Gardening on a Budget: 23 Frugal Gardening Tips
Gardening doesn’t need to be an expensive hobby; there are plenty of gardening on a budget ideas.
Gardening is meant to save you money or at least be enjoyable, but the beginning start-up costs can feel overwhelming. Not everyone has the cash to start a large garden all at one time – but I promise, gardening on a budget IS possible!
You can find tips for gardening when you’re broke. You don’t HAVE to spend hundreds of dollars for a beautiful garden. In fact, there are plenty of ways to do it on a budget; we started gardening when we barely made ends meet.
Whether you’re a brand new gardener or simply looking for ways to reduce your gardening expenses, I put together a list of my favorite frugal gardening tips.
- 20 Tips for Gardening on a Budget
- 1. Grow From Seeds Not Seedling Starts
- 2. Be Creative When Starting Seeds
- 3. Use Pallets
- 4. Use Scrap Materials for Raised Garden Beds
- 5. Recycle & Repurpose Everything
- 6. Practice Organic Gardening
- 7. Start Composting
- 8. Buy Compost in Bulk
- 9. Start Your Plants from Seeds
- 10. Homemade Potting Soil
- 11. Save Your Seeds
- 12. Make a Rain Barrel
- 13. Use Homemade Fertilizers
- 14. Make Your Own Soil Amendment
- 15. Find Free Mulch Sources
- 16. Find a Local Plant or Seed Swap
- 17. Ask Friends for Cutting
- 18. Shop Out of Season for Plants
- 19. Say No to Professional Garden Planners
- 20. Don’t Invest in Large Equipment!
- 21. Try No-Till Gardening
- 22. Buy Used or Free Gardening Tools
- 23. Always Start Slow
20 Tips for Gardening on a Budget
1. Grow From Seeds Not Seedling Starts
If you head to your local garden nursery, a flat of lettuce costs anywhere from $3-6 with six plants. For $2-3, you can buy enough seeds for hundreds of plants.
Yes, you have to learn how to start seeds at home and get the supplies – but you can be creative there!
Either way, if you’re gardening on a budget, you really want to make sure you start seeds at home not buying starts.
Related: 7 Best Seed Trays and Pots for Starting Seeds at Home
2. Be Creative When Starting Seeds
There is no reason to run out and purchase tons of things to start seedlings. You can plant the seeds in eggshells or cheap, Styrofoam cups. While the nice looking pots at the store are nice, they are not a necessity to start seeds. I also germinate my seeds in my oven and then later set them under a few lamps.
Right now, finding cheap or free way to start seeds seems to be all the rage. A few ideas I’ve seen are:
- Egg Cartons
- Clamshell Containers (the ones that strawberries come in)
- Newspaper pots (this little tool makes it so much easier)
- Yogurt Containers
Don’t be afraid to try something different!
Check Out My Seed Starting Articles.
3. Use Pallets
Some pallets are treated with chemicals, so you need to look at the markings. If it has an HP stamped on it, that means it was treated with heat rather than chemicals and is safe for usage. If you are short on cash, pallets are a great way to make raised beds on a budget.
4. Use Scrap Materials for Raised Garden Beds
I know; we all want the gorgeous HGTV garden beds in our backyards, but when you’re gardening on a budget, those things aren’t always possible.
Take a look at what you DO have available and decide if they can be repurposed into raised garden beds or containers! What are some things that you can turn into a raised garden bed?
- Scrap lumber
- Cinder blocks
- Stock Tanks
5. Recycle & Repurpose Everything
You might be surprised by what you already have laying around your house and property. So many things can become materials for gardening or containers to plant things.
I once grew flowers in an old firefighter boot that my husband found at his fire department. You can turn old ponds into garden beds, bathtubs become planters, and so much more.
You can come up with a dream garden without spending money if you learn how to recycle and repurpose with creativity.
6. Practice Organic Gardening
Without a doubt, if gardening on a budget is your goal, then you need to practice organic gardening.
That seems illogical because organic is nearly always more expensive than conventional, but that’s not always true when it comes to organic garden.
Following many of these tips on this list are considered organic – composting, using natural fertilizers, and not tilling your ground – but one of the keys is that there is no chemical pesticides used.
Chemical pesticides cost a lot of money, especially if you use them regularly. Most organic gardeners focus on the idea of prevention first, which means you take steps to prevent pests from ever bothering your plants. If you prevent, you often don’t need to use any pesticides.
7. Start Composting
Everyone should compost; it is free! Composting reduces the amount of trash you toss out each day.
Brown materials such as grass clippings, dried leaves and weeds can be added to your compost. Green materials such as eggshells, veggies and fruit scraps and coffee grounds are great additions. Over time, they will break down into compost, a perfect addition to your garden.
Want to Start Composting? Check Out My Composting Articles!
8. Buy Compost in Bulk
Whether you simply don’t want to compost yet or need more than you can make yourself this year, whatever you do, DON’T buy compost by the bag.
