Gardening To Save Money? Here’s What You Need To Know
After my son Erik and I spent a small fortune on plants last year, I’m committed to gardening to save money this year. I tend to get really excited about my garden when it finally starts feeling like spring, but my enthusiasm tends to get expensive (especially when my equally impulsive eldest son is there egging me on!)
In addition to the money-saving initiative of starting seeds indoors, I knew there had to be other things I could do to help save myself some money. So I did a bit of research, and came up with a few tips gardeners can use to turn the cheapest supplies into a more profitable garden.
Can You Really Save Money By Gardening?
According to Veggie Knowledge, the benefits to growing your own food go way beyond simple dollars and cents. But if you’re gardening primarily as a way to save money, it’s crucial to keep your costs low and take advantage of free and low-cost resources (more on that shortly!)
But it’s not just about your startup costs either — here are couple of other factors to consider:
- Gardening takes a lot of time, and your time is valuable! I love spending time in my garden, but if you don’t, you may never feel like gardening is worth the time and effort it requires.
- You’ll never make money gardening if you don’t eat what you grow! Grow things you like to eat, and when you have a surplus, use methods like freezing, canning, and dehydrating to preserve your harvest.
What Are The Best Vegetables To Grow To Save Money?
The answer to this question depends on what your family likes to eat and the size of your garden, but generally speaking, tomatoes, herbs, and greens will save you the most money. Heirloom tomatoes are always pricey, and a single plant can yield dozens of them per season!
As far as herbs and greens go, they’re bound to save you money if you only cut off a handful of leaves at a time and leave the plant to continue growing. You can do this with lettuce, chard, and spinach too!
4 Smart Ways To Save Money On Gardening
1. Take Advantage Of Free Soil Amendments
There are dozens of amend or improve your garden soil, like the compost and manure you can purchase in large bags at any garden center or home improvement store. But many people aren’t aware that there are other rich, organic materials out there that most people are just throwing away!
Used coffee grounds make a great soil amendment, as coffee grounds are rich in important nutrients like phosphorus and magnesium that help plants grow. (Not much of a coffee drinker? Check your local Starbucks — many stores offer bags of used grounds to gardeners for free! If you don’t see any out on display, ask a barista if they have any on hand.)
Leaves are also a surprisingly good organic soil amendment, and they’re even easier to find than used coffee grounds! When fall comes around, gather a few bags of leaves to keep until spring so you can dig them into your garden beds. Shredding the leaves before adding them to the soil will help them break down faster, and you can easily shred leaves by going over them with your lawnmower. Leaves are one of my favorite cheap soil amendments — it doesn’t get any cheaper than free!
2. Find Free (Or Almost Free) Seeds And Seedlings
You can save a lot of money by taking advantage of free or inexpensive seeds and seedings. They aren’t difficult to find, if you know where to look, and it’s one of the best money-saving gardening ideas for spring.
For free seeds, check to see if there are any seed libraries in your community. You can take and use the seeds for free, then “return” the seeds at the end of the season by letting one or two of the plants go to seed. (Some seed libraries don’t even require that much — they just let you take the seeds you want!)
Plant sales can be another source of affordable plants. These events are often held at nurseries, arboretums, and botanical gardens, and can be a great way to get your hands on heirloom fruit and vegetable starts and hard-to-find cultivars. For the best deals at plant sales, wait until they’re almost over — you can often haggle over the remaining plants and make off like a bandit!
If you’re really lucky, you may be able to find plant giveaways hosted by local nurseries or gardening clubs. Get on the email list for nearby nurseries and garden societies so you don’t miss out on great opportunities like these.
3. Save On Tools And Supplies
Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that builds affordable housing, has a chain of stores called Habitat for Humanity ReStore that can be a great place to find discounted gardening supplies!
ReStores are like the thrift store version of a home improvement store — you can find building, landscaping, and gardening supplies at great prices, and because the items are donated, all your money goes to support Habitat for Humanity. Not only are you getting a great deal, but you’re helping out others! That’s my kind of win-win.
Aside from ReStores, other sources of affordable gardening supplies could include your local thrift store, garage sales, and even dollar stores.
4. Save Your Seeds
For about 12,000 years of human history, the only way you could ensure you’d have plants to grow next season was to collect and save its seeds. But since the emergence of commercial seed companies in the 1950s, it has become increasingly convenient to just buy seed packets as you need them, but seed saving is still the most cost-effective way to garden!
All plants have seeds, but some are easier to collect and save than others. Most varieties of squash have large, sturdy seeds that are easy to save, while tomato seeds are trickier because they’re small and slippery. Herbs and greens, on the other hand, have to be left in the ground long enough to send out a flowering stalk from which seeds can be harvested.
While the method for collecting seeds will differ, the process of saving them is much the same — you rinse the seeds, allow them to dry in a shady location for several days, then store the dry seeds in envelopes or bags until they’re needed. If you’re gardening to save money, saving your seeds is definitely the way to go!
What’s your best tip for saving money on gardening?
How To Save Money On Gardening
- Use free soil amendments such as leaves and coffee grounds.
- Find free or almost free seeds and seedlings by looking for seed libraries, plant sales, and plant giveaways in your area,
- Save on tools and supplies at places like the Habitat For Humanity ReStore, thrift stores, yard sales, and dollar stores.
- Save your own seeds for next year. Get a supply of heirloom seeds to start, and you can save them year after year.