1. Grow from Seeds, Not Seedlings: Though it’s obvious that the prices are drastically different, people like to take the easy way out. It is more work when starting to plant from seeds indoors, but it does give you a head start on the growing season. Sowing seeds right in the garden bed doesn’t take any more time than planting seedlings.
2. Go to a Seed Swap: If you are meticulous about shopping for your seeds, the experience can be not only fun but cheap as well! If you’ve never heard of a seed swap, you should! This is a party you can have with all of your garden friends in which you can trade your seeds that you’ve saved from the previous year. So make a note to always save your seeds because this will be the easiest way to save money.
3. Take Cuttings: Perennials, most shrubs, vines, and numerous trees are grown from cuttings. By getting a few sticks from a plant of your choice and putting them in a pot with wet perlite, you will start to see roots and leaves growing in a just a few weeks. Make sure you research which plants you can use cuttings. Some won’t grow from them since they are asexual — genetic clones.
4. Repurpose: Yes, plants can be costly, but what will kill your bank account are the planters, arbors, and other materials. It’s true that one man’s trash is another one’s treasure, so be creative and bargain shop. Planters can be made out of just about anything. Just make sure you put a little TLC into whatever you use so it doesn’t appear that you are piling junk in your yard. Repurposing can be a fun project too!
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5. Forage for Your Gardening Supplies: Nature offers you materials that are free and help you get the most from your gardening budget. You can use bamboo poles that from a garden center for everything from tomato stakes to building fences and arbors. But they can be inexpensive, depending on the size.
But you may find that lots of folks have a yard full of bamboo. They would hopefully be happy for you to come and take some of it off their hands. There are many other examples like this. Any time you wish you had the money to buy something for your garden, dig deep in your brain for a free, locally harvestable, and creative alternative.
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6. Design it yourself: Professional garden design can cost several thousand dollars, even for a small yard. There are reasons for that, but a bit of patience and effort could surprise you with what you can create. Start at the library, where there are tons of books on garden design. There are also references that will tell you exactly what conditions every plant prefers.
You can also figure out how to build patios, fences, raised beds, gazebos, waterfalls, and anything else you can think of. Next, map out your yard on paper, as accurately as you can, and start penciling in ideas. Give yourself a decent amount of time to come up with a design, making observations through the seasons. Take the time to visualize your ideas in detail before you start building.
7. Make Your Own Soil Amendments: Purchasing bags of compost and all-natural fertilizers can add up. But think about what is actually in those products—mostly animal by-products (like bat guano, feather meal, and bone meal) and various forms of organic matter, such as bark. Don’t have your own chickens or other livestock as a manure source? Find a friend or local farmer who will let you clean out their barn.
Mix the manure with some wood shavings, grass clippings, leaves—any organic matter you can think of will be perfect. Then pile it up and let it mix together for a few months until it turns into a rich black compost. For extra nutrients, save your eggshells and crush them into the compost for calcium and phosphorus. If you live near a beach, harvest some seaweed for a boost of micronutrients. Be sure to rinse the seaweed completely with fresh water to get rid of the salt.
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8. Avail Yourself to Free Compost and Mulch: Tree-cutting companies often have huge piles of mulch on hand that they don’t mind giving away. Also, many municipalities turn their citizens’ green waste into compost and mulch. They then give it away for free at the landfill or sell it for a nominal cost. These freebies aren’t always the greatest quality and may contain shredded trash or seeds of harmful species, so be careful. This is a good reason for companies to get rid of mulch and for you to save money!
9. Become a “Free List” Specialist: If you’ve ever been on Craigslist before, it has a “Free Stuff” section. This is a goldmine for everything from live plants in pots to piles of compost, and many other classified services. Separated into sections, these “Free Lists” will be easy to search. Besides the freebies, scouring flea markets and garage sales is a great way to find gently used gardening tools at a more friendly price than what you would be paying at the store.
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10. Grow Organic: Sticking with all-natural methods sure has its financial benefits. Chemical pesticides cost money, but attracting beneficial insects to the garden — bugs that will eat bad ones — is easier and completely free. With herbicides, you can manually remove weeds, by layering cardboard and wood chips so you stop them from growing. In addition to composting you can use living plants, called cover crops, to bring back nutrients to your soil the natural and budget-friendly way.
For a lot more great gardening tips, see our guide on 31 Ways to Make You an Organic Gardening Guru.