New to gardening? Figuring out how to start a garden on a budget can be overwhelming. At first glance gardening can seem pretty expensive, but if you do it right, gardening can save you tons of money. Don’t let the start up costs of gardening overwhelm you! It really can be done on a budget. Before you know it, you’ll be a rockstar at gardening on a budget. Heck, you may even find that you can save money gardening!
Easy Tips to Start a Garden on a Budget
It doesn’t matter if you want to start a vegetable garden or if you want to tend to a few potted flowers in your yard, the start up costs of gardening can be overwhelming. I love to garden, but I’ve never had a big budget to put towards it. My passion for gardening began when we bought our first home. Something about owning a house made me want to rip out the yard and pretend to be a landscape architect. I spent so many hours in our yard planning and planting.
That was the year that Tom graduated from law school with nearly $150,000 worth of debt. I wanted to spend time on my yard, but I didn’t have a large budget. Here are a few of the tips that I used (and still use today) to feed my gardening habit without busting our budget.
Buy used gardening supplies or borrow from a friend
Check out thrift stores and garage sales for low prices on gardening supplies like shovels, hoses, watering cans, etc. You can even borrow from friends and neighbors for big ticket items like weed eaters and lawn mowers that you don’t want to purchase right away.
Use simple terra cotta pots (decorate them too)
Fancy pots can be fun, but simple terra cotta pots are always in style. Stick to terra cotta and you’ll always be able to match your decor. Terra cotta pots are the lowest priced pot in any hardware store, and they are designed to keep you from overwatering your plants. The terra cotta absorbs the water and releases it to the plants slowly. It’s a win win!
You can even decorate them any which way you’d like with paint.
Use unexpected items as pots
If you really can’t spend the money on pots, try using unexpected items like old boots, birdbaths, wheelbarrows, really anything that can fit a plant or two! Check out Freecycle or Craig’s List for inspiration.
Check out The Dollar Tree for pots
The Dollar Tree and the Dollar Spot at Target have pots at low prices in the spring. I always pick up the small ones that are 3 for $1 at The Dollar Tree when I see them. They are fun for holiday crafts too.
The pot below was purchased from the Target Dollar Spot for $3!
Attend free gardening classes
Did you know that you can find free gardening classes? Some even give you freebies or discounted items to take home. My first rain barrel and compost bins cost $5 each when I attended a master gardening class with the University of Florida Extension in Pinellas County.
Check out your local library too.
Learn how to propagate
Propogating is a great way to grow new plants from old plants. Different plants propagate differently, so in order to figure out the best way to propagate a plant, just Google propagate “your plant”.
I currently propagate succulents to give as gifts to teachers and friends. All you have to do is tear off the leaves, let them dry out for a week or two, and put them in succulent/ cactus potting soil once they start to root. It’s easy, fun and makes for the best free gift ever. I’m making it a new goal to learn how to propagate more plants.
Use food scraps to make new plants
Some food scraps propagate or regrow easily, like pineapple, romaine lettuce, green onions and potatoes. Instead of tossing your food scraps in the trash or compost, try regrowing them instead. Get ideas here.
Grow from seeds
Seeds are way cheaper than buying plants, and it’s a great learning experience. If you can grow plants from seed, you can easily keep them alive once they are big enough to transplant.
My favorite cheap tip for growing from seeds is to grow your seeds in old toilet rolls. They make for the perfect free seed starters. As a bonus, they can be planted directly into the ground because they decompose.
Swap seeds online
Once you start buying seeds, you may realize that you have too many for a simple backyard garden. Lucky for you, lots of people have the same problem. Try swapping seeds online or in a Facebook group for gardeners.
Buy plants instead of fresh produce
This is one of my favorite tips! If you find the price of produce to be wildly expensive, try putting that money towards a plant instead. Sometimes for the price of 3 tomatoes, I can get a tomato plant for the same price that has more tomatoes and will keep growing all summer.
Make sure you know how to take care of the plants though! Otherwise you could end up loosing money on this one.
Plant an herb garden
Fresh herbs are wildly expensive. Buy potted herbs and grow your own herb garden for the same price, if not less, than what you’d pay for cut herbs at the supermarket.
Read this post for tips on how to plant an herb garden.
Make your own raised garden bed
I have to admit that I’m not the handiest, so I’d probably end up buying the one from Amazon to save myself a headache!
Composting allows you to make your own soil from food waste for free. This is a great way to get soil for your yard without spending any money. Learn more about composting here.
Get a rain barrel
Check your city for free mulch
Did you know that most cities give mulch away for free. Yes, free. Why? Because the city turns all of the yard waste from residents and the city into mulch instead of wasting space in a landfill. Google “free mulch + your city” to find out how to get mulch where you live.
Buy clearance plants
Ah, another one of my favorite tips. If you go to any home and garden store you will find a clearance section for sad looking plants that are on their last leg. It doesn’t take someone with a green thumb to nurse these plants back to health. Usually they just need to be repotted and they will take off.
Buy perennials instead of annuals
If flowers are your thing, try buying perennials instead of annuals. Annuals are a huge waste of money because you have to plant them annually. Perennials will live for ages, while annuals only last through one growing season. Most nurseries divide the plants into perennials and annuals. Try walking down the perennial section only and avoid the annuals.
There is an exception here! If you live somewhere that has tropical weather all year round, you can probably keep annuals alive forever. Here in Southwest Florida, we can keep annuals alive as long as we don’t get a frost.
Plant the right plant in the right spot
You know those informational sticks that come with plants? The ones that tell you how much light and water a plant needs? Those are important. Follow the directions.
If you plant a plant in the right spot for sun and water needs, it will thrive. Plant it in the wrong spot and it may not die, but with won’t live up to it’s potential.
Follow this simple tip and you can save tons of money by not killing everything you plant.
Plant native plants
Want a way to make the last tip seem less daunting? Plant native plants and you are almost guaranteed to plant it in the right spot. If something grows well in the wild where you live, it will probably grow well in your own yard.
Save toilet rolls for seed starters
I referenced this earlier in this post, but it’s such a cool tip that it needs it’s own section.
Toilet rolls are perfect for seed starters. Just pinch down one end to make a “cup” and you can plant your plants directly into the ground once they have sprouted.
Use an egg carton as a seed starter
An egg carton is another great seed starter. Don’t spend money on plastic seed starters when you can use an egg carton. Just like the toilet roll, the cardboard egg cartons can go straight into the ground when you are ready to plant your seedlings.
Check Freecyle for seeds and supplies
Freecycle, Craig’s List and Facebook are great places to look for seeds and cheap supplies.
Check Amazon for cheap gardening supplies
Sometimes you want your own new stuff, right? I get it. Gardening gloves aren’t always in good condition used. Try shopping on Amazon for gardening supplies that won’t break your budget. Here are a few of my favorites.
Last but certainly not least, make sure to start small. Head to the store to pick up a few cheap plants, plant them in something inexpensive, and try regrowing plants from scraps before you decide to go all out with a raised garden or try to homestead. Once you master the little things, you’ll be able to grow anything!