The Makings of a Frugal Garden

The Makings of a Frugal Garden


Since it’s on my mind right now and it’s definitely that season (or at least, it’s getting to be for those in colder places), I thought I would share some of the ways that I have put my garden together quite cheaply!

I didn’t have much of a budget for gardening this summer, and I knew that buying all of my seeds would take up the bulk of it, so I had to get creative with the rest. I was working with a good sized plot (12 x 28 ft), that was fairly overgrown, with no raised beds and the soil was clay-ish and not very rich.


My garden is not gorgeous (it’s a little rough around the edges, literally!). It’s not going to win any awards. It’s certainly not as lovely as the perfect square foot gardens on the cover of my well worn book. But, it works and I am eagerly anticipating a bountiful harvest (leaving room for much human error, of course!). Even in all of it’s simple practicality rustic charm it is a peaceful haven for me on lovely spring days, and I cannot wait to spend more time in it this summer.

I probably spent about $50 on seeds, plus another $7 on strawberry plants and $2 on onion sets. This is a lot, but it is because I bought all heirloom seeds, many of which are organic (which wasn’t as important to me as heirloom, non-GMO seeds). I hadn’t gardened last year, so I had to start from scratch, and next year will be much cheaper as I will already have many of my seeds.

The rest of what I spent was just on a few peat starter pots (about $4 I think?), and two bags of starter soil ($3 each), plus two bags of topsoil ($3 each) and a bag of manure (also $3), and then $13 on tools and $10 on gloves, bringing me to a grand total of $101.00. Considering how much produce we will get out of all that, and the fact that we will still have the tools, many seeds and the strawberry plants next year, I’m happy with what I spent. I know that it could have been much more!

Here are some of the ways that I kept costs low for establishing my garden this year:

  1. I found free composted horse manure from a local farm that I found on Craigslist in the free section (forget that I went to pick it up on a rainy day, by myself with both kids, and I had foolishly worn sandals, and it was disgusting- but other than that it was great, LOL!)
  2. We built garden borders (for raised beds) out of scrap wood we got for free. It doesn’t look perfect or as pretty as I’d like, but it sure was cheap, and it’s functional. We held the wood in place using old tent poles- you could use proper pieces of wood or long nails instead, but the poles work for us, for this year anyways.
  3. I did a bunch of calling around to find the best deal before I rented my roto-tiller and discovered that at one place (Home Depot) Tues-Thurs were half price until June, if I rented for a half day (4 hours).
  4. I had no garden tools this year (last time I gardened was at a community garden, and they had a shed full of shared tools), so I looked around on Craigslist and even asked on Freecycle. From that, I came up with some tools for $5 a piece, which is pretty good, but didn’t end up getting those. Then I went to a garage sale and got 3 of the tools I needed for $1 each! That’s my kind of price!
  5. I suppose it’s getting a bit late in the season for this tip, but consider it for next year. I know that I saved so much money by starting my own seeds, rather than buying the plants already started. It cost more up front this year to purchase my seeds, but I have so many seeds left over for next year of most things (tomatoes, pepper, squash, herbs, etc.) that it will be even more cost efficient next year. It doesn’t take that much work, and I just viewed it as a science activity with my daughter. She loves watering her “plants” and it’s fun to point out how they’re growing.
  6. Making my own compost will pay off shortly. I’ve been working on it for a couple of months now, and it’s not quite there, but as the weather heats up more, it will go faster. I can’t make as much as I need for this summer (hence the horse manure), but next summer I will be ready with more that I’ve made throughout the year.
  7. To continue to keep costs low, I am going to seek our more free sources of compost and manure to keep feeding my garden, as well as making some of my own. I will need some posts and wire to make a trellis for my vertical plants to climb, as well as supports for my tomatoes, but I will keep my eye’s out on Craigslist and Freecycle for anythign useful, as well as garage sales.

And, here are a few more great, frugal ideas for your garden that I found today!

Get coffee grinds for free from Starbucks! I did this a week ago, and wasn’t exactly sure what to do with them, except that I’ve often seen big bags of them offered with the sign “Grounds for your Garden”. Here’s a link that I found today with some interesting testimonials and ideas for using the grinds.

Grow potatoes in a garbage can! I had heard about this a while ago, and it’s been on the back burner of my mind ever since. Today I decided to google it, and found these instructions. It sounds so simple, and anyone can do it, even if you don’t have a real garden or yard! I have an extra garbage can without a lid that I have no other purpose for, so I’m thinking it’s about to become a potato garden


Do you have any good gardening tips (frugal or otherwise)? Please share!!!

Part of Frugal Fridays hosted by Biblical Womanhood.

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  1. What do you do about pest control? What frugal ways do you keep bugs away without resorting to chemicals and commercial pesticides? I’m really interested in the answer because our herbs are already showing signs of munchy critters. 🙁

  2. Your garden looks great! We’ve been growing potatoes in a can very successfully- we just reached the top of each trash can and are looking for the shoots to appear at the top. It makes a great use of space.


