Ready to dig into gardening but don’t want to spend a fortune? 💸 We’ve got the perfect guide for you! 💚 Learn how to start a vegetable garden for FREE and how to grow vegetables right in your own backyard! 🥕🌽🥒
Starting a vegetable garden can be a great way to save money on groceries, eat healthier, and enjoy the satisfaction of growing your own food. However, getting started can be a bit intimidating, especially if you’re on a tight budget. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to start a vegetable garden for free or on a shoestring budget.
I am more than certain you will find people who will tell you that you can’t grow great vegetables cheaply or that it isn’t worth it. If you’ve ever grown anything, you’ll know that both of these statements are as false as you can get.
How Much Does it Cost to Start a Vegetable Garden?
The cost to starting a garden is as much or as little as you’d like. Sure, you could go and spend thousands on equipment, soil amendments to improve your soils fertility, high dollar gardening tools and more, but it is absolutely not necessary.
Especially if you’re trying to grow an beginner garden.
Or you could save your money and learn how to start a vegetable garden for free or really cheaply. Seasoned gardeners can usually find their own ways to save money on gardening, but beginners may not have the experience that seeing those options may require.
Does Gardening Actually Save Money?
Generally, growing a garden does save money overall. You may not see immediate savings and you’ll very likely find that the savings isn’t only in your grocery bill. You’ll save money on groceries for sure, but since your health will probably improve, that savings can also be transferred to things like cheaper health or life insurance, fewer doctor visits and less medication costs if you currently take them.
Can You Really Grow a Garden for Free?
Yes! You absolutely can start and grow a garden for free! Does it take a bit more work? Yes. It that work worth it? Yes; especially if you’re currently struggling to feed your family.
By taking advantage of what is around you, learning new resources and getting help from friends and family, you can equip yourself with the tools you need to grow flavorful and nutritious vegetables right in your back yard.
Decide Your Garden Style
The first step to growing a vegetable garden on a budget is to decide what style of garden you’re looking to grow. Some are easier and cheaper to do. For instance, growing a kitchen garden for herbs is less work and will have fewer start up costs than learning how to grow a victory garden that takes up your entire back yard.
Utilize the space you have without trying to over plan what you’re doing. Starting small and steady will give you a far better end result than trying to do it all at once.
Know Your Plant Hardiness Zone
Gardening isn’t as simple as plant a seed packet, water and voila, food. Where you live will greatly affect not only what you can successfully grow but also how well those plants grow for you.
The USDA has designated garden zones already mapped out. These maps will help you to know when your planting seasoning begins, what you can grow and so on. HERE is all the info you need to know how to learn your gardening zone.
Use a Free Garden Planner
Before you plant any seedlings or transplant any cuttings, you will need to have a garden plan in place. This is simple to do and can be done free by using a free garden planner. Seedtime is my personal favorite as everything is drag and drop. It’s totally free with no credit card required so you really have no reason not to give it a try.
If you prefer the pen and paper approach, you can buy a printable Garden planner in several different styles for just a couple of dollars. No matter which option you use, having a solid plan before you start is key to the success of your plants.
Join a Seed Swap
One of the biggest expenses of starting a vegetable garden is buying seeds and plants. However, there are many ways to get seeds and plants for free. One option is to join a seed swap group online or in your community. Members of these groups share seeds and plants with each other, so you can get a variety of plants without spending any money. You can also look for seed banks at local libraries or community centers. These programs allow you to “borrow” seeds for free and return some of your own at the end of the season.
If you’re planning on swapping your own seeds, you’ll want to ensure you’re only using heirloom seeds. This is the reason that I start each garden that I grow with only purchased seeds. You can not grow food from GMO or otherwise modified seeds. It simply does not end well.
Instead, I purchase the first round of my seeds from my favorite heirloom seed seller; Mary’s Heirloom Seeds. Mary’s prices are really decent so I’m still able to start growing while staying in my budget. This allows me to be absolutely certain that I am only swapping out viable and usable seeds with my swapping partners.
Another option is to save seeds from the fruits and vegetables you buy at the grocery store or farmer’s market. Many fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers, and squash, have seeds that can be easily harvested and saved for planting in your garden.
Again, you’ll need to ensure that you’re only saving seeds from non-GMO or modified plants. These types of seeds simply do not grow well when you try to re-grow them. On the other hand, heirloom seeds are bred specifically for seed saving.
