7 Frugal Gardening Tips for Beginners

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.


By , on Mar 31, 2009
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. Grannie Annie:

    Square Foot gardening is amazing – I have 3 little 4’X4′ beds – not a lot of space – and I can nearly fill my freezer each summer. The real key is to add some vertical trellis space – simple & inexpensive. Beans, Peas, Cukes – huge harvests if they have space to grow UP. I ask the neighbors to dump their heavy spring grass mowings in my yard and I have wonderful free mulch for the beds that last the whole summer and then are just turned into the beds in the fall.

  2. Garden Mad:

    This post made me feel very itchy to get out there and start my vegetable garden going and very guilty that I had not done so a bit earlier. I save all the plastic packing that comes throughout the year and piece it together (only big bits!) to make covers for the growing seedlings if a late frost is threatened. I also use big pots upturned over the plants. I have containers near the back door for salads and herbs as that is as far as I am prepared to walk when I am in the middle of cooking when I remember I need some herbs.

  3. I have heard that Burpee seeds is doing FANTASTIC business in this recession. I will probably plant tomatoes and herbs, and maybe beans this year. we’ll see. I don’t have much of a yard.

  4. Good post– I am chomping at the bit to get the vegetable garden going. The last two weekends have been setup weekends.

    As for container gardening– I highly recommend it. It allows for experimentation, mobility, and space conservation. Just be sure to use potting soil for the containers . . .

  5. Kim:

    I have just built some DIY Earth Boxes. They are self-watering container Gardens. I built them for less than $10, but the real Earth Boxes retail for over $50! I also about 50 gal of soil from the next-door neighboring landscape business. When I told him what I was wanting to plant this year, he suggested the DIY earth boxes, and set aside some soil for me, very frugal indeed.

  6. Marci:

    Maybe it’s time to rerun the frugal gardening blog :)

    You gave a lot of good advice, and the best, I think, is start small, then add to it year by year, as you see what works and doesn’t work, and what you would like to add. Mine is in that 3rd year now of a 5 year plan on the little city lot, and a lot of the more permanent edible landscaping beds are going in now…well, soon…if it ever quits raining up here! The aronia berries, rhubarb and strawberries got moved to a permanent corner last fall, and now the asparagus (in buckets now), overwintered kale, and new swiss chard will be going into the permanent landscaping beds. I’ll be bringing in the last of the brussel sprouts this week – sorry to see that end!

    So nice, even in the dreary winter here to be able to go out and bring in fresh greens :)

    Good luck with the containers! Next month I’m pouring my 30×8 patio under the roof overhang and will be getting started on pots/containers also! Luckily I work for a recycling outfit, and can find scads of containers to use. I’m using refrigerator veggie bins for mini greenhouses, as well as for starting trays.

  7. Trudy G.:

    Just finished reading Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening book. It has some great ideas and was a wealth of information. I plan to incorporate some of his ideas into my garden this year. I have a 40′ x 40′ garden that I plant veggies for freezing and canning so anything that can cut down on the weeding is great!

  8. Jack:

    Thanks for the idea. I think we need to add a compost bucket next to our seed bucket.

  9. Kate:

    I’m hoping I can start a victory garden sometime next year, after I get married and move (I’ll be in a different zone, back to the one I’m comfortable in!). Hopefully we’ll have the homestead of our dreams and I’ll have enough space to till a garden spot, but if not, a square foot garden would do well, too! In addition to Bartholemew’s book, I’d recommend the gardening section of Country Wisdom and Know-How. It’s a great start for someone looking to start a garden, with various ways to start one (container vs. square foot vs. row, for example) as well as growing tips, zone tips and more. It’s a little kitschy, but I like it. There’s also a ‘supplement,’ the Country Wisdom Almanac, that has related tips and tricks for gardeners, beginners and veterans.

    What types of containers will you use this year? I’m curious whether others use multi-plant containers or individual containers per plant.

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