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.