Certain plants, such as aloe, strawberries, onions, cabbage, potatoes, carrots and roses, can be cut and regrown for food from those cuttings. This is a fantastic way to increase the number of plants you have totally free.
With some plants, such as carrots, you won’t get the same exact food from the cutting. Instead, these plants will give you a leafy green that is edible and akin to a microgreen. Others, such as strawberries, aloe, roses, onions and potatoes will grow entirely new plants.
Either way, growing plant cuttings in your garden is an incredible way to increase your harvest amounts.
And yes, both aloe and roses are edible.
DIY Garden Supplies When You Can
As I said earlier, you can go to your local Home Depot and spend as much money as you want on garden tools, but the simple truth is that it isn’t necessary. Many garden supplies, particularly things such as a shovel, a rake and so on can be found for free or purchased inexpensively at garage sales or thrift stores.
You can also make your own garden tools, such as making DIY plant markers and watering cans, using materials you already have at home.
Use Scavenged Materials
Scavenging garden materials is one of the best ways to get what you need to plant your seedlings in. This could be things off the curb, from local free groups or even the free section on Craigslist. Your own home is a great place to scavenge too!
If you’re starting a container garden, you can use old buckets, empty milk jugs, crates, or even tires as planters. Old wood cabinets, drawers or fencing can be broken down into DIY raised garden beds.
Reuse Your Household Waste
I am a huge fan of reusing things to save money ; especially household waste. Your garden is the perfect place to reuse these things. There is a never-ending list of possibilities when it comes to repurposing household trash for your garden.
Things like old bottles and small jars can be turned into small scale self-watering drip irrigation system. Toilet paper rolls can be used to product fragile plants from insects like worms. Plastic takeout containers make great portable mini-greenhouses or seed starting trays when you’re starting your garden seeds indoors.
The water you boil your pasta or potatoes in can be poured into soil to increase soil nutrients. Even your used coffee grounds can be added to soil to increase nitrogen.
My point is that your own trash can or recycling bin is likely full of things you can use to start a vegetable garden for free. Or at the very least, help you save quite a bit of money doing it.
Make Your Own Compost
Compost is a valuable addition to any garden, since it gives you an easy way to feed your soil the nutrients it needs. However, buying pre-made compost can be expensive, especially if you need a lot of it. Fortunately, you can make your own compost for free using kitchen scraps and yard waste.
To make compost, start by collecting food scraps such as fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds, and eggshells. You can also add yard waste such as grass clippings and leaves. Mix these items together in a compost bin or pile, and add water and oxygen to help the decomposition process.
If you’re using a pre-made compost bin and not just a pile, a compost tumbler can be helpful. Over time, the materials will break down into nutrient-rich compost that can be used in your garden.
You might be surprised at the number of household items, food and whatnot that you can compost. I posted a list of 106 things you can compost HERE to help you get started.
Learn from Others
One of the best ways to save money and time when starting a vegetable garden is to learn from others who have already gone through the process. Join a gardening group in your community or online, and ask for advice from experienced gardeners. You can also attend gardening workshops or classes at local nurseries or community centers. These resources can provide valuable information on soil preparation, planting, and harvesting, as well as tips for dealing with common garden pests and diseases.
Find Community Resources
You may be surprised at what is waiting for you around your local community. Things such as free mulch, free compost and more can usually be found in places you might least expect. For example, I know of several city dumps in my general area that offer free composted soil. All you have to do is show up with a pickup truck!
Free is free so while you may not enjoy the pick up process, it’s well worth checking to see if your town, city or county offers anything such as this.
Harness the Power of Mother Nature
Water is necessary for life and that includes plant life. Luckily, unless you live in a drought stricken area like I do, it falls from the sky totally free. One of the simplest ways to have a budget friendly vegetable garden is to harness as much of what Mother Nature gives you for free.
Rain barrel systems are the perfect way to build up a water supply for your garden. The more rain you can save, the less water you’re paying for when you water your plants. If your home has gutters, you can attach rain gutter systems for your rain barrels to help fill your barrels faster.
Just be sure to check local regulations on harvesting rain. Believe it or not, it’s illegal to catch rain in quite a few places in the US.
Starting a vegetable garden for free doesn’t have to be a super complicated process that ultimately drives you batty. It can be done quite easily if you’re willing to think outside of the box a bit. Once you get past the confines of that box, the possibilities are endless for you and your veggies!