The cost of starting a vegetable garden can add up quickly, from soil and compost to pots and supplies. Even so, anyone can start a garden by getting creative and working with what they have. Follow these 10 tips to save money when starting a vegetable garden on a budget!
Saving on containers, beds, and garden supplies
1. Thrifting or DIYing garden pots and containers.
When starting seeds, you can re-purpose egg cartons, cut food containers or fold newspaper to make shallow trays. Look for pots and cloth bags at thrift stores and garage sales. Some garden centers, farms, or plant nurseries may have leftover multi-gallon buckets they’ll happily give away for free, and they can fit most items in your vegetable garden on a budget! While cedar is the best wood for long-lasting garden beds, you can usually find free wood from a lumbar yard, on the side of the road, or leftover pallets from warehouses. Just be careful when choosing the wood, as chemical treatments can leak into your soil and kill your plants. Our entire garden is made from reclaimed wood/pallets, and the garden gate is from an old fence off the side of the road. When you get creative and keep your eyes peeled, it’s a wonder what you can find.
2. Trellis wisely
There are a lot of fancy schmancy trellises out there. While I love the look of green beans running up polished wooden lattice, my bank account does not! You can build your own trellis with leftover PVC, scrap wood & strong string, or weld some leftover metal wire (if you know how). Old fencing or propped-up pallets work wonders too! With that said, don’t assume that frail wood sticks will keep those tomato plants from drooping over. Trellising wisely also means knowing what’s strong enough to hold the weight of the plants.
3. Know what supplies to invest in VS what can be purchased on the cheap.
Garden gloves, clips/ties, string, and small shovels/trowels can all be thrifted or purchased at the dollar store. Materials like weed barriers, pruning shears, seeds, and fencing are worth investing in. While the aim is to start your vegetable garden on a budget, buying higher quality versions of these items will save you a lot of money, frustration, and disappointment down the road!
Saving on soil, compost, mulch, and water
4. Create your own compost.
Take your food scraps and some dried twigs/leaves to build your very own compost! Ask friends, family, and neighbors to save their scraps so that you can build up the compost even quicker. The components will eventually break down and produce material rich in nutrients and minerals to fertilize your soil. I talk all about the methods, the do’s, and the don’ts of composting HERE.
5. Buy discount or bulk soil
When you purchase just before garden season, there are usually great buy-one-get-one sales going on for garden soil. Plus, if any of the bags have significant rips in them, you can usually ask for half off the original price! If you’re buying earlier or later than the start of the season, then try to purchase your soil in bulk from local landscape services.
6. Collect rainwater
There’s nothing better than free when starting a vegetable garden on a budget! Instead of racking up your water bill, collect rain water by making your own rainwater collecting system. While it’s an initial investment in materials, you’ll save money long-term.
7. Only use free mulch
Rake your yard and use the fallen leaves as mulch to keep your soil moist between watering/rainfall. If you don’t have deciduous trees on your property, save clippings from yard work and use them as mulch once they’re dried out. Ask your local tree cutting services if they’d be willing to drop the wood chips off into your yard. These chips can also be used to smother out weeds in the walking space of your garden!
Growing methods to start a vegetable garden on a budget
8. Start from seed
Seed packets cost anywhere from $1-$3. These packets often contain enough seeds to last you multiple garden seasons, making this an extremely cheap purchase! If you buy heirloom varieties, you can save the seeds of the plants you grow, which means you’ll never have to invest in seeds of that vegetable/herb again. Compare this to paying $3-$5 for one starter plant, and you can see how much cheaper it is to grow your own starter plants instead.
9. Frugal Pest Control
Not only is frugal pest control cheap, it’s also organic – a win/win! Hand pluck those tomato hornworms (since the sprays don’t usually work on them anyway). Protect the base of your plants by surrounding them with a toilet paper roll. You could also poke toothpicks into the base of the stem to prevent the worms from wrapping around and eating it. Marigolds, garlic, and basil are great companion plants to bell peppers, zucchini, and eggplants, as they deter certain pests from the garden. Cheap, breathable netting can be draped over plants like zucchini that are known to attract annoying pests.
9. Plan in advance
It’s important to plan the what, where, when, and how of your vegetable garden.
What– Grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs that you and your family like to eat! Don’t waste money on the seeds of food no-one in your household eats. It’s also important to know how much your family will need so that you don’t waste seeds by planting too much, while still having enough to avoid buying that item from the grocery store.
Where– Plan the layout of your garden so you can maximize the space available to you. This will ensure each plant has enough room to grow and minimizes the risk of moldy/mildew plants. Know what plants grow well together (companion planting) and which ones don’t. After all, you don’t want to accidentally turn cucumbers and zucchini into cucchini!
When– The back of your seed packets should have a zone map that’ll tell you the ideal dates for planting that vegetable in your zone. If not, the USDA’s plant hardiness zone map will tell you which gardening zone you live in, and then the Old Farmer’s Almanac will tell you the last frost date of your zone. Planting food in the wrong season is a sure-fire way to waste money and resources.
How– Know your gardening method, the time you’ll be able to dedicate to maintenance, and the tools you need so that you’re prepared for the season ahead of you.
Read this post to learn all about starting a vegetable from scratch!