By Shannon, Contributing Writer
When my husband and I were working on getting out of debt, we knew a garden would be a valuable way to save money on groceries. However, we didn’t have any extra money to spend on gardening supplies. With two kids two-and-under, we also didn’t have any extra time or energy to spare. We needed to do some very simple gardening on a tight budget!
Even given our constraints our garden was extra-specially blessed that year. For four full months that summer in the relatively short growing season of Eastern Washington, we did not have to purchase one single vegetable. Everything came right out of our back yard!
Plus, we harvested even more in spring and late fall and were able to do some preserving as well.
It was amazing to see how the Lord multiplied our efforts in getting out of debt that year, so much faster than we could ever have imagined. Our simple garden was one piece in the puzzle that helped us become debt free, even on a low income.
If you have tried gardening before, though, you might know how quickly expenses can add up. I love the book title The $64 Tomato. It so perfectly describes how quickly garden costs can get out of control!
Tips for Simple Gardening on a Tight Budget
For this post, I teamed up with my husband (the real green thumb in the family) to bring you all our best budget-friendly tips for creating a simple thriving garden even on a tight budget.
The first thing you’ll need for your garden is sunshine, which thankfully is a free commodity. Just be sure to consider the location of your garden in relation to where the sun will shine during the growing season.
We have used a grow light and greenhouse in the past to start our plants from seeds. It can save money to start your own seeds rather than buying starts or larger plants from a nursery. It’s easier to start from a plant rather than seeds, especially for tomatoes, peppers, and melons.
However, none of this is absolutely necessary if you’re sticking to a tight budget. You can simply wait until the weather is warm enough, and plant your seeds right in the ground for most plants.
Another important thing you’ll need for your garden is, of course, seeds. This year, we found a 20 pack of organic seeds for about $20 at Costco. We include a sinking fund in our family budget all year long so that we’ll be able to make purchases for our garden when it comes time.
If you’re planning to garden on a small scale or just don’t have the money to buy a big pack, you can get organic seeds and starts locally, on Azure Standard, or even Amazon. Don’t be afraid to just try a few. It’s amazing to see how those tiny dry seeds can transform into pounds and pounds of produce!
For a great resource on gardening in small spaces, check out Apartment Gardening by Jami Balmet!
When gardening within the constraints of limited space, time, or funds, focus on choosing the seeds that are easy to grow in your area and the things your family will be most likely to eat.
In our area, zucchini and other summer squash grow pretty much like weeds. Radishes are also easy to grow and have an early harvest. A few other easily grown garden vegetables include snap peas, beans, lettuces, and greens.
Before long, you’ll be able to grab a fast and frugal snack right from your garden!
In our garden, we were blessed to have good soil already available for growing just about everything we could imagine. If you happen to live in a place that doesn’t have good soil or is very rocky, you may need to bring in dirt.
Many people build raised beds, but this does add to the cost of your garden. Instead, try buying a few bags of soil, lay them out in your yard still in the bag. Then simply punch a hole in the top of the bag and plant your seeds or seedlings. Be sure to put some drainage holes in the bottom as well.
You can often find free fill dirt available on Craigslist. If you love the idea of raised beds, contact local businesses and see if they’ll give you their used palettes to use for your garden.
Composting your kitchen scraps can also save money on soil and fertilizer. It does take a few months for compost to be ready to use, but it’s a great practice to start now and could reduce your garbage or sewer bill in the mean time!
There are limitless garden tools available to work the soil, but really very few are needed.
At a minimum all you really need is a hand spade and kitchen shears or an old paring knife for harvesting. A hoe is helpful for larger gardens.
We found these to be surprisingly affordable on Amazon. You might be able to find these at garage sales, estate sales, on Craigslist or at a thrift store for even less. You might even have these at home already.
To make sure your garden gets enough water, especially in the summer months, you’ll need a watering can, or a hose for larger areas.
Watering can be one of the more time consuming parts of gardening, so a sprinkler and timer on your hose is a great upgrade to make if possible.
Simple Gardening on a Tight Budget
Gardening is a fantastic way to save money on healthy, natural produce. If you’ve never tasted a sun-warmed tomato ripe off the vine, then I hope you’ll try your hand at a simple budget-friendly garden this year.
Don’t be afraid to keep it simple. Gather up a few seeds, a hand spade, and a watering pail, and you’re all set to witness a miracle in action!
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