5 simple ways I save money on gardening

save money on gardeningRaising a garden has many benefits. Not only do you experience the fresh air and peaceful time outdoors, you enjoy fresh, healthy, tasty food right from your own backyard. It’s great for kids too – it’s fun to learn how plants grow, where food comes from, and best of all, they can dig in the dirt. 🙂

Raising a garden can save you money too. At our house, we raise enough fruit and veggies to eat during the warmer months and we freeze and can some for later. We’re still enjoying salsa we made last July – and it’s February!

Though growing some of your own food can save you money, gardening can also cost money. If you aren’t careful, you can end up spending just as much (or more) on gardening supplies as you would buying at the local farmer’s market. But, it is possible to have a garden without breaking the bank. Here are a few of the major ways I save on gardening.

5 ways I save on gardening

1. Start plants from seed or bare root

I haven’t purchased a single seedling from the nursery in two years. Planting from seed (or bare root for fruit plants) and raising my own seedlings to transplant into the garden is where I realize the most savings.

This is the grow light I use

Take tomatoes for example. I can purchase a decent sized tomato plant in May at the local garden center for $3.98. If I purchase 10 plants, my total cost is $39.80. On the other hand, I can purchase a packet of tomato seeds (around 30 seeds) for $1.69.* Savings? $38.11. And that’s just for tomatoes, that doesn’t include the savings on other plants.

I start my plants in my sunroom at the beginning of March (I’m in Zone 4). The seedlings grow in an extra large, wire dog kennel with two shelves in it and a grow light on top. Why? I have two cats. I learned the hard way that cats love pepper seedlings.

Last year’s seedlings in the dog kennel

*I also use seeds from last year. When I don’t use all the seeds in a packet, I put them in a sealed container in the fridge. The seeds are generally fine for use the next year.

2. Mulch

I’m still trying to perfect my mulching method. Two years ago, I used straw – which only lasted about a month before the weeds started to sprout. Apparently, I didn’t get very clean straw, so it just caused more problems.

Then I used an organic compost/mulch that I loved, but I haven’t ever found it again. It had just enough larger pieces to keep the weeds down, but it was fine enough to break down well and add nutrients to the soil.

Last year, I used grass clippings from the lawn. Since we don’t put chemicals on our lawn, there is no harm in using the grass clippings in the vegetable garden. This worked really well – and it’s free! Not only did it keep the weeds down, it kept the soil moist so we didn’t have to water as often. Win-win.

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Last year’s potatoes, mulched with grass clippings

3. Plant varieties I know we will eat

I learned this lesson the hard way. We don’t like kohlrabi and we don’t need 6 different varieties of kale. Last year, I planted more of our favorites and less of the things we don’t eat as often to keep waste down.

4. Plant twice (and succession planting)

You don’t have to plant once in the spring and be done with it. Several vegetable plants mature within 60 days – if you rotate crops and plan ahead, you can get two rounds of some types of vegetables each season.

There is rarely an empty space in my garden. For example, once I harvest the green beans at the end of June, I plant carrots for fall. And once the peas are done, I plant pole green beans in their place.

I’ve also used succession planting. Succession planting just means spreading out planting times (by a week or so), so you don’t have to harvest all of one crop at once. For example, if you want the green bean harvest to be spread out, plant a few seeds, then plant a few more in a week, and so on. This is a great way to make sure you eat your harvest, particularly if you don’t want to freeze or can the extra.

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5. Plant fruit trees and bushes

We have a miniature “orchard” we planted when we moved to our house three years ago. Though we haven’t harvested anything yet, in another year, we will have apples and pears. We also planted bare root blueberry bushes in the landscaping around the house. They are beautiful in the fall and are each supposed to produce 5 pounds of fruit at maturity.DSC_0029 (2)

Although there is some upfront cost with the trees and bushes, they’ll keep producing year after year. We have less than $200 in our trees and bushes, but they will more than pay for themselves in the years ahead.

How could I do better?

