In October, most people are winding down their gardens and getting ready for winter. However, while some people are tucking away their garden beds until spring, there are those who still have the itch to grow a thing or two! Or if you’re like me, you are looking for a way to grow food and save money.
I’m a beginner gardener, but eager to learn and experiment. I also love fresh tasting flavorful food seasoned with fresh herbs and peppers. There’s nothing like a homemade pizza with fresh basil from your garden sprinkled on top. Or late-season green bell peppers stuffed with flavorful ground beef and rice and baked.
My family loves fresh herbs. At the store, they come with a high price tag. Just 3 ounces of fresh basil is $4! As a cost-saving measure, my husband and I decided to grow the herbs ourselves. I’ll share what we’ve learned as beginner gardeners on a tight budget.
It doesn’t have to be expensive.
While it can be expensive to start and keep up a garden, but it doesn’t have to be. There are a lot of ways to have a small, inexpensive beginner garden that saves you money and provides high-quality ingredients that you’d otherwise have to pay top dollar for in the grocery stores.
I’ve learned several tips and tricks while starting and researching my budget beginner garden. Here are my top 5 tips on how to start a budget beginner garden. These have saved me and my family a lot of money!
1.) Use what you have.
I can’t emphasize this enough. Look around at what you have before you decide that having a garden is too expensive. You may already have everything you need!
Look in your attic, garage, and shed. Use your imagination. What do you have lying around gathering dust that could be used as a planter? Do you already have some mulch or a bag of dirt in your shed that you forgot about? What about seeds? Do you have a few hidden away in a drawer that you could use to plant a late-season garden or an indoor garden?
We used a simple free wooden pallet to create a vertical garden. We put our peppers and herbs in it. It’s right by our back door so we don’t forget to water it. It’s simple, easy, and cheap.
2.) Know your hardiness zone.
This might take a little bit of research, but there’s a handy-dandy interactive map online that will show you your hardiness zone with a click of a button! Just go to the United States Department of Agriculture here and click on your location. It will show you what your “zone” is. After that, look up your particular zone and what plants grow well where you live. Here are some examples from EcoScraps:
- Zones 1-2: (Growing Season: April – September) tomatoes, lettuce, kale, broccoli, asparagus, eggplant
- Zones 3-4: (Growing Season: April – October) tomatoes, lettuce, kale, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, strawberries, eggplant, peas, beans, winter squash, potatoes
- Zones 5-6: (Growing Season: March – October) tomatoes, corn, squash, melons, beans, strawberries, lettuce, other greens
- Zones 7-8: Growing Season: March – November) corn, tomatoes, melons, squash, collard and other leafy greens, carrots, beans, asparagus
- Zones 9-10: (Growing Season: February – November) tomatoes, melons, squash, corn, peppers, sweet potatoes, citrus, peaches, figs, bananas. In the cooler parts of the year, salad greens and sweet peas will grow well
- Zones 11-13: (Growing Season: Year Round) kale, Okinawa spinach, beans, passionfruit, sweet potato, potato, cassava, pineapple, pumpkin, mango, papaya, Thai chili peppers, citrus, bananas, taro
Once you know what grows well, then you know what to plant. Simple!
3.) Watch for sales.
Like everything else, gardening tools and supplies go on sale. And yes, there are coupons for gardening supplies. Keep an eye out for sales papers for your local gardening centers and pick up a few items here and there as they fit into your budget. Pretty soon, you can have a nice little stock of gardening supplies while not breaking the bank.
We waited for a sale on dirt before buying our premier gardening soil. We have a small vertical garden, so we wanted to have some quality soil. We were able to buy enough to fill our vertical garden and put back a bag for when we make another pallet vertical garden to fill.
We also watched for clearance at the grocery store. They have live plants too! We found a nice little thyme plant that just needed some TLC marked down to just 99 cents! What a steal.
4.) Consider a greenhouse.
If you want to start a fall garden or indoor winter garden, or if you live far enough south that you have a second growing season, that’s great. Check out what plants do well in your area and keep an eye out for good deals.
If you don’t want indoor plants and your area is too cold for an outdoor garden, consider getting a tiny “greenhouse.” YouTube has numerous and easy tutorials on DIY greenhouses. You can even make little greenhouses out of clear totes.
5.) Know your limits.
Know what you want and what you’re able to keep up with. My family has a lot going on with two small children, so we wanted to start small and keep a manageable garden. We have our little vertical herb and peppers garden going, and we also have a small plot with late-season zucchini growing in it.
It’s small, but it’s a start. We would eventually like to have a large garden with lots of herbs and produce, but we realize that we need to work up to it. There is no shame in starting small!
Some additional resources
In addition to those five tips, here’s a resource that I have found very helpful, especially as a beginner gardener. I’m still learning about gardening and, in particular, fall and winter options. Journey With Jill, a blog and podcast, has been extremely helpful to this clueless beginner!
I’ve been learning that there are growing options for the eager gardener no matter where you live or what the season. The bonus for me is that Jill has both a blog AND a podcast. That’s perfect for busy moms like me who don’t always have time to read an article, but I can turn on her podcast and learn about gardening on-the-go!
And don’t forget about YouTube! There are so many helpful tutorials on everything from the traditional outdoor garden to indoor hydroponics and grow lights. Have fun with it!