That’s so expensive!
Instead, one of my favorite gardening on a budget trick is to buy compost in bulk. Our local garden center sells entire truck beds of compost for $50.
That sounds like a lot, but to cover the same amount of space, I would need to open $200-250 for bagged compost. It’s quite a savings!
9. Start Your Plants from Seeds
Let’s think about the cost of starting plants from seeds vs. buying started plants at the store.
An average tomato plant costs between $3-6, depending on your location, the type of plant, and if it’s heirloom or not. If you wanted to grow 10 tomato plants, that could total up to $60 in JUST tomatoes.
That’s not gardening on a budget, if you ask me.
The cost of a packet of tomato seeds varies as well, based on where you buy your seeds and the cultivar you have in mind. The most expensive packet I’ve found cost me $6 and contained 20 seeds. So, assuming a 90% germination rate, that means each plant cost me around $.33 plus the supplies.
That’s much more frugal!
10. Homemade Potting Soil
If you need to fill containers or garden beds, the cost of potting soil gets pricey fast, or you might want to just add in some extra soil to areas that need to be filled.
I use a similar recipe I found from the Prairie Homestead, except I use peat moss. A bag of peat moss costs around $9, but you get a lot of material.
11. Save Your Seeds
It is essential to save your seeds. We grow a strict heirloom garden because we want to save seeds. If we had to purchase all of those seeds again each year, it could cost over $170 a year.
Saving seeds is a skill. Start off small and save the easiest ones first such as peas, beans, and zucchini.
12. Make a Rain Barrel
Did you know that watering gardens account for around 40% of the summer water usage for most families?
Most gardeners will tell you that their water bill does increase during this period, and it can be a serious damper on your budget.
Instead, try making a rain barrel! You can use this water for your garden beds first instead of using your hose. It’ll save some money, especially if you have several that collect water in your yard.
13. Use Homemade Fertilizers
Fertilizers play an important role in your garden. They aid and encourage the growth of your plants. You don’t have to go to the store and purchase bags of fertilizer. There are things around your house that work just as well.
- Coffee grounds add nitrogen, potassium, and magnesium to your garden.
- Teabags have very similar nutrients to coffee grounds. Tomatoes love tea bags!
- Eggshells are a source of calcium. Dry and crush them up, then sprinkle where you plant tomatoes.
- Grass clippings are a free source of nitrogen for your garden!
- Fish scraps can be pureed with water and milk for an excellent fertilizer. You can also use the water from your aquariums to water your plants.
Learn more about 9 fertilizers you have at home already!
14. Make Your Own Soil Amendment
Most soil needs to be amended over time, but buying things to amend your soil is a surefire way to increase your gardening costs.
However, if you really think about it, most soil amendments are things that are animal by-products or able to be paid yourself. For example, shredded bark or bone meal are two things you can make yourself.
If you don’t have animals, ask a friend to let you clean out their barn – trust me, they’ll let you – and take home the chicken manure. Mix it up with wood shavings, grass clippings, leaves, and organic matter and let it compost for several months.
Skip those pricey amendments and make it yourself!
15. Find Free Mulch Sources
Mulch is beneficial for your garden. It helps to retain moisture and deter weed growth. Organic mulch also adds nutrients back into the soil as it decomposes. So, finding free mulch is a great tip for organic gardening on a budget.
My favorite mulch choice is grass clippings. After my husband cuts the grass, I layer some throughout my garden beds. You could also use compost or dried, shredded leaves.
Another idea is to contact your local lumber mill and see if they will give you sawdust or wood chips. Many are happy to get a load off of their hands.
16. Find a Local Plant or Seed Swap
Facebook and other social media outlets are great for this! Most communities, in the spring, host plant and seed swaps. These are fantastic ways to find free plants, so long as you have something to share.
Do you have cuttings of a plant that’s taking over a garden bed? Bring it! Did you buy too many seeds and have some share? Bring those!
It’s also a great way to connect with local gardeners who have a lot of insight into what plants grow well in the area, along with the types of pests and diseases common in your region.
This is definitely one of those fun gardening on a budget tips. I went to a seed swap where we all brought some wine and appetizers – it was so fun!
17. Ask Friends for Cutting
Here’s another use for social media – ask if any of your friends have cuttings that they would give to you. Many people have perennial plants that need to be pruned or trimmed back every year or so to stay healthy.
Let them know you’ll be happy to take some cuttings or even root divisions! Many times, they end up in the compost pile, so why not give them to you?
18. Shop Out of Season for Plants
If you go to the local garden nursery, plants go on sale after the spring and especially in the fall, as the temperatures cool down, but you can still plant perennials in your garden. Garden nurseries tend to be winding down their peak season at this point, so they want to liquidate as much as they can.
I’ve found herbs marked down for $1 that I grew in pots inside of the house this way. Don’t forget that gardening indoors is still an option as well!
