexpensive cups can be used for growing seedlings. Use a nail to poke several drainage holes in the bottom of each cup.
  • Household products – Boot trays and tubs can hold seedlings. Use plastic shoe boxes and bins to store seed packets and other gardening supplies. Inexpensive laundry baskets can be substituted for wood bushel baskets with the added bonus of being much easier to clean. Clothes pins make easy-to-clip-on plant labels. Spray bottles can be used for misting plants or for applying homemade insecticidal soaps. (Just be sure to label the bottles.)
  • Hardware department – Check this area to find string for tying tomato vines. Cable ties make great ties for assembling trellises.
  • Toys and crafts – Children’s sand buckets are ideal for picking herbs, green beans and root vegetables. Reserve the plastic toy shovel for use with loose, bagged soil. Wooden craft sticks make inexpensive plant markers.

So next time you pass that discount or dollar store, be sureto stop. You just might discover your own frugal gardening tips.

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Gardening on a Budget 101

Past Me would have found it really funny that I’m writing a post on how to garden on a budget.

I used to have the opposite of a green thumb.

I liked the idea of plants and for some reason friends always thought I was good with the greens (blame that on my organic bakery owner/very slightly hippie tendencies).

I even tried nurturing a couple of cacti and I killed them.

Like the plants that are supposed to be the easiest to keep?

One day the lovely green tops just sadly sunk down to the soil.

So I gave up on plants for years.

Moved around the country. Worked on a boat. Traveled to the Arctic. Had adventures.

Then settled down. Moved into this sweet brick bungalow and started getting the desire to plant things. Frugal me wanted to try to garden on a budget.

So a few years ago I decided I would give gardening a shot. And the idea of saving money by growing your own food was tempting.

If it didn’t work out, I’d just buy the dang carrots at the store, no biggie.

I don’t know if it was the brick bungalow or me or the right timing but I fell head over heels for gardening. And turns out I can grow things now.

But I am always one for saving money so I started looking for ways to garden on a budget.

And there are lots of them.

So strap on your knee pads and get ready to garden on a budget with me!

Also check out 5 easy tips to save money on landscaping (I especially love the first tip!)

While it’s easy and less hassle to buy your seedlings already started, it costs a whole lot more. One plant can be the equivalent of an entire package of seeds! Starting your own seedlings is not that difficult and you don’t need an indoor growing operation that marijuana drug lords would envy.

No matter how sturdy your seedlings or how efficient your beds, your garden is only as good as your soil. These tips will help you, whether you’re amending what exists, creating soil, or preparing your soil to recieve seedlings.

Know Where You’re Starting Out: Test Your Soil

Gardening on a Budget

Here is how to garden on a budget:

1. DIY Compost

When we first started growing our own food, I don’t mind telling you it was out of necessity. We were broke with 3 kids and struggling to keep healthy food on the table.

So we began to garden. Yet, when you go to the local nursery or big box store, you quickly think, “I can’t afford a garden.”

Yes, I know. Lots of people have turned gardening into this ridiculously expensive hobby where it is filled with $10 small bags of blood meal and décor items that are priced to be budget busters.

Well, you don’t have to give up your dream of a garden just because you can’t afford those items. I can’t afford them either. That is why I make most of my own gardening items, starting with compost.

Compost is great to place in your garden when it is in the early planting stages.

However, if you go to purchase it from the store, you’ll soon find that they are very proud of this item.

But instead of paying a premium price for compost, why not just utilize what you already have? Here is a great list of items you might use every day that will compost well.

Also, here is a tutorial on building an inexpensive compost bin too. We’ve also provided you with a great tutorial with 3 different methods to easily create your own compost.

So you now have all of the tools you need to learn how to create your compost and keep your budget intact.

2. Don’t Forget the Tea

You can easily make your own compost bin that will spin. My husband created one out of 3 metal poles and a plastic barrel.

First, he put 2 metal poles into the ground.

Second, he put a metal pole through the barrel.

Finally, he attached all of the poles so the barrel would spin above the ground.

Then we would dump our compost into the barrels and let them spin a little every day. With this method, a liquid is produced in the compost.

So we didn’t waste the liquid. Instead, we put a bucket under our spinning compost barrel to catch it.

Then we would pour it on our garden. This is called compost tea and is a great addition to any garden. Part of functioning on a budget is learning to waste nothing. This is one example of that.

3. Find Your Own Seeds

Next, you’ll want to learn how to find your own seeds to plant or where to look to find seeds that are very inexpensive.

So I’ve already covered a lot of ideas on where and how to find seeds for (almost) free, but I will recap a few of the main points.

First, if you want to save your own seeds, then eat the foods that you’d like to grow. Just be careful not to toss out the seeds.

Instead, let them dry on a paper plate or in a dehydrator. Once they are thoroughly dried, then you can store them in a plastic zip bag.

Next, you can actually purchase seeds very inexpensively. MIGardener is a great site that we use pretty regularly.

