Yesterday afternoon was sunny, and I had some free time, so I decided to start our garden. It still gets a little cold at night, but our new house has a greenhouse-like area in the back of one of our sheds that I can use to protect the plants on super cold nights.

I veered away from the square foot garden this year, because I don’t have a great place for a square foot garden, without planting it in the middle of the kids’ play area. However, I do have a 66 foot deck that gets plenty of sun, so I’m planting a container garden on my deck.

If you’re getting ready to start your garden, there are a few steps you can take to make it less expensive.

Hit the Library. If it’s your first year gardening, go to the library and pick up some gardening books. My favorite is Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening. A square foot garden is easy to set up and maintain, which is why I like it so much. You can pretty much use the same methods in a container garden, too.

By reading information on gardening, you’ll be more confident about your gardening abilities.

Talk to Fellow Gardeners. For the last couple of months, I’ve been talking to gardeners that I know at church. Not to get anything from them, but to learn from them. What I found, though, is that fellow gardeners love to share, both information and supplies. Now I know who to turn to when I have a gardening problem. And as a bonus, one of my friends gave me some containers she wasn’t using! Friends can also be a good source of plant cuttings, if you are adept at starting new plants from cuttings. I’m not.

Learn to Compost. Compost makes great fertilizer, and if you make your own, it’s free! I’ve been saying for a year that I’m going to learn to compost, and I’ve finally begun. We have the beginning of a compost pile in our backyard. Eventually I’d like to try a neater method than the “compost pile,” but this is working for us right now.

Save Extra Seeds. Mel Bartholomew talks about this in Square Foot Gardening. If you keep your seeds in a dry, cool place (such as in a jar in the refrigerator), they will still be usable next year. By using the same packet of seeds for two or three years, you can really cut your seed budget in the years to come.

Start Small. If this is your first garden, don’t overdo it. It’s better to have a small, successful crop than to feel overwhelmed and quit on your gardening project. When I first started, I grew a few tomato plants. The next year I added strawberries and some beans. Last year I grew about 8 different vegetables. And this year I’m up to about 12. Learning to garden is a process, so go slow.

Watch the Weather. There’s nothing worse than losing your newly planted crops to a bad frost. Check the weather daily, and if there’s danger of frost, cover your plants. Or if you have a container garden, consider moving them inside.

Enjoy Your Garden. Gardening can be a great way to reduce stress as well as provide your family with tasty vegetables. I like to get the kids involved and make our garden a family project. It’s inexpensive and fulfilling to know we’re eating food that we grew from seed to maturity!

Do you have any frugal gardening tips? I’d love to hear them!

Photo by sylvar.