If the cost of garden supplies is the only factor holding you back from getting some food growing at home, then look no further, as this is a one-stop crop of money-saving solutions for the gardener-to-be. Now is the time to start gardening and save cash in both getting started growing and the ultimate result of reduced grocery bills.
Despite popular practice, building a fertile garden doesn’t require buying loads of expensive planters, compost, seeds, seedling trays, garden mulch, and organic fertilizers. The ingredients to make all of these things are available either for free or pittance and the methods for making them are super simple.
Beyond just the cost, though, the necessity for us — humankind — to begin cycling our waste into useful products, as opposed to landfills and cesspits, may be amongst the most important changes we can make for the good of the planet. It saves dwindling resources, preserves existing ecosystems and enhances our own already established spaces.
The Neighbors’ Place
Remember: it’s not stealing if they want you to take it. Neighbors may think you are crazy, but many of them are quite happy to watch the show, especially if they know their effort will result in a better environment and perhaps some free produce. They can be a great source of biomass in the form of yard debris and kitchen scraps. They might have old tools, plant pots or even piles of soil from forgotten garden projects. In ideal situations, some neighbors have even been known to donate pieces of their yard in exchange for portions of the harvest they produce or lawn maintenance. The best part is that all of these resources are nearby and increase community connections.
The Café Down on the Corner
Luckily for the world, the power of compost is taking hold, and in addition to more ecological materials, more and more restaurants are making productive use of the kitchen scraps. The savvy home gardener can get in on this wave as well. Not only can local coffee houses (spent grounds are amazing) and eateries help with compost production, but they are also a great source of useful byproducts, such as industrial-sized cans for planters (think vertically), food-grade plastic buckets for garden work and cardboard for raised sheet mulch garden beds. Usually, it only takes the gumption to ask, and small business owners will be happy to have someone collect the garbage for a good cause.
Local Lawn Care and Tree Trimming Businesses
Lawn care businesses, in general, is still a little behind on the recycling biomass for the good of the planet, so it doesn’t hurt to hit them up for an abundance of organic material that can be used to create new soil for your garden. Tree trimmers are the same. They have such an abundance of wood material — good for bordering raised beds, hugelkultur gardens, and creating beneficial wildlife habitats — that they are often not only willing to give away but deliver it for free. Finding verified chemical-free biomass would be one step further into low-cost gardening bliss.
Saw Mills and Carpentry Sites
Sawdust, wood shavings, wood chips, and wood scraps are all very useful in the garden. The first three listed can all be used for effective and attractive garden mulches (though some types of wood, some would say, should only be used sparingly) and/or creating productive, water-harvesting pathways instead using more concrete. Wood scraps can be utilized for building eclectic planters or making raised garden borders, and constructing whatever else the creative cultivator’s mind can fathom. Typically, these items are unwanted and happily gotten rid of.
Concluding Construction Sites
Constructions sites, some of the most wasteful places on the planet, are great for scavenging used lumber, plastic sheeting, screening, tarps, cardboards boxes, nails/screws/fasteners, bits of pipe, plywood, gravel, and all manner of material — maybe even some rain harvesting barrels — that can be used by someone to construct grow boxes, greenhouses, work tables and the many other useful elements an avid gardener might like to have. With a little imagination, all of that garbage can be creatively combined to make what appears to be a high-dollar, food-producing operation.
Plant Nurseries and Their Parking Lots
It seems strange, as they are in the business of selling gardening material, but the world has become wasteful and plant nurseries are included in this modern misstep. Often they get rid of poorly plants, as no one will want them, or they’ll have a box of used pots that, though still completely functional, look a little too worse for wear. Check around the dumpster for what’s available. Abandoned lots and parking lots are also good resources for edible weeds that can be introduced to the garden, as well as things like landscaping rocks or chunks of concrete.
Farmers’ Markets and Seed Exchanges
Getting in good with the folks who are a little further along is never a bad idea. Since you’re likely visiting the farmers’ markets anyway, take advantage of being there and inquire as to whether the spoiled produce or organic scraps might be scavenged for seeds or gathered for a new compost bin. This will likely come free, or it would be even better to offer the local farmer a token or two for the gesture. As well, seed exchanges often give away, trade or sell seeds cheaply, and they are a great place to pick up on what’s working well locally.
Your Own Kitchen Pantry
While we’ve all likely paid for what’s in the kitchen pantry, that was long ago and not for garden fodder. Now, it’s a great spot to raid for garden goodies. Most pantries have enough dried legumes, whole spices, and fruit and vegetable scraps to provide enough plants to fill a garden, no problem. It’s great to compost the compostable, but don’t forget that the seeds for many of your favorite plant-based foods are already on-site and ready to be grown.
It takes some work to begin these cycles, but once they are in place, the gardening world is wide open. With an abundance of biomass, compost and landscaping materials, a wasteful yard can quickly become an edible lawn for next to nothing and a few productive hours on the weekends. When the produce starts rolling, providing a little payback to those who pitched in will go a long way in saying thanks.
Lead image source: Jennifer C./Flickr