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Gardening on a Budget: Beds and Dirt

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There can be many expenses involved in starting a garden, but there are ways to build raised beds or create an in-ground garden on a budget! Save money for other things and use these tips for gardening on a budget.

How to start a garden on a budget

Budget-friendly garden bed ideas

If you missed Gardening on a Budget: Part I (Seeds and Plants) check it out! It will tell you how to save money when it comes to buying your plants and seeds.

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At this point you may have planted your little seedlings in a starter greenhouse, newspaper cups, or egg carton (or you’ve found a place to get plants on the cheap, like your local Master Gardener sale), and now you’re planning your dream garden.

Those Pinterest images of pristine (and weed-less) garden spaces are mighty appealing; is that a stone wall surrounding that garden bed? Is that a solid gold sprinkler they’re using? Just kidding about the sprinkler.

But in today’s HGTV-infused world, (can I get some love for Fixer Upper?? Even the dirt in her garden looks fab!) we can often get caught up in how visually perfect our gardens need to be.

Well, rest assured, your garden doesn’t have to be perfectly edged and built with tumbled stone walls to bring beauty to your backyard and produce delicious fare for your family to eat. In fact, no matter how big or small your space, you can create a budget-friendly and lovely garden space.

Use an Existing Flower Bed

There’s no need to till up a spot in your lawn to grow fruits, herbs, and veggies. Chances are you have a bed with bushes or flowers already, and this is a perfect place to have an edible landscape.

Basically, use edible plants in your beds and you’ll have both beauty and function without the expense of creating a garden. For example, I’ve removed some large azaleas and replaced them with blueberry bushes, and I use the space beneath them to grow cantaloupe.

This year, I’ve also moved some of my zucchini out of my raised bed garden and into a nearby flower bed; it’s a functional accent. The Prudent Homemaker has a great post on how she’s used almost every square inch of her backyard as edible landscape, and Amy Stross’s book The Suburban Micro-Farm has many fantastic ideas for using every inch of your growing space. prudent homemaker edible garden

Build an Inexpensive Raised Bed

If you don’t have the flower bed space, or if you want a dedicated veggie garden, then building a simple raised bed can be easy on the budget.

Building a raised bed garden is as simple as choosing your size (4×4, 4×8, etc.) purchasing some boards, galvanized screws, and balusters. I have a simple tutorial for how to build a 4×4 cedar garden bed.

While cedar is a naturally rot resistant wood, it can be pricy, so feel no shame in using treated lumber. The treatment methods for lumber nowadays are free from many of the harsh chemcials used in the past. See my DIY raised bed tutorial here.

cedar raised bed garden in green grass

Think Outside the Garden Box

There are plenty of ideas out there of how to grow vegetables in unique and different ways, and many of them use materials that you have laying around.

  • Five gallon buckets– Use them for tomato plants or other singular large plants. (Just be sure to drill some holes in the bottom first.)
  • Fire Ring Raised Bed– Tractor Supply and other farm supply stores carry metal burn rings that make excellent instant raised beds!
  • Old flower pots sitting in the back of your shed or garage? Instant container garden.
  • Old burlap sacks (or even trash bags)? Perfect for growing potatoes. There are also multi-purpose grow bags that are cost effective.
  • Tiny patch of yard grow a small in-ground garden inexpensively.
  • (Note: I know the “pallet” craze is in full effect, but do be wary of using these for your gardens, as some of them are sprayed with chemicals and you don’t want that around food you’re growing for your family.)
potato plant growing in polythene grow bag on terrace
Potato plant growing in polythene grow bag on terrace

Ditch the Bagged Garden Soil

You know those large expensive bags of…well, soil, at the local hardware store? You don’t have to have those to grow a successful garden. Nothing will hit your budget (or your back) harder than loading 5 or 6 of those into your cart.

If you have a need for soil in your garden, then you can buy simple topsoil and enrich it yourself with compost that you make yourself (find out how to start composting!). And if you don’t compost yourself, then you can buy it from your municipality or local garden center.

You can also check out my recipe for DIY Potting Mix, which is great for filling raised beds or using in container gardens!

So don’t let the “cost” of starting a garden keep you from getting your hands in the dirt. Chances are you can start gardening for only the cost of plants or seeds. And the health benefits of gardening are pretty incredible, including decreased stress and anxiety, and it’s definitely a work out! So what do you plan to grow this Spring?

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