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Whether you have a big homestead garden on a large property, a medium-sized garden in a suburban back yard, or even a smaller garden in the city, there are several different things that you can do to make sure that you are saving money on gardening so that your garden ends up being more frugal and profitable for you.
There are many good reasons for growing your own food even if you just want to do it as a hobby and don’t care about whether or not you are able to actually save money on food with your garden, but if part of your reason for gardening is to grow some of your own food in a frugal way then you want to make sure that you aren’t spending more on your garden than you have to spend.
Whether you are starting a garden for the first time, expanding your garden space, or you just want to reduce the amount of money that you spend on your existing garden, these 10 tips can help you to save money on your garden and to be able to grow some of your own food even if you are on a tight budget.
Some of these tips will be the most applicable for people who are starting new garden spaces, but some of them can be helpful even for established gardens to help reduce the cost of gardening as much as possible.
And you don’t necessarily have to do all of these things at once either. When it comes to being frugal with your garden, every little bit can help. Depending on your gardening situation and your preferences and how much money you are trying to save, you can pick and choose which things you want to try this year and which things might not work as well for you this year but you could maybe try sometime in the future.
10 Tips for Saving Money on Gardening
1) Plant an In-Ground Garden Rather than Raised Beds
This tip would apply the most to people who are starting a garden for the first time, but it might also apply to you if you have been gardening for a while and want to start a new garden space in a different part of your yard.
Even though raised beds are a great way to grow a garden and even though they look so neat and tidy, they aren’t the best option if you are trying to save money and grow a garden on a tight budget. When you use raised beds for your garden, you have to buy all of the materials for building the raised beds, and the cost of those materials can really add up quickly, especially if you are trying to build your raised beds at a time when the price of lumber is high.
If you are able to recycle some old wood or other materials to build your raised beds then you might be able to save some money (although you need to be a little bit careful when reusing older materials if there was any stain or paint on the wood or if it was old wood that was pressure-treated because those chemicals could potentially leach into your garden soil.)
The other cost that can make raised beds more expensive is the cost of all of the soil that you need to fill the raised beds. Depending on how many raised beds you have and how large they are, you might need a lot of soil and compost to fill up those beds, and that can get expensive quickly.
If you are trying to grow a garden while spending the least amount of money on it possible, then the cheapest way to go is to just dig up the soil in your yard and plant right into the ground. If you already have a shovel, then it doesn’t cost you anything to dig a garden in your yard other than your time and effort.
2) Make Your Own Compost
A great way to make your own garden compost and reduce waste at the same time is to keep a compost pile in your yard. This will save you a lot of money on buying bagged compost, and you can do it for free using leaves and grass clippings from your yard as well as food scraps that you would have been throwing out otherwise. It’s a win-win situation because you’re basically taking things that would have gone to waste and turning that trash into valuable fertilizer for your garden.
3) Get Fertilizer from a Homesteading Friend
If you have any friends that have animals like cows, horses, chickens, rabbits etc. you might be able to ask them if you can use some of their manure for fertilizer for your garden. For most animal manure, you would need to let the manure compost and age for a while before putting it in your garden because most animal manure is too “hot” when it is fresh and it could damage your plants. So you might have to figure out the timing of when you are planning to plant your garden and plan ahead to get manure early enough for it to be ready to use when the time comes to plant. Or you could get manure from a friend right away and then let it age for awhile and use it to help build up your soil for the next planting season.
One thing to be careful about when getting animal manure is making sure that the animals weren’t eating grass or hay that has been sprayed with herbicides because those herbicide residues can actually stay in the manure and end up harming or even killing your plants. This video about compost killing your garden from the Prairie Homestead shows how bad that damage can end up being. (And as a side note you want to be careful when using straw as mulch for your garden, too, because of this same potential problem.)
If you know that your friend isn’t using any chemicals on their property and feeding their animals hay that wasn’t sprayed with them, then getting manure from a friend could be a great way to get some free fertilizer because most people who own animals probably have more manure that they know what to do with and would be happy to give some away. (Transporting it to your home in your car without making a complete mess could be another potential issue, but if you have plenty of buckets and put down some tarps in your trunk it might be worth it to save money on good quality fertilizer.)
4) Grow From Seeds Rather than Buying Seedlings
This one can be a big way to save money on your garden because buying seed packets ends up being a much cheaper way to grow a garden. Buying a seedling at a garden center will usually cost you somewhere between $2-5, depending on the size of the seedling, the variety, and whether or not it is organic. And that’s the cost for just one individual plant. For that same $2-5, though, you could buy a packet of seeds with enough seeds inside for growing dozens of plants.
