My garden is looking much fuller already. I’m still waiting for a lot of the seeds to germinate, but I’ve added quite a number of seeds and plants this week. I’m also amazed at how large our yard turned out to be once I pulled out all of the box elder and moneywort.
I’m really very blessed because I was given yet more free seeds and plants this week. My friend Amy grabbed these seeds for me from someone she knew who had extra to give away.
So now I have added summer squash, winter squash, snow peas, more spinach and spinach mustard, beets, and rutabaga to my garden. I also got a clump of garlic and a few oregano plants from a friend of mine who has an extremely green thumb and always has some extra plants in her yard.
So far, I’ve managed to spend very little on my garden. For those of you who are aspiring gardeners, I thought I’d put together a list of ways I’ve found so far to find gardening supplies/plants cheap or free. I’m still learning myself, so comment if you have any ideas to add to this list.
Check craigslist and freecycle. Okay, this seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people I know who pay for compost. It’s also pretty easy to find fencing, lumber/used pallets (for raised beds, stakes, etc), and even the occasional garden tool. Pay special attention on weekend afternoons for curb alerts – people often just toss yardsale leftovers.
Visit farmers markets. You can usually buy seedlings at farmers markets – in my experience these are much cheaper than the seedlings you are going to find at most commercial garden centers. Sometimes there are also plant sales posted on sites like craigslist.
Befriend those green thumbs. This is helpful for a number of reasons, but it can be especially useful for stocking your garden with perennials. Many plants reproduce or spread over time so gardeners may end up with too many of something and need to thin out their garden. This is how I got the oregano and garlic this week – my friend had too much in her yard and had to pull some out. I got the leftovers.
Learn some new techniques. Buying seeds or young plants are just some of the ways you can get plants into your garden. Learn how to grow plants from divisions and cuttings and you can take advantage of materials that fellow gardeners might just throw in the compost pile.
Reuse and repurpose. Kitchen scraps can be a source of supplemental plant materials for a garden, as I mentioned in my last post. Once onions, garlic, and potatoes begin to sprout it’s the perfect time to plant them! If you’re thinking about buying materials to build a new raised bed or trellis for your peas, look at the materials you have or can get cheap or free and see if you can repurpose something!
Save seeds. I’m pretty new to seed saving, but from what I understand it’s not always possible to save seeds from grocery store produce. Many commercial varieties of fruits and vegetables don’t produce viable seeds and not every species comes true from seed. However, you can usually collect seeds from organic produce (especially from heirloom varieties). The best guide I’ve found for seed saving comes from Mother Earth News.
Learn to compost. This is even better than finding cheap or free compost on craigslist. If you have a small unused corner in your yard or even a bin and a cool basement you can compost. Basic information about composting can be found here. If you don’t have a yard you will need to use the red worm composting method, found here.
Don’t be afraid to ask. Neighbors or gardening friends may be willing to help you out if they know what you are looking for. Just the other day a friend of mine (who works on an organic farm) mentioned that if he had known I was looking he would have snagged some extra plants for me that his farm was tossing. Put the word out!
What other advice would you give to someone looking to garden on a limited budget?