How To

10 Tips for Spring Gardening on the Cheap

Forking the veg patch


A scrawny daffodil dared to bloom in my garden today – and thank heavens. It’s about time the yellows and greens of spring burst through the dreary winter.

If you’re as eager for gardening season as me, and equally conscious of your budget, these 10 garden money savers will lift the pressure off your wallet.

DIY planters.

Instead of paying for pricey glazed planters at your local garden store, upcycle other materials and containers you have on hand to create unique, stylish planters.

Got extra building materials crowding your garage? Turn a cinder block into a planter.

This single serving container is perfect for voracious plants like mint and strawberries, and also portable! Scrap wood can be fashioned into a window box or raised bed with a few nails.

Even an old suitcase can find new life as a funky home to succulents or other greens. If you must have terra cotta pots, head to a dollar store.

Score free plants and seeds.

Search Freecycle.org and the free section of Craigslist for free plants. If you ask for extras, many gardeners consider it a huge compliment to be able to spare plants–it’s a sign that their garden is THAT healthy!

Most gardeners are happy to swap plants and seeds, or you can post a seed swap listing for free on the National Gardening Association website.

Free weed killer.

Store bought weed killer is not only expensive, it often contains harsh chemicals that leach into the soil and eventually find their way into the water supply. But there are equally effective alternatives that are cheap and toxin-free!

Pour boiling water on weeds to kill them (really tough weeds will need a second pour). You can also use vinegar, newpaper, and black plastic bags to kill weeds.

DIY seedling trays.

Do not let me catch you buying those ridiculously overpriced soft cardboard trays with mini-pockets for delicate seedlings. (Eyes rolling.) All you need to make your own individual seedling starters is newspaper, duct tape, and a tray.

Rip a few sheets of newspaper into three to four inch strips. Roll up each piece so the opening diameter is about two inches wide and tape closed. Place upright in tray. Repeat until you have as many seedling starters as your green thumb desires!

Fill with moist soil, then plant your seeds and spritz with water as you would normally. I like to cover my new seeds loosely with plastic wrap to keep in moisture.

Make a composter.

Forget about paying hundreds of dollars for a composter. (Yes, some really cost that much!)

You can make a composter for very cheap – about $4 – by drilling a dozen holes in the bottom of a 5-gallon bucket. If you start now, you may have compost ready for a late summer or fall garden.

Grow money makers.

Not all plants were created equal. At least, not all plants you can grow cost the same amount at the grocery store. Why not grow the plants and herbs that will cost you the most money to buy?

By square foot, here are the 10 most valuable plants: cilantro, arugula, green salad mix, chives, dill, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, turnips, large tomatoes, and winter squash.

Save seeds.

Set a reminder in your calendar a few months away to save seeds for next year.

Remember, once you have prepared them for storage to keep them in a Ziplock envelope in the fridge.

This way, the seeds go into hibernation mode until you pull them out for planting.

Harvest and preserve.

Harvest edible plants regularly, even if you don’t plan to eat them immediately.

It’s easy to dry herbs by hanging them in a sunny window, or melt fresh herbs into a butter/oil sauce that you can freeze in ice cube trays and use to season dishes later.

Eat the weeds.

As long as you know what you’re serving, look out for these eight weeds you can eat.

Some are considered delicacies!

Enjoy your garden.

Get into the mindset that gardening is a fun way to relax and get fresh air! Turn on your favorite tunes, plop on a special gardening hat, and dig in!

Doing this hard work, errr, fun hobby, yourself will save you hundreds of dollars in the long run over hiring someone else.

Julia Scott founded the freebie and money blog, BargainBabe.com.