How to Garden on a Budget | Almanac.com

How to Garden on a Budget


Cheap Gardening Ideas

Learn how to plan a beautiful and productive vegetable garden that won’t break your budget. In this article, we touch on 10 smart ideas (along with video).

1. Seed Swaps

The cost of buying seeds and plants can quickly add up. Track down local seed and plant swaps to fill up your garden very cheaply—or, even for free! Choice of varieties will be limited so you may need to be flexible, and remember you’ll need to have something to swap in return.

2. Know Which Seeds Last

When buying seeds, look out for special offers on seed supplier websites just before the start of the growing season, and near the end of it. Most seeds will remain fresh for several seasons but some, such as parsnip and corn, will need replacing every year or two.

When to Discard Seeds From Commonly-Grown Crops

  • After 5 years: cucumber, melon, radish, collards, annual flowers
  • After 4 years: eggplant, tomato, squash
  • After 3 years: beans, peas, cabbage family, carrot family
  • After 2 years: leek, mesclun, sweet corn
  • After 1 year: onion, lettuce

3. Save Seeds

You can save your own seeds from open-pollinated (heirloom) varieties of vegetables to save even more money. Tomatoes, beans and lettuces are very easy to save seeds from.

4. Free Fertilizer

You can make your own compost for free too. Pile up spent vegetables and kitchen scraps in a sheltered but sunny out-of-the-way corner of the garden. To keep the heap tidy you can create a compost bin using recycled materials such as old pallets.

Gather up leaves in fall up to make your own leaf mold, which is a fantastic free soil amendment. Friends and neighbors are often only too happy to let your have their fallen leaves too!

Farms and stables can be good sources of free manure. Make sure it’s well rotted down or composted before using, and that the animals haven’t been feeding on pasture that’s been treated with herbicides which could harm your plants.

5. Plant Supports  

Bamboo canes are free if you grow your own! Any strong, straight stems from other trees and shrubs such as hazel and buddleia make great poles for beans and other climbers.

6. Crop Protection  

Use old clear plastic bottles, polythene stretched over homemade hoops, or recycled glass doors and windows to protect plants from the cold.

Improvise shade cloth using double layers of old tulle. Shade newly sown beds of cool-season crops like lettuce with cardboard until the seedlings sprout. And protect transplants with upturned pots for a day or two until they settle in. 

You can also shield seedlings from cold, drying winds using collars made from cut-down plastic bottles.

7. Natural Pest Control  

Grow nectar-rich flowers such as cosmos and alyssum, or flowering herbs like dill and parsley, to attract pest predators including hoverflies, lacewings and ladybugs. You can also leave some carrots and onions in the ground to flower the next season.

8. Recycled Containers 

Almost anything that holds potting soil can be used as a growing container, as long as you punch holes into the bottom for proper drainage.

Grow seedlings in old yogurt pots, soft fruit trays and mushroom trays. Or, make your own from newspaper or toilet tissue tubes, which are great for deeper-rooting seedlings such as corn or beans.

9. Boundaries and Paths 

Make simple paths cheaply by covering the ground with a layer of thick cardboard then covering it with bark chippings. The chippings will need to be replenished occasionally.

Or use salvaged slabs, bricks or cobbles, and infill with cheaper materials such as gravel.

10. Grow high-value crops

Consider which crops provide the highest value for you and your family. Packets of leafy herbs cost a small fortune in the shops because they are hard to store and don’t travel well. Grow basil and other herbs to liven up meals! Other money-saving crops include garlic, salad leaves, zucchini, tomatoes, radishes, green beans, and soft fruits (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries).

Crops that are challenging for beginners to grow include: cauliflower, carrots, sweet corn, and eggplant. 

Ready to Plan a Garden?

To get the most out of your garden, try out The Old Farmer’s Almanac online Garden Planner! A little planning upfront always pays dividends at harvest time! Try out the Garden Planner now for free.



About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

2023 Gardening Club

Tom Chase (not verified)

1 month 3 weeks ago

Regarding free pallets. I place my container(s) for growing crops on pallets keeping them off the wet grounds when rainy. Also have a bunch of them creating walk ways but haven’t done the composting venture yet. Live near Brattleboro and can get pallets at various stores after deliveries, in fact you’re doing them a favor taking them away. One good store is Perkins Lumber, across the river from Brattleboro, Route 9. They separate the good from the not-so-good, take the later ones. I’ve put 10 of them in my truck. Repeated the same at other businesses. Pallets are multi-use.

I winter near Robertsdale Alabama. Nearby a factory manufacturers pallets and many trailer trucks haul them. The wood material is the southern long leaf pine. Also here are huge flat lands and grow grass sod for places like home construction, ball stadiums and whatever. Sod is either on the pallets or rolled to transport. One recent Super Bowl was played in Arizona on Robertsdale grass. Robertsdale is between Pensacola FL and Mobile AL near the Gulf.

There’s plenty of free pallets around, just look, ask and load up. As a side note, Alabama isn’t just flat grasslands. It’s mostly woods with deer, bear, wild hogs, turkeys, hawks, and great fishing; I've cut many trees mostly for the Florida State Parks with my Vermont expertise, they appreciated.

Michael Michelle (not verified)

4 years 3 months ago

What is a good way to grow veggies with restricted water, as in gov'induced droughts in California? We are being restricted and charged even more in 2020, so I feel like I have to give up veggie and flower gardening. Not everyone wants rocks, sand and cacti. :-(

You’ll find lots of tips on how to garden with restricted water and hot dry conditions in this video on our site:


Of course, you may have restrictions on whether you can collect and store water but there are plenty of other tips in the video that should help you steer clear of the sand and cacti ;-)

Dawn (not verified)

4 years 3 months ago

I grew very straight, long and sweet cucumbers in a trash can, that was no longer good for trash, next to a fence for the vines to climb on.