This story was originally published in April 2019.
Gardening season is upon us. In all the excitement, gardeners often wind up spending much more money on gardening supplies than they planned. This is especially ironic if you are already gardening to save money, especially on groceries.
However, a few conscious choices will actually help you save money on gardening supplies. Here are our tips, with insights from some of our favorite bloggers and homesteaders.
Start seeds from scratch
Some gardeners already start your seedlings indoors before the last frost date, but if you don’t, you should start. Not only does it give you control of your growing methods and give you a wider variety of what you can grow, but it also helps you save money.
Be cognizant of plants that you can sow directly as well, so you are not spending money on transplants that are easier and cheaper to plant on your own from seed.
“Transplants typically cost $2 [to] $5 apiece, and most seed packets come with a minimum of 25 seeds for $3,” said Raederle Clay, manager of Wind’s Four Corners Farms and a homesteader based in Pocatello, Idaho. “For things you can direct sow, like lettuce and peas do. They are so not worth buying transplants for.”
Create seedling pots from newspaper
If you already pay for a newspaper subscription, take those dollars twice as far by making pots for your seedlings out of upcycled newspaper.
Newspaper is a great material for seedlings because it can be easily peeled away or directly transplanted, where it will break down in the soil as your seedling grows in the ground. Best of all, it will help you reduce plastic use in your garden.
Save and swap seeds
Often we get so excited at the beginning of the gardening season that we buy lots of different seeds. Seed packets aren’t expensive individually, but it can wind up costing you in the long run. If you have seed packets leftover from last year, test your seeds to see if they are viable for the new planting season.
You can also swap seeds with fellow gardeners to help you both have more diverse gardens.
“Although at around $2 per packet, seeds don’t seem very expensive, they can add up,” said Merissa Alink, homesteader and blogger at Little House Living. “Participating in some kind of seed or plant swap can help bring this cost down since you only will need to plant a few varieties and can swap for the rest.”
Future planning can also help. When you learn how to save seeds from your plants this year (and dry them properly), you can use them next year.
Make your own compost
Quality compost is a game-changer for your garden. You can buy bags of compost, but it is much easier to make your own compost with kitchen scraps (the range of things you can compost may even surprise you).
“I compost kitchen scraps to go back into the garden,” Wolff said. “I wasn’t buying commercial fertilizer.”
Making your own compost will not only save you money, but it will also help you reduce waste in your kitchen. Compostable materials like eggshells and coffee grounds also have many other uses around your garden or homestead.
Buy quality tools
Sometimes spending a little more upfront will save you in the long run, especially on tools. If you are an avid gardener and know you will keep gardening from season to season, invest in high quality tools to save you the hassle — and cost — of having to replace your tools year to year.
“I buy quality, heavy-duty tools made out of metal, and not wood, For example, all of my shovels and rakes and trowels are all metal,” said Lauren Dibble, homesteader and blogger at Hillsborough Homesteading. “By spending a little extra at the beginning, I’m not replacing my tools every year.”
In order to get the best price on quality tools, check several different stores and try buying at the end of the season when garden supply stores need to move their inventory for next year.
“For tools and supplies, shop around,” Clay said. “Most businesses have websites you can browse to see if they have what you need.”
If you are going to make that investment, though, you also have to maintain it. Be sure to clean and care for your tools so they stay pristine from season to season.
“I took good care of my tools,” Wolff said. “Make sure they’re all clean and wipe them down with oil.”
Find free resources
Building infrastructure for your garden can cost you but there are ways to save. Try to find free or repurposed materials. Wolff suggests looking on Facebook Marketplace, checking your regional paper for free listings or talking to your neighbors and local businesses the good old fashioned way.
“We had a local brewery down the street and they would just put out pallets. We made an outdoor compost bin out of free pallets,” Wolff said. “There are a lot of resources if you just look around.”
You can also upcycle materials you have around your house for your garden. For example, you can start seedlings in an upcycled egg carton or toilet paper rolls. Cardboard boxes can be used to make container gardens, weed barriers or added to compost.
“My husband made me a veggie hod out of scrap lumber,” Wolff said. “It really cost us nothing to make because we were using scrap stuff. It was a great way to collect vegetables out of the garden.”
Just make sure to be careful with materials like rubber tires or painted wood that could contain carcinogenic materials that may leach into your garden.
Gardening does not have to be an expensive hobby. With a little planning and strategizing, you can easily save money on gardening supplies this spring.