Grit Blogs > Gardening with Vickie

How to Start a Garden Inexpensively

A photo of Vickie MorganWe all want to get back to the simple life, and one of the ways that we all can do that is to plant our own garden. The benefits from eating from our own garden are many. You’ll know just where you food has come from, just when it was picked, and how it was grown.

Imagine going out in your own garden backyard, no matter how big or small, out on your deck full of pots, or even reaching down in between your flowers, and picking your own vegetables and having them for dinner that day. You just can't get it any fresher than that.

Then there is the exercise and the fresh air that you will get by getting out there and tending to the garden. Better than a gym and less expensive. It can be both invigorating and relaxing. Some of my best ideas and thoughts have come from being outside and tending my garden. Believe me, no one will bother you there!

The problem for many, though, is the start up cost. For a new gardener, it can be overwhelming. I just can't imagine if we all just went to the store and bought everything we need or think we need to start gardening. So, I thought of some tips that might help a new gardener get started, and they might help us “old gardeners” as well.

  • Buy used: Consider buying your gardening tools like rakes, hoes, shovels and tillers used. A lot of people are getting out of gardening about the same time you are getting into it, and you can find many deals at early spring garage sales or on Craigslist. I have also found many canning jars this year that have come in handy. While you’re at it, look for gardening books, the more resources you have to help you out with your questions the better.

Wheelbarrows and rakes

  • Free fertilizer: You can make your own free fertilizer by making sure you compost. I have a compost bin, but that is not really necessary, you can start composting in just a pile.
  • Buy seeds on sale: Seeds can be costly to order from the seed catalogs, and of course if you’re new to gardening you don’t have any seeds saved. Now is a great time to find them in the clearance section and don't worry, they still will be good next year.

    Even though I've saved and traded seeds, I never seem to have enough, so I just recently was able to by some seeds for 5 cents a package at a clearance sale.

5-cent packages of seeds

  • Seedlings: If you think you might start seedlings indoors, start saving your egg cartons and plastic cups, such as yogurt cups and cottage cheese containers. They make great seed starter pots.
  • Share: Become friends with other gardeners, most of us love to share plants and seeds from our gardens and maybe help you when you need some advice. My neighbor, Wilma, really helped me when I first got started.
  • Pot gardening: If you don’t have lots of room for a garden, consider growing plants in pots on your deck or plant a few tomato plants in with the marigolds.
  • Don't start too early: It’s so hard not to get out there and start gardening the first sign of spring. Of course, you can plant early spring crops like peas, but to plant tomatoes or other plants that are not hardy, our date for vegetable gardening here in Michigan is Memorial Day. That doesn’t mean we haven’t made this mistake a few times and lost a few plants.

I hope these tips will help you start a garden next year and reap all its rewards – inexpensively.

12/25/2009 5:11:33 PM

Salix, Thanks for all your tips, they are good ones. I'm going to ask for some used pots -seems like I always need more. I would like to have a few to grow some mint in this spring so it won't take over my herb garden! Merry Christmas vickie

12/25/2009 5:05:14 PM

Ozarkhomesteader, Thanks for the tips- all good towards reducing the cost of starting a garden. We even have gardening friends that love the same type of heirloom green bean and they probably would like to split an order. Great idea. Merry Christmas vickie

12/25/2009 8:03:57 AM

1) Most recycling centers will not accept the #5 plastic pots that most large plants come in, and every season landscapers throw countless amounts into landfills. The pots that small shrubs and tress come in are extremely sturdy and will last for many seasons! I started a pretty substantial herb garden in these pots a couple of years ago, and they've made it through a few moves so far without cracking and falling apart. Try calling a few landscaping companies and seeing if they'll let you re-purpose their waste. This can be a great source of deer fencing too... 2) Look for seed and seedling swaps in the spring. It's a great way to get lots of different kinds of plants for free (or cheap). Don't forget to ask questions about what you get too! Most gardeners love sharing their knowledge and stories. Your local agricultural extension center will most likely have info on events, and info on region specific best gardening practices. 3) Buy heirloom NON-HYBRID seeds and learn how to save them. A one time investment can last a lifetime of harvests. Locally grown varieties are best, and they'll be better adapted to your specific climate. 4) Compost, compost, compost! Save your leaves too, otherwise you're throwing away great soil building material, and soil is worth more than gold ;) Hope this helps! Happy gardening!

12/25/2009 7:16:36 AM

I second the newspaper and cardboard mulch. You can also get free manure from local farms. And to reduce costs in ordering a bigger variety of seeds, you can split packs with friends.

12/1/2009 6:13:27 PM

Cindy, I love all your ideas, it's so good to hear them. The wheelbarrow one is a great one -I'll be looking out for one- that will also help me get a head start because my garden is always too wet to till too early in the spring and so is the netting for the berries. I'm already saving newspaper -the weeds just got out of control last summer so I figured I'd better do something! Thanks your ideas are always welcome! The cayenne pepper is working good. vickie

cindy murphy
12/1/2009 9:01:46 AM

Some great tips you've offered, Vickie. Some other money saving ideas along the same line as using egg containers and such for seedlings, is to repurpose things otherwise considered junk. The old wheelbarrow your neighbor is throwing out because it's rusting through on the bottom, makes a great container for shallow-rooted plants such as lettuce, saving garden space for other crops. Mesh bags such as the ones potatoes and onions sometimes come in, slit open and twined together can be used for bird-netting over berries or grapes. Cardboard boxes and layered newspaper make great weed-barriers, eventually breaking down over time and enriching the soil. Don't laugh - I've done all these things and more just to save a few dollars, which can add up over time.