Mar 052011

Frugality is a lifestyle, and frugal gardening can be a big help in your efforts to live a frugal lifestyle. Although I live in the city, I am determined to have a garden, not only because I get cheap or free fruits and veggies, but also because I want to teach my children where their foods come from, and I want to teach them that by nurturing a plant you can get some very tasty rewards.

Over the years I have been gardening no matter where I lived. In New Jersey I had a small frugal garden on the fire escape, in Europe I had a green house, a huge vegetable garden, apple trees and more at the farm, and at my own little apartment I had a balcony garden. Here in Florida I have only had very small gardening spaces, but I have still managed to get the most out of the space I have available. I have learned that frugality and gardening goes hand in hand, and the key is to maximize your space and get creative in finding your gardening resources.

Win a Raised Garden Bed Kit from Plow & Hearth 3/7
Maximize Your Space:

Container gardening is great for the city, and if you have a small backyard I can highly recommend a raised garden bed. You do not have to buy a fancy garden bed, you can easily make one with a couple of pieces of wood or create your own rock garden bed.

Free Seeds and Plants:

There are many ways to get cheap or free seeds, and one of the best ways is growing your own garden from the produce you eat. The best result comes from organic produce, but even if you do not eat organic, you can still start your own garden from the foods you eat.

Where to find cheap or free seeds and plants:
  • From the produce you eat
  • From the produce you grow
  • Make sure to save the seeds from herbs such as cilantro, and flowers such as sunflowers, marigold and morning glories that can be used to grow more flowers next season.
  • Sprouting potatoes and garlic
  • Get seeds from your neighbors
  • Freecycle

Tomato and pepper seeds are the easiest to grow, but you can also use seeds from squash, melons, pumpkins, cucumbers, lemon, lime, oranges and more. If your potatoes or garlic start to sprout plant them!

Grow your own potatoes

I recently had a bunch of potatoes start to sprout on me, and instead of throwing them out, I planted them all over the garden. A couple of weeks later, I now have lots of potato plants.

When planting potatoes make sure that they have ample room to grow in, and once the potato plants starts growing, keep adding new soil around the stems. I never really knew much about growing potatoes, but two years ago I gave it a try, and with a visit from my dad – a potato farmer – I succeeded in getting enough pototos for potato salad. This year I am going all out, and while I do not have a potato farm, I am determined to get at least 10 lbs of potato out of my 2 lbs of potatoes.

Avocado and mango pits are great for growing yourself, and you can even grow pineapples from your fruit salad leftovers. Growing pineapples takes patience, but the pineapple plants need very little care, and the end result is very sweet.

Your city or local gardening club might host events where you can get free local plants.As I was making my monthly free Florida events calendar at Flroida Free and Frugal, I came across an event at a South Florida park, where participants would each get two native South Florida plants.

Quite often you can find free seeds offers online, and right now you can sign up for free tomato seeds at Red Robin.

Freecycle is another great resource, as you can ask for seedlings or seeds from local plants, and ask your neighbors, if they have any plants in their garden.

Free Mulch:

There are many ways to get free or cheap mulch, and you do not always have to get the expensive mulch at the garden store.

  • Check with your city, as some cities give out free mulch/compost.
  • Find a local garden or mulch center, you can quite often find soil at a much cheaper rate than at the national garden centers.
  • Compost: Do your own composting, this is the best and cheapest way to get free mulch, and the best thing is that you know where everything comes from.

Gardening tools and equipment:

Once again Freecycle is a great place to find everything you need for your garden. Quite often people will post garden tools or plant pots to giveaway. A couple a years ago, when I was just starting out gardening in Florida I received lots of the black plastic plant pots from a freecycler, and she also passed on a lot of plant seedlings.

Your local thrift stores are other great places to find cheap gardening tools and plant pots, and make sure to keep your eyes open on Bulk day (large garbage collection).

Free pots for the garden

A few weeks ago I spotted a couple of nice ceramic plant pots at a pile of bulk garbage that had been set out to the curb for bulk collection. I could not bring the pots with me, as they were heavy, too big and I had several miles left. I picked up the pots and put them behind a nearby bush, and when my husband came to pick the kids and I up, we made sure to make a quick stop to pick up the pots.

Cheap gardening products at the dollar store. Dollar Tree has a big selection of gardening tools, pots and seeds at this time of the year, and you guessed it – everything costs a dollar. Just be selective in your dollar store purchases, and make sure to evaluate carefully if the product is the right one for you. If your garden pots will be in the sun, stay away from the plastic pots at the Dollar Tree, as they will fade. The seed packets has less seeds in than in regular stores.

I recently picked up a 3 pack plastic “10 saucers for $1 at the Dollar Tree, and they were perfect for the pots I had without any sauces.

At the dollar store you can also find gardening string or wire for $1 each, but if you have kids in the house, you can use the wire their toys are tied down with when wrapped for free. Between Christmas and my sons’ birthdays, I never have to buy any gardening wire.

Another way to save is by using what you already have. Look around the yard for things you can use in your garden. I use sticks to hold up my tomatoes, and beach rocks for decorations.

The container my Marigold plants came in is now a plant starter

Starting your garden is easy, and you can use items from your home to start with. An egg carton works great as a starter kit indoors, of if you start your plants outside, you can use an empty plant container from  the garden store.

Free or Cheap Bug Fighting Methods:

To keep your garden healthy and frugal, stay away from expensive pesticides. There are many ways that you can keep bugs away from your garden in an organic way, and you will feel much better about your food, when you know you have not sprayed it with anything.

  • Observe – If you catch the bugs early, you will prevent major damage to your crops.
  • Pick the bugs – I have these white flies that lay eggs in the leaves, and before they start ruining my tomato plants I simply pick off the leave and throw them in the garbage. Make sure to pick those caterpillars off as soon as you find them as well.
  • Marigold – Marigold is a great bug fighter, just plant them around your plants.
  • Garlic – Helps keep bugs away
  • Dried pepper flakes – since I grow habanero peppers, I simply spread the flakes over the plants.
  • Dish liquid (lemon) – Fill a spray bottle with lemon dish liquid and spray over the leaves.

Cheap or Free Gardening books: 

Ask on freecycle, use your local library, and use your Borders Bucks with coupons to get cheap gardening books. Another great way to get gardening books is to win them, just do a search or check out the Book Giveaway Linky.

Gardening can be as expensive or as frugal as you want it to be, and you do not need to have a green thumb and a lot of experience to start your own garden. While I have grown up on farm and learned a lot about gardening from my parents and grandparents, gardening in South Florida is a very different experience. I am learning from trial and error, gardening books and my neighbor’s experiences.

When you want to splurge on seeds, plants and products for your garden, make sure to do it as frugal as possible to stretch your dollar far. I am currently waiting for a $25 Home Depot gift card that I have earned at, and hopefully I can find a coupon to combine with the gift card. Home Depot accepts competitor coupons, so I am going to take advantage of this to stretch my gift card further.

Online gardening resources:

Freecycle: Find your local freecycle group
Red Robin: Get free tomato seeds
Growing Pineapples Earn Home Depot Gift Cards from writing about your garden and posting photos of your plants. An informative online source for gardeners.

  One Response to “Frugality and Gardening: Free Seeds and Frugal Gardening Tips”

  1. Lots of great information! I didn’t ever think of planting my sprouting potatoes. I’m definitely going to try this idea. Am also taking a composting class this week-end, so hope to learn all about the how-to’s of composting.

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