In fact, they offer most seeds for about 99 cents a pack which will give you a large harvest, or at least that is what we found in our experience.

Finally, I like to shop at Dollar General when the gardening season is closing out. I have been known to buy a pack of seeds for about a nickel or less with their discounts.

So I’m not sure if every Dollar General does this, but it is definitely worth checking out since we have stocked up on seeds by using this method.

4. Start Your Own Plants

If you plant a garden, and you are on a tight budget, then you will soon find that growing plants from seeds is much less expensive than purchasing seedlings.

But the idea is to nurture the seeds yourself until they blossom into small plants. This takes some work but is definitely worth it because of the amount of money saved.

Then you harden the plants off (meaning you gradually allow them to adjust to outdoor temperatures), before planting them in your garden.

From there, hopefully, your garden will thrive with some additional TLC.

5. Muscles Over Equipment

If you want to buy lots of gardening equipment it is definitely available. There are tillers, tractors, and lots of handheld equipment too.

But if you are working on a budget, then you’ll want to focus more on muscle power than power equipment.

So you’ll want to invest in small gardening tools like a hoe, spade, and other small gardening essentials.

But leave the rest of the stuff on the store shelf. Those tools are created for making gardening easier, not cheaper.

Which means, yes, gardening on a budget can be back-breaking work. It can leave your arms tired too.

However, it is a great source of exercise and will help you to produce healthy food without costing you an arm and a leg.

6. DIY Fertilizer

If you have chickens, now is the time to put them to good use.

Again, we’ve created a really handy tutorial to show you how to take your chickens’ manure and compost it into a really nice garden fertilizer.

But a quick overview of the process is, you apply mulch to your chicken coop. The chickens will poop in the mulch and then scratch around in it as well. This will cause their waste to compost.

Then you’ll create a screen and sift the chicken poop mulch through it. The fine dirt that you sift out is what you want to apply to your garden. This will be nourishing to your plants and cost you virtually nothing.

7. Buy Cheap Grow Lights

The first year we tried to grow our own plants from seed, we were so excited. That lasted all of about ten seconds once we got to the store.

We were shocked to find out how expensive grow lights are. Obviously, we knew we couldn’t afford them.

Then my husband did a little research and found out that regular shop lights work just as well as grow lights do.

So we purchased shop lights at a much cheaper price and have used them to grow our own seedlings ever since.

Which leads me back to your budget. If your budget is tight or you just don’t want to spend the money to purchase grow lights, then seriously consider purchasing the shop lights instead and see what you think.

8. Container Garden on the Cheap

I mentioned at the beginning of this article that even if you lived in an apartment, you could still probably garden using container gardening.

But purchasing containers can get a little expensive. That is if you stick with flower pots and other decorative features.

Again, when you are on a budget, you have to go for what works instead of a what always looks the best.

So in our first year of container gardening, we were on a tight budget. My husband drove by a man’s house that had tons of paint cans in his yard. They were clean and empty. My husband just stopped by and asked if he could have a few.

Thankfully, the man was looking to get rid of them so he gave my husband as many as he could fit in his vehicle.

From that point forward, we grew many different things in those empty buckets. They worked really well. I also got over my fear of picking up stuff people were setting out for the garbage. You’d be surprised how often people just set things out to the curb because they have no use for them.

That is exactly how I ended up with some beautiful terra cotta pots I now container garden in.

So don’t be afraid to upcycle someone’s trash for your purpose. It is cheaper and quite functional.

9. Harvest Your Own Water

When you garden, it is pretty likely you will have a dry season. This means that your water bill (if you have one) could go up from having to water your garden.

Even though we use well water, my husband pays very close attention to not waste any water.

So we actually harvest rainwater and use it to water our garden and our animals too. You can harvest rainwater using these different methods.

But our favorite method is just putting a barrel under a roof (like on our chicken coop.) Then we attach a gutter so the water will run right into the barrel.

From there, my husband does a little plumbing work so you can hook a hose up to the barrels. Then we use the hoses like soaker hoses in order to water our garden.

It takes some work, but it is a great way to save water while caring for your garden.

10. Dig Your Own or Buy in Bulk

One of the most expensive parts of gardening is the dirt when you get started. If you do container gardening or a raised garden bed, then you have to fill them with dirt.

Well, if you go to the store, they like to charge a premium price for dirt. Don’t buy into that. You can either go dig your own dirt wherever you have permission, or you can talk to your local nursery about buying dirt in bulk.

In a worst-case scenario, buy actual cow poop. They sell it at most big box stores, and it is usually very inexpensive. Your plants will grow wonderfully in it, and you don’t have to pay a higher price for other dirt.

So those are my tips for gardening on a budget. I’ve used each of these points myself and have found you can save a lot of money and create a lush and beautiful garden without the added price tag.

But now I want to hear from you. Do you garden on a tight budget? If so, how do you do it? If you are looking to garden a little cheaper this year, in what areas are you struggling to cut costs?

We love hearing from you. Just leave us your thoughts in the comment section below.

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