Free and Cheap Stuff for Your Garden

With the right resources, you can tend your garden with free mulch, free compost and a greywater recycling system for free water. Learn how to collect free and cheap stuff for your garden experiments.

| May 11, 2012

  • Quarter-Acre Farm
    "The Quarter-Acre Farm” by Spring Warren is the story of how one woman feeds her family for a year after converting her suburban yard into a vegetable garden. Get your hands dirty with this story of bugs, worms, rot and failure; of learning, replanting, harvesting and eating. Also, collect great tips on how to provide your garden with free and cheap stuff such as free mulch or free compost. 
  • Free Mulch
    Store-bought mulch is almost always a chipped or shredded redwood. It is a warm sienna color for a time and then fades into a sun-washed grey brown. My mulch is free and it is never a warm sienna color, nor of a homogenous texture. Instead, it is a mixture of browns and greens and has a variety of textures because it comes from the tree-trimming companies that work in my town.  

  • Quarter-Acre Farm
  • Free Mulch

Gardening can be an expensive hobby, but with the right resources, you can source free and cheap stuff and save money. The Quarter-Acre Farm (Publishers Group West, 2011) by Spring Warren is the story of how one woman kept her patio, lost her suburban lawn and started a garden that fed her family for a year. Read her advice on getting free stuff from Freecycle Network, Craigslist and friends as well as her creative ideas for free compost, free mulch and a greywater recycling system for free water. This excerpt was taken from Chapter 7, “Free Stuff.” 

My idea of gardening is that I will eat well, enjoy myself, and save money. In order to save money, I need to garden on a budget. A Spring Warren budget. Which is minimal. In order to stay in that budget I use a lot of free and cheap stuff to garden with.

Cheap doesn’t have to mean ugly. I (and my neighbors and family) don’t want the garden filled with failed retreads that I’m using as raised beds. Planting in an old toilet might be cute in some people’s yards, but I’d rather not have one in mine. I am cheap, but I’m also picky. This would seem to create a quandary, except that there are so many ways to get by using inexpensive or even free items.

The number one way to get garden stuff is to have garden friends; be in a gardening loop. I have been luckier than anyone has a right to be and have often benefited from a friend’s interest in improving her garden or trying something new.

If you check Craigslist, you will find all sorts of cheap and free stuff. “Cart away the fill dirt and it’s yours.” “Peeler poles for a dollar each.” “If you take chickens today, you can have them no charge (landlord is complaining).”

In many cities there is a Freecycle group. The Freecycle Network has almost five thousand groups, so chances are good there are Freecyclers near you. It is a nonprofit entity that facilitates its members getting and giving things away for free, promoting reuse of items and keeping useable goods from ending up in the landfillI myself have been gifted a dwarf peach tree, organic potting soil, gloves, tools, and a big bag of asparagus crowns. Membership is of course free.


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