Gardening and growing your own food is supposed to save money, right? Then how did I just spend a chunk of money buying everything I “need” for a garden?!? Plants, dirt, compost, tomato cages, seeds, fertilizer, that cute butterfly sprinkler my kids begged for…. the list seems never-ending. In all seriousness, there is major money to be spent (and apparently made) in any garden store, and if you don’t have a plan, you can easily blow any budget you may have set for yourself.
What if you only have a small garden fund? Is it possible to get a good sized garden started? Absolutely! With some pre-planning and budgeting, you can definitely have a successful garden this year without breaking the bank. Let’s get started by talking specifically about plants and seeds for your garden.
Plants vs. Seeds
If you’ve been to a garden center in the spring, you have seen tables full of vegetable plants waiting to find their home in the dirt. These plants are incredibly convenient, but they can also be quite expensive. On average, one round potted vegetable or herb plant runs about $3. And that can add up quickly if you need enough plants for a small garden. So what can you do to keep the cost of plants down?
- Buy Seeds- A packet of seeds can run between $1 and $3 dollars, and you can grow numerous plants from the seeds inside one packet (and even have extra for the following year). You can begin them indoors easily with a starter set like this or you can create your own starter kit with an egg carton or cups made from newspaper (even more frugal!).
- Ask Friends- Chances are if you have even one friend who gardens, you could go in together on plants or seeds. My dad and I split our seeds each year, and we live states apart! He plants his garden in Florida and mails the leftover seeds to me, and I will send my late season seeds down to him since his garden season lasts so much longer. Even certain plants could be purchased together with a friend. Have you ever noticed, especially with zucchini and squash, that there are usually more than one plant per pot? Buy one container and simply divide the plants inside. It’s a win-win! Sharing cuttings or sister plants is also a smart way to save money and to bless your friends. Strawberries are notorious for growing “sister plants” that can be given to others, and many herbs are easy to cut and root.
- Local Master Gardeners- These may be the greatest resource you have for starting/maintaining a garden. Master gardeners go through rigorous training to earn the title, and many communities have annual plant sales put on by these groups. Our local group grows veggie, herb, and flower plants each year and then has a large sale at rock bottom prices. Honestly, this is how I get most of my plants. See if there is a local Master Gardener group in your area by clicking here.
- Save Seeds- This requires a bit of forethought, but you can actually save seeds from the food in your fridge to use in the garden. The easiest seeds are those from peppers (bell, jalapeño, poblano, etc.) since you can clearly cut them out and set them to the side, but cucumber and tomato seeds are also easy possibilities. Here’s a great article with info on saving your own seeds and how to store them until you’re ready to grow them. If you’re not sure if your saved seeds will sprout, do this simple test to check.
So don’t feel the need to spend lots of money on those potted plants at your local garden center. Chances are you can grow them from seed yourself, share with a friend, visit a local master gardener sale, or save your very own seeds for growing. Next week this Gardening on a Budget series will continue with more tips and tricks. I’d love to know what you’ll be planting in your garden this spring and if you usually start with seed or plants. Until then, Happy Gardening!