  3. Hi STephanie, I too live in Canada and eagerly awaiting the start of gardening season. We live on a 50 acre horse farm and have plenty of access to manure. …too much at times. Be careful with the stuff though as it can be very weedy. I actually use very little of it and the stuff I do use is the stuff that is very old and already broken down. If you do compost it hot enough it should be fine. I also heard of growing tomatoes or peppers in big tires. The black heats up and both of those plants like heat. I also heard of a great tip this past weekend is to collect from the beach seaweed, let it sit all summer and pile this on the garden over winter. It is by far the best fertilizer ever. The pre-packaged stuff is very expensive to buy so this is a great alternative…plus the kids love going to the beach and picking it up.

  4. I started my tomato & pepper plants about 6 wks ago. They are waiting to be planted soon. But I think the nights are still to chilly for them.
    I hope your garden works for you. I was blessed w/40 acres and have plenty of space.
    When $$ is tight gardens are always a nice thing to help provide for the family. Some say there is a food storage. I say we need to back to doing it our selves once in awhile.

  5. I was wondering how your garden was doing! It looks great!

    I will plant the rest of mine this weekend, now that it is finally nice out. I have lettuce, onions, parsley and peas up. This is our first year with garden boxes as well and I am hoping I get more out of the space then I have in previous years.

    My dad always planted potatoes in old tires. As the plants grew, he would put another tire on top and fill it with soil, then another. At the end there would be 4 or 5 tires stacked on top of eachother. I still remember when he harvested them, there would be so many potatoes coming out of those tires!

    You mentioned starting your own seeds. Where do you put them? I dream about having a greenhouse, but that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. I don’t really have any place inside the house to put them either.

  6. For those interested in growing tomato plants in buckets, Firehouse subs has their pickles delivered in huge buckets. So instead of spending $5- $6 dollars at Lowes or Home-Depot you can get them for $2 at Firehouse subs.

    My husband turned me on to this tip and felt like I had to share it.

    1. @Amanda,

      New to site-linked by a link by a link-oh! you know how it goes when you are on to something good! Or, rather, something special I should say…I LOVE your site 🙂 Anyway, thank you Amanda for reminding me about the sub buckets! Perfect idea 🙂 Here’s to Happy & Frugal Gardening to All 🙂

  7. Just another warning re: horse manure… ALWAYS use the oldest you can find. Fresh horse manure will burn your plants. Look for cow manure or even better… CHICKEN!!!

  8. I love your back yard garden! What a great use of your space!!

    My frugal tip: I have been following a couple blogs from folks in England that grow some mega efficient gardens. They use old paper towel or toilet paper rolls as their “peat” starts. My hubby and I have decided that next year we will try it! Just cut down the rolls until they are about 1 1/2 – 2 inches high, fill with your healthy composted soil and start your seeds. If the roots grow through the paper roll it can be planted directly into the garden, if not they easily rip off for planting in the garden.

  9. I actually would love to find Sheep manure but the farmers keep the stuff for their fields. The good thing about horse manure is it’s full of redworms and if you are worm composting this is where to find them as opposed to having to buy them for a lot of money….

  10. I have been “ghetto gardening” on our back patio using containers found curbside on recycling day. I have a miniscule budget that I spend only on organic potting soil (we can’t garden in the yard as we’re renting, and it is very shady besides). I have plants growing in kitty litter buckets, dresser drawers, baskets lined with the potting soil bags, water jugs, you name it. I’m doing all of my seed starting in trays that are actually kitty litter pans. It’s not pretty unless seen from above, where the green dominates, but it’s doing the job.

    I do have one tip; discarded bike wheels make for wonderful trellises when hung from a pole or a fence!

  11. In my area we have A LOT of earwigs. They even get inside and last year I found some in my bed. GROSS!!!! My friend told me to spray with dish soap. I was skeptical. It worked! I use an all-natural dish soap so I sprayed it around my garden and even onto some of the leaves etc. The earwigs had already eaten my carrot tops but I left them and they grew new ones! To be effective it needs to be done fairly often like at least 3 times a week. As the plants grew bigger I didn’t worry about it so much. I also sprayed around my windows and doorways into my house and I had hardly any earwigs after that inside. I am not sure if it would work with other pests. I tried earwig traps that have some holes and have cooking oil inside and some other natural things that you get from your own kitchen, but they didn’t work well and was money wasted.

  12. Do you get your seeds from Seed Savers Exchange? I love that organization. There are also great resources for saving your own seeds, and if you got your seeds there then you could save them from year to year. They’re all non-GMO, heirloom seeds. If you get a copy of their catalog sent to you (its free), then you can read about the seeds…including their stories about how they were attained. Great organization, right?!?

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