Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.
Gardening can be a lot of work, but it shouldn’t cost a lot of money. If inexpensive gardening is your goal, let these tips be your guide to gardening on a budget this year.
1. Make friends who garden
Your gardening friends can be your money saving grace. If you or any of your friends don’t have the space for a full-on backyard garden, share a garden in one of your spaces and take turns with tending duties. If you all have separate gardens, arrange a plant exchange or seed swap party and invite all of your green-thumbed pals. Have everybody bring samples from their gardens and trade. You garden will have greater variety, but you’ll save on costs. Finally, arrange with your friends to buy seeds in bulk. The seeds will be cheaper, and you can split them among yourselves when they arrive.
2. Plan, plan, plan
Cheap gardening is all about being prepared. Before you shop, make a list of must-have plants for the season. Be sure to include only those plants you’ll definitely care about a few months from now. If you really wish your spouse would eat more vegetables, but he or she hates green peppers, don’t splurge on ten pepper plants. Instead, spend that money on a sure thing: fruits or vegetables your whole family will definitely use. Then, carefully map out your garden ahead of time so you don’t have any guess work while shopping.
Composting makes more financial sense than purchasing fertilizer every year. Compost your garden leftovers as well as your fruit and vegetable scraps from the kitchen. Used coffee grounds are great for composting. Add your grass clippings and dead leaves, and you’ll be well on your way to a compost pile that provides cheap and nutritious food for your garden. Read more about how to start composting in How to Start a Compost Pile and Compost Awareness Week 2010.
4. It’s all about the seeds
Seeds cost significantly less than seedlings or plants, and with a little tending, they can become just as fruitful. Start them off in make-shift planting containers like old butter tubs or egg cartons, then transfer your seedlings to the ground when they’re ready. For tips on when to get planting, check out What to Plant Now. At the end of the season, save seeds from your garden for inexpensive gardening next year too.
5. Buy your plants outside the nursery
Do some homework and see if you can find plants at local plant sales. Your local newspaper can be a good place to start looking. Search the local listings on Craigslist.com for plant sales as well. Avoiding nurseries often results in cheaper gardening.
6. Don’t get too fancy with your gardening tools
Unless you’re a full-time gardener, you probably don’t need to spring for the 18-piece, all-purpose gardening tool kit (even if it is hot pink). Keep it simple when you’re gardening on a budget. A shovel, spading fork, hoe and garden shears can go a long way in a modest garden.
7. Skip the chemicals and grow organic
Grow your garden the old-fashioned way, and skip the chemicals. Those chemicals may fertilize and help keep the bugs and weeds away, but they will also find their way into your family members’ bellies and the local ecosystem. Keep your garden organic this year, and you’ll save money and give the people and places you care about a health boost. Learn how to fertilize your garden and keep bugs at bay naturally in A Better Way to Fertilize Your Garden and Why Natural Insect Control Works Better.
Lindsey Siegele is the Senior Web Editor at Ogden Publications, the parent company of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Find her on Google+.