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Frugal Gardening | Growing Vegetables for Pennies

Growing your own fruits and vegetables is a fantastic way to get high-quality produce, but is it really cheaper? Some gardening guides give the impression that without expensive tools and additives, your vegetable patch is doomed from the start. In reality, anyone can grow produce with minimal investment. Follow these steps for some frugal, fun and festive gardening!

1. Containers
If you don’t have any space in the yard, you can grow produce in containers, but don’t bother heading out to the local garden center. The only thing a plant needs from its container is room to grow and drainage. Any container that can have a hole drilled in it will work for your patio garden. Scour the house for containers you already have, like buckets, dishpans, or deep bowls. Think outside the flowerpot and you will be surprised what you can get for absolutely nothing. If your search still doesn’t turn up enough options, head to your local charity store and look for deals on the same kinds of unconventional containers you were looking for at home. This is also a good time to pick up some extra dishes to break up and put in the bottom of the containers for added drainage.

2. Soil
Whether you will be gardening in containers or in the ground, high quality soil is a must – a high price tag is not. Commercial potting soil can be expensive in large quantities, but if you are willing to get your hands dirty you can make your own for less. Although there are many recipes for potting soil, a simple formula to get you started is a mixture of about 60% soil (straight from a hole in the yard or from a bag of topsoil), 25% peat moss, and 15% sand. Even if you buy all of the ingredients from a garden center, mixing it up yourself will give you much higher quantities at a much lower price. If you are working on an in-ground plot, simply work the peat moss and sand into the existing soil to improve its quality.

3. Plants
The cheapest way to get plants is by starting them yourself from seeds. Greenhouses made of milk jugs or two-liter bottles will get your vegetables growing with nothing more than recycled containers, seed starting mix, and duct tape. In a small-scale garden, you can reduce costs even further by sharing a packet of seeds with a friend. If it is too late to start seeds, look for sales, plant swaps, and end-of-season price reductions.

4. Fertilizer
Once your plants get growing, you must feed them, but there is no reason to break the bank on ready-made mixtures. Homemade fertilizers are inexpensive because they primarily come from things we throw away. Composting can be as easy as putting vegetable scraps, peelings and garden trimmings in a pile or container and turning the mixture regularly. Grass clippings, leaves and fireplace ashes also feed garden plants for free. If none of these options is available to you, ask your local coffeehouse for used grounds or buy alfalfa intended for rabbit food from your pet store and spread it on top of the soil.

High-quality produce doesn’t have to be the biggest expense in your grocery bill. Frugal gardening yields big results for small change!

This guest post is by Megan Thomas who likes to save with Home Owners Insurance.

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