Having a garden is one of the benefits of home ownership, and even the smallest pieces of property can have a pretty garden or one that will provide them with fruit and vegetables during the growing season. While the garden stores are full of ways to spend a ton of money on your garden and yard, there are many frugal ways to garden that can give you what you want without much if any expense and save you money instead.
Here are some frugal gardening ideas that will save you money in the garden and yard.
1. Start a compost pile.
If you have an out-of-the-way corner in your yard, you don’t need an expensive composter to get the benefits of using compost in your garden. There are many frugal ways to compost, including having a pile or just using a cheap Rubbermaid container with a few holes drilled into it. Add leaves, yard trimmings, and kitchen scraps (fruit and veggies only), and maybe a few worms if it isn’t open to the ground, and in a few months you should have compost that will fertilize your garden completely for free.
In the meanwhile or if you need more compost than you can make, many towns have compost centers where people drop off their yard trimmings, and they often let residents take the compost for their own garden use for free or at a nominal rate.
2. Get free advice.
Local or nearby colleges with agricultural majors and county extensions often have people available to answer questions about how and when to plant and how to take care of the garden. The internet also has a lot of useful information, but also some misinformation at times, so be careful that you aren’t doing something that is against your local regulations based on internet advice.
3. Collect and share seeds and cuttings.
Collecting seeds from your plants means that next year, you won’t have to buy them. Seeds can only be collected from heirloom plants, however. Hybrid seeds will not flower or produce any fruits or veggies. If your neighbor has flowers or veggies you like, ask if they can collect some seeds for you or if you can take a cutting from their plant, which you can then put in water and plant when it has well-developed roots.
4. Borrow tools.
When we (hubby and I) first moved into our house almost 20 years ago, all our neighbors welcomed us with the same words: “If you need to borrow any tools, let me know.” We didn’t take them up on their offers, which I do believe were sincere, but maybe we should have. Borrowing tools will help you figure out what you will actually use and what you like before you spend money on anything, which can end up saving you a lot of time, money and hassle.
5. Less is more.
In most cases, a few well-placed plants will look just as good as crowding your yard with tons of complicated landscaping. It will also cost less. Fill in areas without plantings with newspaper and mulch to keep weed growth down, and maybe drag a few big rocks from a nearby creek, if that’s allowed in your area, to accent the plants.
6. Keep up with watering and maintenance.
There’s no sense spending money on seeds and plants, or even just spending your time growing the seeds you already have, if you’re not going to keep up with watering and weeding once you put them in the garden. Not only will your yard and garden not look nice with half-dead plants being choked out by weeds, you will have wasted your money (or even just time) on the stuff with no results. Just 5 minutes a day to water everything when it doesn’t rain and pull the few weeds trying to make their way through the mulch will do wonders to keep everything looking fresh and will also make a big difference in how much fruit and veggies you can get when it’s time for that, too.
7. Take the long-term view.
You may not have the budget to get the garden you want all at once, but planting a few things this year and a few more next year will eventually give you a full and lush garden after a few years. And let your friends and neighbors know you’re trying to add to the garden, you never know what they might offer you.
8. Look for plants and supplies in unusual (read: cheaper) places.
Yard sales and church rummage sales will often have plants for sale at a fraction of the cost your local home and garden store will be offering, and are also a great place to pick up planters, tools, and other accessories for the garden that others have decided to part with.
9. Plant more perennials.
Perennials come back every year, which saves both money buying new plants and time replanting the garden each year. Most perennials also naturally multiply and spread, giving you more plants each year than you had before. You can use these plants to fill in bare areas of the garden, increase your yield of fruits and veggies, or dig them up and trade them to the neighbors for their extra plants.
The area where you live will determine what plants are perennials there. Warmer zones can see more plants that survive the winter and come back the next year, even if they are not perennials. And even in colder areas like mine, I’ve had unexpected plants come back, including tomatoes that fell off the plant the previous season and then grew the next year without me having to do anything, and a rosemary bush that lasted over 5 years before a very cold winter finally got it after we cut it back drastically the preceding fall.
10. Sell your surplus.
If your garden overproduces, whether produce or flowers, you may be able to make a few extra bucks selling plants or fruits and veggies. This money can help pay for new plants or even supplement your grocery budget to buy whatever you can’t grow.
It is possible to have an attractive garden and yard without spending a lot of money, which will often add curb appeal to your home and increase its value as well.