I just saw that the place where I used to buy organic tomato seedlings from is going to be selling them for $5 a plant this year. My plan is to have about 15 tomato plants in my garden, so if you multiply 15 plants by $5 a plant that adds up to $75 that it would cost to buy that many seedlings! So the savings can definitely add up quickly if you are able to start some plants from seeds rather than having to buy a lot of seedlings.
I used to avoid growing plants like tomatoes from seeds because where I live tomato seeds need to be started indoors several weeks before my last frost date, and I always thought that it would be expensive to buy grow lights for using indoors. In the last couple of years, though, I started using a simple and cheap indoor grow light system that allows me to start seeds indoors without spending a lot of money.
5) Get Free Seeds from a Friend or Library
If you have friends and family members who are gardeners, then you might be able to ask them if they have any extra seeds that you can use. Many gardeners keep extra seeds from previous years and end up with an overwhelming amount of seed packets, and you might be able to use some of their extra older seeds for your garden. And, if you have any extra seeds of your own, then you might be able to trade with some gardening friends to try some new varieties without having to buy new seed packets.
There are also some places that host “seed lending libraries” where you can “borrow” seeds for the season to plant in your garden. And then in the future, if you are able to save some of your own seeds from your garden you can offer some of those seeds to others back at the seed library. Not every town offers free seeds like that, but you could do an online search for “seed lending library” and your town or state and see if you have any local to where you live.
6) Save Your Own Seeds
If you grow heirloom, open-pollinated seeds, you have the extra bonus of being able to save seeds from your garden to plant the following year. This means that you could potentially buying a packet of seeds one time and then keep on growing that same variety and saving seeds year after year after year. You can also do this with seed potatoes and with garlic, too. So, after buying seed potatoes and garlic one time, if all goes well in your garden you might be able to keep on saving some potatoes and some garlic heads to plant again and not have to keep on buying those each year.
7) Grow Perennials
Many vegetables are annuals that you have to plant again each year, but you can take advantage of a few perennials vegetables, like asparagus and Egyptian walking onions, as well as perennial herbs and fruits that will come back again each year. Many common kitchen herbs like sage and thyme and oregano and chives are all perennials, and you can also grow fruits like strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries to take advantage of perennials fruits. Perennials are a great way to save money because you buy a plant just one time and many of them will keep on producing for years to come.
8) Grow More Plants from Cuttings
There are also many perennial plants that will grow nicely from cuttings. You could take a cutting from a sage plant, for example, and root that cutting next to your original sage plant in your garden and end up with two sage plants instead of just one. You can do this with several different types of herbs and with many berry bushes, too. Growing from cuttings, whether you are taking them from your own plants that are already in your garden or whether a friend is offering you cuttings from some of their plants, will allow you to increase the number of plants in your garden without having to spend any extra money on buying new plants.
9) Make DIY Trellises and Plant Markers
Buying trellises and decorative plant markers can look really nice in your garden, but if you are trying to save money with your garden then making your own DIY trellises and plant markets can be a frugal way to support your plants and to remind you of which variety you planted in which part of your garden.
DIY plant markers could be as simple as re-using something like popsicle sticks and writing your plant names on them. And the most old-fashioned method of supporting plants like pole beans and peas is to use sticks and twigs. They might not look perfectly uniform the way store-bought poles and trellises would look, but if you have a lot of trees on your property then using sticks could be a completely free way to support your garden plants.
Depending on what part of your yard your garden is in and how much you care about it looking aesthetically-pleasing versus having a frugal garden, you might decide that you would rather spend the money to buy some nicer-looking trellises, poles, or plant markers for your garden. But if you are more concerned about saving money, then going DIY can be a good option.
10) Choose Economical Fencing
Depending on where you live and what sort of animals are a problem for your garden, you may or may not need to worry much about fencing. If you live in an area where you don’t have deer or rabbits or groundhogs who will try to eat your garden, then you might be able to get away with not putting a fence around your garden. If you do have any of those animals around, though, or if you have dog or small children who might run through your garden and trample plants, then you’ll have the best chance of success if you use some type of fence to protect your garden.
You don’t have to have a fancy fence, though, for it to be effective. Something like chicken wire tends to work pretty well to keep most animals out of your garden, and it’s relatively inexpensive (deer and groundhogs can be more difficult to keep out, though, unfortunately, and you might need extra tall fencing.)
Even though fencing can be an expense that you might be tempted to skip to save money in your garden, in most cases it ends up being worth it because it will help to protect your plants and allow you to have a better chance of a bigger harvest.
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The information in this post is not to be taken as medical advice and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.