Rain barrel

Our water bill is extraordinarily high. We are on rural water and to say it’s expensive is an understatement. I don’t water the garden every day but, when it’s hot and dry, our water bill reflects it.

We’ve discussed a rain barrel system, as that would save us on our water costs, but since our garden is so far away from the house, we’d have to rig a system for getting the water out there. After doing some back of the napkin figures, the rain barrel system would take a few years to pay off. For now, it’s on the back burner.


While I do compost some plants/food scraps directly into the garden, I don’t have a bin set up specifically for this purpose. This is definitely something I need to work on, as it would provide great fertilizer and mulch for the garden. (If your interested in starting your own compost, check out this great article!)

Do you garden? How do you save money?


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26 thoughts on “5 simple ways I save money on gardening

  1. Have found grass to be the best solution as well.

    Garden fresh potatoes can’t be beat! Need to clean the garden out this weekend and start prepping!

    1. I didn’t care for the russets last year, but the white and red potatoes were amazing!!! I started my seedlings last week. Can’t wait to dig in the dirt! 🙂

  2. Wow your garden looks beautiful. I only have a small space so I can only grow so much in a raised bed. I’ve successfully grown tomatoes and squash, but not much else. 🙂 I do want to get better at it and I’d probably just buy the tomato plant since I can only get a couple. As far as mulch? My city provides FREE mulch by our recycling center. Pretty cool. I also want to start composting.

    1. Thanks, Tonya! A raised bed is great. Even if you don’t get a ton of produce, the taste of homegrown veggies just can’t be beat. 🙂 And if you’re just planting a couple of plants, and have limited space, buying your seedlings won’t break the bank. No free mulch to be found around here! You’re lucky to have that.

  3. You have me excited now, the growing season is coming!!

    I’m another fan of the grass clippings. I have a bagger on my mower and usually mulch part of the garden after I mow.

    Our blueberry bushes puts out a lot of berries, but the birds always take them just before they’re ripe enough for us. They need a net, but I just haven’t bothered.

    We also get a good bit of compost from our chickens. I’ll probably start working it into the soil soon 🙂

    1. I’m excited too! We don’t have a bagger – so lots of raking! But, the tallest grass is right by the garden so it’s not a big deal. Though a bagger would save time.

      We have a while before we get blueberries. A net will definitely help with the birds.

      Oh, the chickens. You know I’m jealous of your chickens for so many reasons… 🙂

  4. What is the opposite of a green thumb? That is what I have.

    My garden has apple, orange, grapefruit and lemon trees, and they seem to flourish despite me, so we benefit from that (they came with the house, so I can’t take credit for them).

    1. I don’t have a green thumb either, Mrs. BITA! 🙂 I’m still learning. I love that you have the citrus trees. That’s what I like about the trees and bushes – all they need is a little trim and check now and then, otherwise they take care of themselves.

  5. The grass idea sounds great! I’ll have to try it! I tried putting in a garden a couple times, but my neighbors end up having so much extra that I end up with quite a bit for free. I have had fun doing the canning process though. I’ve made my own spaghetti sauce but I’m still working on it. We have a small patch of strawberries that we got from one of the neighbors as well that produce a little bit, but should grow each year! Sounds like you have a major win getting the whole family involved too!

    1. Hey, can’t argue with free produce from neighbors! 🙂 I like canning in the beginning of canning season, but do tire of it quickly. I found a recipe for freezing tomatoes after roasting them with onion, garlic and fresh basil last year – loved it so much I might not can any tomatoes this year (though I will can salsa). Your strawberries will spread like weeds – just wait! And then you can make homemade jam. There’s nothing better than homemade strawberry jam.

  6. We have a garden about 15x 10 feet. So moderate size. I don’t have the water issues as we are on a well. But in our case our problem is the outdoor animals. Deer, groundhogs and squirrel love our garden. We’re still experimenting, right now it is surrounded by a three foot fence and things deer like are on the inside. However I’m not sure it’s enough.

