Tuesday, March 22, 2011

You Don't Need a Lot of Money to Garden

This year, Earth Day is on April 22nd. I can't think of a better way to celebrate than to grow your own vegetable garden to start a more sustainable lifestyle. Last year when we started gardening, we definitely grew the $64 tomato. It's because we were ambitious with our gardening plans. A lot of the start up costs (over $1,000) were for our gardening fence, gardening tools, soil, compost and we spent over $200 in vegetable seeds and perennial plants like rhubarb, grapevines, and berry bushes.

It got me thinking about what I could do to reduce our spending costs this year.  Afterall, you don't need a lot of money to grow your own food.

Here are some things we did this year to reduce our garden spending.

1. Trade seeds with other gardeners
We only bought $61 in seeds and perennial plants this year.  While this sounds like a lot of money, to be truthful, $35 of that budget was spent on horseradish roots.  Since horseradish is a perennial, it'll grow year after year, so that $35 will pay for itself!  I am so excited about growing horseradish this year, and it's a good idea to buy perennials because it comes back, so the cost is only once.  However, I don't need that many of the same type of seeds, so I traded them with other gardeners.  Some seed packets contain 200 seeds, I definitely do not have space for 200 of the same plant.  Therefore, I posted on this blog about seed exchanges and on Facebook and Twitter.  I got a lot of great responses, and was able to trade my seeds for Canteloupe Melon, Thyme, Heirloom Tomatoes, Basil, Peppers, Eggplant, Cucumbers, Lettuce, Carrots, Okra, Brussel Sprouts, and Cauliflower. I also made my own seed packets!
2. Sign Up for Free Seeds
Mike the Gardener has a seed of the month club.  You can sign-up for membership for pennies a day, and every month, Mike will send you a variety of seeds.  It's like your birthday everyday.  And speaking of birthdays, Mike the Gardener also has a birthday club.  It's free to sign-up and on your birthday, he'll send you two free seeds.  This is what the hubs got on his birthday last week.  Mike the Gardener sent him scallions and spinach.
3. Recycle
We decided this year to recycle as many food containers as we can to use as seedling pots.  Don't buy plant pots when you can get them for free! Here's my seed starting table.  You see all those little white containers?  They are all pudding containers that my husband takes to work.  Yes, he eats a lot of pudding. LOL  You'll also see mixed in butter containers, yogurt containers, and even paper towel rolls which are great to use as "pots" since they biodegrade into the ground.
4. Compost
I can't tell you enough how easy composting is and how beneficial it is to your plants.  We made this free compost bin out of recycled wooden pallets. We compost all of the organic materials in our house, egg shells, coffee grounds, veggie scraps, you name it. And we have no shortage of leaves around the property.  A few months of composting green and browns produces this black gold, we save money by not buying compost at the store.  Gorgeous isn't it? It's so dark and rich!  The plants love it.
5. Install a Rain Barrel
Last year, we spent a ridiculous amount of money watering the plants with the garden hose.  So we installed 2 rain barrels.  Our first water bill was $300 for 3 months, and with the rain barrel installed we reduced our water bill to $130.  Not only are we saving on the water bill, we are conserving water!  The cost of the barrels has more than paid for itself in the amount of money we saved on our water bills.  Not to mention how great we feel for helping the environment by collecting water that is free from the sky to feed our plants.

6. Sign-Up for Contests / Giveaways
Around the gardening blogosphere, it's been all the rage to have "contests & giveaways". If the contest is giving away a gardening product that I believe in, I'll enter as long as it doesn't ask for any personal information.  Through a contest giveaway, I won these organic fungicides and pesticides, and this canning book, which is a great way to preserve our harvests!