19. Say No to Professional Garden Planners
When you’re gardening on a budget, you don’t have any money to pay someone else to plan your garden.
Before you shake your head at this, understand that people REALLY do pay for this service, and if you can afford it, a garden planner can be helpful. They look at everything from the direction of the sun to the shade cover of your trees, and how to make everything visually appealing.
However, you can do all of this your own with the internet. You can find all of that information yourself, and while it might take a few day, you can surely put together a beautiful garden plan.
20. Don’t Invest in Large Equipment!
Unless you’re a full-scale farmer, there is little to no need to have any large equipment, no matter what friends might tell you.
That includes a tiller.
What you really need are your hands and a set of good-quality gardening tools (which you often can find for free). Your muscles do the work, and that’s okay – who doesn’t love a free workout as well?
21. Try No-Till Gardening
Did you know that tilling is bad for your soil? Seriously! Despite what old wisdom told us, we know that tilling leads to more soil erosion and destroys the long-term fertility of your garden.
Not to mention, using a tiller feels like enough of a workout for an entire year.
Skip the tiller – which means you don’t need to buy or rent one – and try practices such as lasagna gardening. By piling organic, compostable materials on top of where you plan to garden, the grass will die, and nutrients will leech into your soil.
22. Buy Used or Free Gardening Tools
Remember, I told you that you can get these for free if you have the patience. Many people are happy to either give you their gardening tool or sell them dirt cheap.
Those people are me – I always lose my gardening tools – I have no idea how I manage it yearly. So, each year, I trudge to the store and buy a few new tools, only to find the lost ones not too much later.
So, I end up with a plethora of gardening tools throughout the season. Post on social media that you’re looking for gardening tools – you might be surprised by the response.
23. Always Start Slow
Aside from the overwhelming costs that come with starting a large garden at one time, the upkeep will quickly become overwhelming. It’s better to start off slow.
You might start with 3 garden beds, progressively adding one or two more each year until you have your dream garden. Don’t start with 10 – each of those garden beds needs to be watered and weeded regularly. Plus, each plant needs tended according to its own needs and requirements.
Start slow – you’ll think yourself (and me) later.
Some of the best gardening on a budget ideas involve you being creative. I love to see what other homesteaders and gardeners come up with as a way to expand their garden cheaply.
Do you have any suggestions for gardening on a budget?
Want to learn more about gardening? Grab my new book, The Vegetable Garden Plan!
I saw on Pinterest how to ues empty toilet paper rolls to make pots to start seeds in. This is a great idea as I am broke and do want to grow some of my own veggies.
Yes! That’s such a great idea. You can use toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, egg cartons, or make pots out of newspapers!
I use newspapers to make free pots. Newspapers come in the junk mail so totally free. I tear strips about 2-3 inches wider than I want the pots to be tall. Wrap it around a can or bottle and fold in the bottom and press it to crease the folds. Slide it off and 1 free pot ready to go. I collect the newspapers for a couple of months during winter and make a tray or two a week while dreaming of seed started and garden season.
Yes! Newspapers can make fantastic pots. You can use them to start seeds, and that’s super cheap. Such a smart idea!
Why not use urine if you don’t take medicins? Dilute it about 5 times with water and you get great fertilizer. Better not sprinkle it on de leaves altough that doesn’t matter if you wash everything properly.
I personally have never tried using urine, but I do know that people swear by it! Have you tried it? Does it work well? I would love to hear about your experiences.
Oké, I’ll try but my English is a bit rusty. Yes, I use urine with water every year for te plants and the grass as well. It sounds dirty but my friend uses human feces from her bio-toilet.
Ofcourse it has to be composted first, together with the leaves en whatever she uses to cover
the poo in the toilet. You will get very pure, not smelling, compost. Now and then I dig a hole, put all the dogpoo in and cover it with soil. Within een few weeks you will have loads of earthworms and compost. This was ‘praatje poep!’ (It means little poo chat)
Some fruit comes in a plastic clamshell container. I use the containers as mini-greenhouses for starting seeds. I save seeds from organic fruit to start my trees. Some plant cuttings I put in water until they grow roots, this increases my garden plants.
Actually, posting on social media that you’re looking for inexpensive garden tools is a good idea.
Now…why didn’t I think of that?
Another good idea is – looking for gardening tools and supplies at estate sales. Old dirty flowerpots, rakes and shovels often don’t cost much at estate sales.
Great ideas, all of them. If I have stale beer I mix it with water and water indoor plants and garden with it. They love it. I’d say like the urine 5 to 1.
We use the boys (have them urinate)to fill in mole holes, plus poor stale beer in mole holes. It helps, however they always come back or go around.
One of the things I do to save money in the garden is plant things that are expensive to buy and also I plant as many perennials as possible. I’ve learned that doing research on plants is vital or you might just as well throw your money away. I recently wrote about budget gardens here