If you are an established gardener, you know that it is easy to spend lots of money on seeds, tools, fertilizer, and other garden goodies. If you are a new gardener and don’t have cash to spare, you might be wondering how to start a garden with no money.
So, how do you start a garden with no money? One way to save money on gardening is to ask friends and neighbors for seeds and cuttings from their gardens. Another way is to look for free sources of fertilizer in your area. Finally, you can find free garden tools online or borrow them in exchange for a share of your harvest.
Of course, having a few dollars on hand to buy used items at thrift stores or discount retailers will help, but you can certainly get started with no money.
How To Start A Garden With No Money
It is easy to spend lots of money to start your garden, but you can often trade your time and resourcefulness for money if you plan ahead.
If you are creative, you can save money on all kinds of garden needs, from plants and soil amendments to tools and pest control.
Let’s start off by looking at how you can save money on plants.
Save Money On Seeds, Seedlings, and Transplants
Seed companies and garden centers charge a lot for seeds and transplants. If you grow annuals, you end up paying these prices every year.
To avoid this, you need to find other sources of seeds and cuttings. Luckily, you can find them all around you.
Ask Friends And Neighbors For Seeds, Cuttings, And Transplants
If you have friends or neighbors who garden, ask them for seeds and cuttings. You can do them the same favor in later years if you end up growing plants that they don’t have yet!
At the end of the growing season, you can collect seeds from tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas, and other garden plants to store them for planting the next spring.
For more information, check out my article on saving seeds.
One important thing to remember is that seeds from hybrid plants may not grow true to the parent plant. This means that a plant grown from the seed of a hybrid plant may not resemble the parent plant, giving you fruit that is much different than what you expected.
For more information, check out my article on the pros and cons of hybrid seeds.
Cuttings are another great way to save money when starting your garden. A cutting from a plant can grow into a full-fledged plant that produces fruit. The best part is that this type of reproduction means that the resulting plant will be identical to the parent plant.
One great way to get cuttings is to ask for the scraps from friends who grow indeterminate tomatoes. Often, they will “top” the tomatoes by cutting off the high growth when they get too tall for their supports.
If you plant these cuttings deep in the soil, they will often root and grow into tomato plants that will bear fruit. For more information, check out my article on why to plant tomato plants deep.
Look To Unconventional Sources For Seeds And Plants
Most people think about buying seeds and plants from seed catalogs and garden centers. However, a little creativity goes a long way to save you some cash on seeds.
For instance, you can plant sprouted potatoes instead of throwing them away or cutting out the eyes.
For more information, check out my article on planting sprouted potatoes.
You can also check online to see if there are any seed banks in your area. They may be able to provide you with some seeds to get you started with your garden.
Finally, you can check online to see if there is a community garden in your area. You may be able to ask the organizers or members if you can trade some seeds or cuttings in exchange for some time spent volunteering and working in the garden.
An added benefit of this method is that you will grow your network while growing your garden, and also learn some skills, tips, and tricks from more experienced gardeners.
For more information, check out my article on how to rent garden space, where I mention community gardens.
For an additional resource, check out this article on plant propagation from the University of Maine.
Save Money On Fertilizer
If you want to improve your soil, you can do it for free if you are resourceful about your sources of fertilizer. One creative way to fertilize your garden is with compost and manure.
Find Free Sources Of Compost And Manure
Compost is decomposed organic matter, including food scraps from the kitchen and yard waste such as grass clippings and leaves. Manure is animal waste and bedding. Both of these can provide nutrients and organic material for your soil.
You can create compost just from the kitchen and yard waste you already have lying around. If you need to make more, you’ll have to put in a little more effort at finding sources.
To find extra food scraps:
- ask for used coffee grounds from a local diner or coffee shop
- see if you can have fruit and vegetable scraps from local restaurants or grocery stores
To find extra yard waste:
- ask landscapers if they want a place to drop off leaves and grass clippings from jobs
- ask friends and family if they would be willing to give you bags of grass or leaves
You can also check with your town and surrounding towns to see if there is a compost site where you can pick up some compost for free.