    We start our garden in egg cartons in our sun room, no cage as my kat doesn’t seem to notice, we collect the egg cartons throughout the year. Mulch is usually cardboard boxes down the rows. You have to be careful here as some cardboard is treated and not safe for gardens.

    1. That’s a good size garden! We would have critter problems too, but we put a tall fence around it and chicken wire going into the ground about a foot to keep out the diggers. It was a pretty big start up cost though, at around $500. But it will last for years. We have used a taller plastic fencing that worked too and it was around $50.

      The egg cartons are a great idea! I wish my cats didn’t notice the plants, but they are obsessed for some reason. Thanks, FTF! 🙂

  7. Awesome garden, Amanda!

    I don’t have much space in my apartment, so I haven’t had the space to start a garden. However, I think once I move into a proper house, I’ll start gardening and raising some farm animals (chickens!). It’s also a great way to reduce on the grocery bill!

    1. Thank you! Gardening and chickens does reduce the grocery bill – I’d love to have chickens! 🙂

  8. Ryan

    That is a nice looking garden, Amanda. I am hoping to expand mine this year.

    Rain barrels can help a ton with keeping the water bill down. It takes very little rainfall to fill them up, and it seems like they don’t empty very fast. I’m hoping to add a timer valve on mine this year to have it self-water the plants at dusk and dawn.

    If you need to trench a water line from your house to the garden, let me know, and you can borrow my trencher.

    1. Thanks so much, Ryan! Sounds like you have an amazing rain barrel system…automatic watering at dawn and dusk sounds great. And thanks for offering to let me borrow your trencher. 🙂 I think if/when we get the rain barrels set up, we would need to use one. I may experiment with just one barrel this year for watering around the house and expand from there.

  9. I like your idea of succession planting Amanda, that is a great idea! I never thought about that. It makes perfect sense. This year I just completed working on the front yard flower beds. Now I will be focusing on produce in the backyard.

    1. Thanks, Michael! Succession planting works really well if you want to spread out the harvest and have just enough to eat. I do this with carrots and green beans – and it works well for peas too. Good luck with the vegetable garden. Would love to read about it.

  10. Gardening is hard to do without a greenhouse in my area. While the money savings is nice, I wish we had a garden for another reason: work. My kids don’t have many opportunities to labor and a garden work be great for that. I had to remove rocks from my dad’s garden growing up. Nothing like hauling buckets of rocks around to teach a kid how to work. The weeding, raking, hoeing, watering, and harvesting are other good jobs for a kid to do as well.

    1. Gardening is definitely hard work! This reminded me of a one day gig my son took on last summer building a landscaping wall. It was the hardest work he ever did in his life. He had the opportunity to continue to work a couple more days, but he declined. I guess a 12 hour day in 100 degree heat lifting heavy concrete was enough for him. 🙂

  11. I just swoon over your garden pictures and your beautiful, open green space. I just bought a little grow light for the herbs I grow in my kitchen window – the light is not great. I planted seeds this spring – some have taken, like my sunflowers, others not so much. I wish I knew why! But still, at less than two bucks for a packet of seeds, I can handle it!

    1. Love that you got a grow light, Linda! 🙂 I planted my seeds 3 weeks ago, and some of them still aren’t up. They’re taking their dear sweet time this year for some reason. But, you’re right, at that price, it’s worth a shot! I can always buy another package.

  12. You have such a beautiful garden!
    We’ve also had pretty good luck saving seeds from our harvest and using them to plant the next year.

    1. Thanks, Julie! 🙂 Saving the seeds works most of the time. My pepper seeds don’t seem to be sprouting so far this year – but I have time to replant if they don’t. I hope they’re just a little slow.

  13. All I wanted in my life is a beautiful garden and a small house away from the city. Enjoying in the garden with small kids is awesome feeling and connection with nature is a beautiful thing.

    1. We have similar desires, it seems, Lucy! 🙂 I love the connection with nature too. We have just enough space to work outside to our heart’s content, but not too much that the work is overwhelming.

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