Here are some resources on this site:
- Dirt Cheap: The Best Frugal Gardening Ideas on the Internet
- Learn Exactly How to Grow 25 Vegetable Garden Favorites for Maximum Harvests
- How to Grow a Survival Garden (and what to do if it dies)
- Garden Rebels: 10 Ways to Sow Revolution in Your Back Yard
- The Self-Reliance Manifesto: More Than 300 Resources to Guide You on the Path to Radical Freedom
Tell us about your garden.
Do you have a beginner garden? Do you have a garden this fall, or do you grow some edible indoor plants? Please tell us about in the comments, and give your best advice for gardening newbies.
About Jenny Jayne
Jenny Jayne is the mother of two wonderful boys on the Autism spectrum and is passionate about Autism Advocacy. She is a novelist who writes Post-apocalyptic fiction and a freelance writer. Her first novel is coming soon to Kindle eBooks near you. Her guilty pleasures are preparing for hurricanes, drinking hot coffee, eating milk chocolate, reading romances, and watching The Office for the 50th time. Her website: https://jennyjayneauthor.wordpress.com/
This was the first year I attempted a Fall garden in earnest. Planted beets, greens, carrots, beans, and cucumbers between late July and late August.
The pole beans and cucs did fairly well, but the cucs were hit by stink bugs and cucumber beetles. Argh!
Beets and carrots were ravaged by the dirty rotten lousy deer We have NEVER had a problem with deer until now, but boy, when those vile critters attack, they take no prisoners. They also destroyed my permanent strawberry bed. Grrrr….
The greens (Chirimen Hakusai, a type of Chinese cabbage) are doing well. That’s about all that is flourishing, but it’s certainly better than nothing. I may yet plant some Hilton Chinese cabbage. It looks like a cross between bok choy and napa cabbage. If I do plant it, I will make a cold frame cover out of 1×1’s and 6 mil plastic sheeting.
I may also plant some radishes, maybe some peas. If I plant peas, I will make a tunnel out of PVC and plastic sheeting to go over the raised bed.
Then again, I may decide that this year is a good year to buy in the veg. Sometimes, there is so much to do, and only so much of me.
BUT I will make sure that I get the garlic planted before November. In my zone, I can pretty much plant garlic even if I have to chip away at frozen ground, but November is the latest I want to plant, so I will have a harvest around July of next year.
Those are some excellent tips! So sorry about the deer getting into your garden. Venison anyone? Lol
Knock on wood, I haven’t had deer get my garden–but last year I had a woodchuck–and the garden is between the house and the pasture, so not a good place to be shooting. Finally trapped it, but after at least two sets of broccoli, etc., had been eaten, flattened, and it was too late to plant more. Turns out the critter had tunneled *way* into the garden–his hole was hidden under the rhubarb leaves!
My advice to beginners–pick some reasonably fool-proof, easy crops to start with. Can’t go far wrong with lettuces, arugula, tomatoes, radishes, beans, cukes. And only start with a FEW. Otherwise you’ll feel overwhelmed, and the garden will suffer. Also, pretty much only things you KNOW you and your family like and will eat.
Each subsequent year, grow a little more–either larger quantities of what you like and have had success with (freeze, dry, or can the surplus), or add another variety of crop or two. Just don’t over-extend.
Don’t forget perennial food plants, ones that can last for years, and often don’t take a huge amount of care. Fall is often a good time to plant some of those (my garlic just went in today, and I have sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) and comfrey still to plant, this year’s new ones for me, both apparently doing well as fall plantings. Also added a couple of mulberry trees (my mother told me she used them during WWII since they were very sweet and could make up for lack of rationed sugar). I still have some apples and quinces to harvest, too .
What a great insight into prepping! I had not thought of mulberry trees as a substitute for sugar.
Picked the last of the green tomatoes yesterday, frost last nite and hard freeze tonite. Covered my fall crop of snap peas, just 4 or 5 plants, but enough to keep us eating fresh for a bit. Brought my parsley plant in, hoping to extend its season (I’ve already dried and frozen a good bit). I may try some lettuce indoors over the winter this year sincr I have grow lights.
I only have a balcony, but I did cherry tomatoes this year as an experiment and they did well. There’s a serious learning curve that isn’t talked about much, so don’t expect to just stick your seeds in and have any kind of decent crop. Bear in mind that it is going to be more work than you think, and be prepared to do it EVERY DAY, not just when you can make time. Think of it as taking care of a pet or child. Use the first garden as an experiment to see what will grow well and how you have to tweak your skills. But it can be done even in a small space.
Don’t forget to save some seeds towards next year’s garden. There are great videos on YouTube and articles all over the web on the subject.
Use non GMO seeds, and organic fertilizer and soils.
Don’t be a stooge of those who would control you through your belly! Remember, everything you grow is sticking your fingers in the collective eyes of big Agri, big Business, Monsanto and the government micromanagers. (Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck… whoop whoop whoop whoop whoop)
Root veg are good in winter indoors. Several shelves in a window have 100 watt 5000k LED bulbs. We keep a flat with 72 6″ high cells growing carrots and plant 12/week so we always have some ready. Another flat with white radishes and one growing spices; cilantro, basil, mint, parsley. We’ve also done flats full of wheat grass.
We grow sprouts in 1/2 gal jars and we’re going to try our hand at a couple varieties of mushrooms. Those can be grown straight out of a plastic bag.
We’re considering a small hydro setup, big enough to grow a couple tomatoes and year-round greens and cukes. We’ll use it to start our garden veggies well in advance, but most importantly, we’re going to start many varieties of peppers to establish for sale at first market. We figure that will pay for the setup.
Squirrels and Chipmunks are my garden enemies, not to mention racoons. Defeated.