For more information, check out my article on how to make your own compost.
If you want to use manure in your garden, make sure that it is completely decomposed before applying it to your plants. Otherwise, the salt content can burn your plants!
To find extra manure:
- talk to neighbors or friends that keep chickens, or get your own (sometimes people give away chickens when they move or downsize)
- talk to local dairy farmers or horse boarding stables
For more information, check out my article on where to find manure.
Compost and manure are inexpensive and easy to use for your garden, and they help to improve the quality of your soil as well. However, you may need to think outside the box to supplement specific nutrients.
Use Unconventional Fertilizers
There are many unconventional fertilizers you can use that most people would not think of. You may even have some of them lying around the house.
For example, you can use all of these as fertilizers:
- feathers (from chickens or other birds, they are a great source of slow-release nitrogen!)
- blood meal (if you happen to live near a slaughterhouse, or know someone who hunts, this is another great source of nitrogen!)
- hair (if you know a barber, you might be able to get your hands on this rich source of phosphorus – just make sure it has not been treated with chemicals!)
- burned cucumber skins (as strange as it sounds, these are a great source of both phosphorus and potassium!)
- wood ash (if anyone you know has a fire pit, the ash can provide some phosphorus and potassium to your garden)
There are lots of other possibilities, and once you know what to look for, you can find lots of things to supplement the “big three NPK nutrients” (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) that your plants need to grow.
Just remember that you may want to mix these additives into your compost pile instead of applying them directly to your garden soil. Remember, when it comes to gardening, “waste not, want not”!
Save Money On Garden Tools
You can easily spend a fortune at your local hardware store when starting a garden. However, there is really no need to do this.
You can get some tools for a very low price, or even for free, if you know where to look. Here are a few places to get you started:
- craigslist.org – this website has a “free” section where people will post things they are giving away. Check it frequently to search for free garden tools. To increase your chances, also post to the “wanted” section regarding the tools you are looking for. In the worst case scenario, you can buy some used tools for a low price.
- freecycle.org – this site has tons of free items, and encourages you to offer something in return when you are done with it and no longer need it. You can probably find some garden tools here as well.
- Your local thrift store, dollar store, flea market, church sale, or goodwill may have quality tools that you can pick up for a low price.
Here are some other ideas to source gardening equipment without spending much, if anything:
- Borrow tools from friends or neighbors. You can even offer a share of the produce from your garden in exchange for the use of the tools (shovels, rakes, trowels, knives, etc.)
- Instead of rototilling, practice no-till gardening, and use mulch to prevent weeds.
- Cut rags into strips & use them to tie up tomatoes, etc.
- Use recycled plastic bottles for cloches (to protect young plants from frost), or cut out the bottom of plastic bottles to make cutworm collars for plants.
- Use rocks to build a stone wall around your garden.
- Build a raised bed out of scrap metal and wood from pallets or other sources.
- Control aphids and get rid of ants using items you already have lying around.
Save Money On Gardening Education
There is no need to spend a fortune on books and training to learn how to garden. Although there are some great books out there, you can get many of them for free at a public library, either in person or online.
There are also plenty of YouTube videos to help you to learn the basics of gardening. Of course, there are also free websites (like my website, greenupside.com!) where you can learn about common gardening questions and troubleshoot your problems.
Of course, there are paid courses online, and I have paid for courses myself in the past. Some are as low as $10 or so on sites like Udemy.com, while others may charge $100 or more.
Many of these courses will be well worth the price of admission, so if your garden starts to make you a little money at the farmer’s market, consider reinvesting in yourself to learn more about your hobby.
By now, you have some good ideas for how to start your garden with no money (or very little). Once you get started, you can save seeds and propagate plants from cuttings to help you continue the garden in future years.
I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information.