And speaking of giveaways, Jan @ Thanks for Today Blog is hosting a contest giveaway, called, the "Gardeners' Sustainable Living Project" to promote sustainable living and Earth Day.  She is giving away a selection of prizes to help you live a more sustainable lifestyle, such as a rain barrel, a composter, gardening tools, gardening magazines, seeds, a whole LOT of gardening related stuff. 
Go here to check it out:  http://thanksfor2day.blogspot.com/2011/03/gardeners-sustainable-living-2011-win.html

This year, for the first time, I'm keeping track with how much we are spending on garden versus how much produce we grow to compare and see if we saved money by growing as much produce as possible, in hopes that we don't grow the $64 tomato ever again!


  1. Lots of great ideas. Good luck with it this year.

  2. Very informative post! It is easy to get carried away in the beginning, but many of the initial gardening purchases can be used for many years to follow. Rain barrel is a great idea. I have a well and forget how expensive it is to pay for water.

  3. Fantastic post! I've been gardening about 5 years now and we are finally recouping all the initial costs involved. You are right about those $64 tomatoes, we've all been there. But now, I have my raised beds, a continual compost bin to top them off with, a gazillion assorted broken trellisses and bamboo poles to use for stakes, or have hubby rebuild into new trellisses, LOL, and plenty of seeds so the orders are only to replenish what is missing and maybe a couple to try for fun. Lots of people balk at the initial cost of setting up, but the exchange the first couple of years for a lifetime's worth of homegrown produce, exercise, sunshine, nutrition and sense of accomplishment can't be beat, it's actually quite a deal :) Happy Gardening!

  4. In any new venture, it's usually expensive starting out. But over time, you'll start to reap in an abundance without much cost.

  5. If your balance was -$64 last year, I predict a net profit of twice that much this year! Lots of good work going on there.

  6. Now I feel bad at the $400 in soil I need to bring in!!

  7. even though gardening seems expensive at times, you need to look at the other advantages too. think of the gym membership you save since you can use gardening as your exercise. Think of the medical costs you save by becoming healthier. Oh theres lots more, I just keep looking for excuses to keep going on my favourite hobby.

  8. I absolutely LOVE your seed starting table! It shows that you are truly passionate about gardening - it rules!

    Never heard of mike the gardener - but I am signing up right now.

    Don't forget about wintersown.org - they are my newly founded favorite place!

    Love your seed packets too. They are so cute! Looking forward to more posts from you - your blog is my favorite! :)

  9. Great post. I do think that there are some start-up capital costs involved in gardening but if you stick to it, they amortize over a period of years.

  10. Love this- and I've totally had a 64 dollar tomato myself! But- the journey is the reward, right?

  11. You have some great ideas here. I was wondering how much horseradish you bought, though. Did you know it spreads? You may want to put some kind of barrier down around your horseradish patch to keep it in check.

    I am so ready to eat fresh veggies from the garden!

  12. Hi Meems, am I ever impressed after reading your post! I clicked on your links and read your other posts, too...wow, you have really been doing great stuff up there in the city;-) Love your garden inside your wonderful fence, and find your container for composting very practical & creative! I am composting with an actual container (like one in my giveaway) and am interested to see how it will do over time. So far I've been putting stuff in but getting nothing out, yet. Last year we just had a pile in the back of the yard near the fence. The container is nice because it 'tumbles' and we are keeping it closer to the house for easy access. And now, I'm getting a rainbarrel too...I'm excited because we've never had one. We may end up having to get several, and use connecters to put them together. Thank you for joining my project and linking to it...you are the queen of veggies...it looks great!

  13. Loved your post, and wow - your seed-starting table is serious business! The initial expense of starting a vegetable garden can be serious business too. I've found that over time it more than pays for itself, and especially if you're growing organically and comparing the cost of your home-grown veggies to the cost of organic store-bought. Growing heirlooms and saving some of the seeds is another great way to save money in the vegetable garden. I never used to save seeds. Now I do, and it's saving money as well as providing seeds for swaps so I get to try out new stuff for free!

  14. I admire your worthy commitment to be a better steward of our earth. I share your desire to see our Earth protected and cared for and have been trying to be a better steward myself. I still have a lot to learn and appreciated your post. Education is the key. Teaching each other is a key element in spreading awareness.


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