How to Start a Frugal Garden
First, I want to preface this article with a disclaimer: I am not a gardener in any professional sense. In fact, when I can keep anything alive, I am thrilled! This is absolutely a novice’s take on getting a frugal garden going!
Now that I’ve set the bar incredibly low, let’s talk plantin’!
This is my second year planting a flower garden. I have not tried my hand at a vegetable garden yet, though I do have some tomato plants in the works, thanks to my Buy Nothing group! Prior to my current garden, I’d been raising plants in pots for a few years.
Here’s how I have pieced together a frugal garden:
A Place to Plant
Last year, my husband and I purchased a Build-Your-Own Raised Garden Bed kit from Lowe’s. We have a Lowe’s credit card (which we pay off in full every month to avoid interest!) which gives us 5% off every purchase. The kit wasn’t cheap, and neither was the dirt to fill it, but once we had a place to plant, we were set!
Raised garden beds aren’t the only option of course! If you have space in your yard for an in-ground garden, or even a few pots/planters, you’ve got all you need to get started.
By far, the raised bed purchase has been the most expensive part of our gardening journey, and this is absolutely optional. When moving into our house, gardening was one of the surprise expenses I didn’t anticipate. However, personally I find the result of a raised garden bed much more pleasing to the eye and more enjoyable to care for than flower pots!
Next, plants need to be acquired. Sometimes, in my busy day, catching the glimpse of a well placed flower can really brighten my spirit. Picking out new plants for my garden is an absolute joy! (I acknowledge how cheesy all this must sound, and I don’t care! I really do love flowers.)
There are several options for acquiring free plants, but ultimately they all come down to one thing: community.
As I mentioned earlier, I was gifted 3 tomato plants through my Buy Nothing group on Facebook. (P.s. if you are interested in joining a Buy Nothing group in your area, you can check it out here.)
Friends and family have given me various plants throughout the years, both as gifts, or due to plant splitting. If you have any gardening friends, put it out there that you’re interested in any plants they don’t have room for. Perhaps the next time they prune and clean out their garden, you could get lucky.
Building this community is helpful as it goes both ways. When I have an excess of plants, I am sure to share them with anyone who I know is interested.
The bulk of my flowers come from the store. I am especially keen to purchase new plants when there is a sale, usually around a holiday.
While I normally unsubscribe to any email advertisements from various stores, I keep my Lowe’s emails close to my chest. They regularly have gardening sales, and are sure to not disappoint (plus I get that 5% off)!
When shopping, I keep an eye out for marked-down plants, or cheaper, smaller flowering plants. They’ll grow! Why pay $5-$10 more for a larger version of a Lantana, when I could have the joy of raising it up as a pup?
Side of Road Plant Sales
One of my Mom’s most gorgeous flowers to date was a small Hibiscus she bought on the side of the road for 50¢. Fully grown Hibiscus plants can sell for $20 or more! She nurtured it since it was small, and had it for 18 years!
This goes for school fundraisers, carnivals, garage sales, or any other table-ran plant sale.
Check out gardening centers or local annual events in your area where education is the focal point. There are usually freebies, or dramatically discounted plants you can take home for a spin!
When we initially assembled our raised bed garden, we borrowed a wheelbarrow from a friend. We used this to to transport the dirt from a tarp on our driveway to the garden bed.
We’ve borrowed countless tools, and have been gifted countless others, from friends and family who happen to be downsizing, or recognize they aren’t using their tools.
Talk about your project with your buds and see if you can borrow what you need before buying. Of course, be sure to return the tools in a timely fashion, and in the same condition as when they were loaned.
Use the Internet
Everything I’ve ever learned about gardening, I’ve learned from someone else. Of course my friends and family are great resources, but I’ve also learned a ton on the internet.
You can Google anything. Google doesn’t think you’re silly. Google can guess and figure out what you mean even if you’re not sure what something is called. If you’re not sure of the right time of year to prune, or how far apart you should put certain plants, Google has got your back. Google that shit!
Let Them Live!
If you are even half-way conscientious about watering and trimming off any deadheads or browning parts of your plants, some will survive!
Last year, we transplanted some Perennials from our raised-bed garden into pots to make it easier to bring them in and out of the house during the winter. Most of our garden last year consisted of Annuals, and their life span is only for one year. However, we did have 3 Perennials that made it through the winter and are blooming again! One of the Perennials is a Hibiscus plant that I’ve had for years, going back to my apartment days!
Save Money—Go Outside
Everyone has a bias toward their hobbies. That’s why they are yours! Hobbies give us an individual pleasure that work can’t possibly provide.
This year, we spent $88 dollars on 8 new flowering plants and 10 bags of mulch. We usually buy smaller plants, and splurge on one big one. Our splurge this year: We got us a Rose plant!
Living in Texas where the sun shines until November, a garden is an excellent investment for a frugal hobby. I’ll have a way to keep myself entertained for at least six months! All for $88!
The hobby of gardening is one of the things I do that give me great pleasure in life. I like the exercise, frustration with weeds, victory over the weeds, watching my small baby plants grow into giants, watering my garden in twilight…the list goes on and on.
Most of all, I love that it gets me outside. It’s meditative and therapeutic. Whether I’m working in the garden, or sitting outside on a lawn chair and admiring it, it makes me happy.
The joy I already am deriving from the $88 I spent to get this year’s garden going is immeasurable. And besides, you just can’t put a price on quality of life!