I’m not going to lie, starting an organic garden can get expensive quick! From gardening tools, to organic seeds, to organic potting soil, and everything in between, an organic garden can stretch your buck in the beginning. But then your garden starts to pay you back season after season, year after year. I have come up with a few tips on starting an organic garden on a budget. Are you ready to start an organic garden this year? I am!
Where to Plant?
First off, do you have space for a backyard garden or do you have a small balcony or tiny patio? Those of you blessed with backyards can grow directly in the ground or build inexpensive raised beds. Build the beds out of cinder blocks or untreated wood or even unused pallets. For those with small spaces, think along the lines of container gardening or better yet, vertical gardening. I’ve picked up many great containers at yard sales, dollar stores, and on clearance at Home Depot and Lowe’s.
Now some of you might be like me this year and don’t have any of the above, but you still want to garden. Seriously, I have absolutely no space, so what I am going to do to get in my gardening itch? Have you ever heard of community gardening? In quite a few urban neighborhoods there are gardens where you can rent a little piece of land for the season. They also have these at churches and other organizations. Well, my friends in Alaska have a lot of land and not all of them know how to garden. So I figured I could teach them and get my garden fix in. Win-win!
Grow From Seed
I only grow organic seeds, mostly Heirloom at that. Organic seed packets are $1-3 each and have anywhere from 20-200 seeds in each packet. I can not possibly grow that many plants! That is a lot of plants! I first learned of seed exchange parties when I was a member of a few gardening clubs in Phoenix. Now I love to host them too. Everyone brings their seeds packets over, you have those tiny manilla envelopes and you share your seeds with others. You then get so many more different varieties than you would have on your own for FREE!
These are my FAVE Organic Seed Companies:
- Botanical Interests
- Seeds of Change
- David’s Garden Seeds
- USA Seed Store – Organic line
- Urban Farmer Organic Seeds
Here are a few things that will make growing from seed a bit easier:
- Germination Station with Heat Mat
- 720 Cells Seedling Starter Trays for Seed Germination +5 Plant Labels (120, 6-cell Trays)
- JumpStart Windowsill Tray Kit
- GrowEase Self Watering Seed Starter Kit, 12 Cells
- Seedling Starter Trays, 144 Cells
- 4-ft Grow Light System
- Black Gold 8-Quart Seedling Mix
Many different gardening clubs, including your county’s Cooperative Extension office has plant sales. You will find plants here to be much less expensive! You might also find a fellow gardener that is dividing their plants will give you one or two to help grow your little garden. Farmer’s Markets are also a great place to look for organic growers that sell their plants. I did this for five years and loved it! If you are buying plants at a nursery, always try to buy a flat or a 6-pack as they are less expensive than buying single plants.
Buy in Bulk
If you have a large area, or a few raised beds you are filling, consider buying good quality dirt by the truckload. If it is just one bed, containers, or a smaller area, you can get by with bags of organic potting soil. Let me pause here and say this – the potting soil you buy is VERY important. When I first started out I bought the cheapest stuff Home Depot had. Nothing grew, it was a waste of time and money. I’m not a fan of Miracle Gro or Scott products becuase of the sheer amount of chemicals that they put out into the world. I tried a lot of different soils and my faves are Black Gold and FoxFarm Happy Frog. I really don’t use anything else unless I make compost myself.
I also only use organic fertilizers like blood meal, bone meal, bat guano, fish emulsion, and earthworm castings. If the numbers on the fertilizer are 5-5-5 or 10-10-10 you know it is synthetic – things in nature don’t grow like that.
- FoxFarm Happy Frog Organic Potting Soil
- Black Gold 8-Quart Seedling Mix
- Earthworm Castings
- Bat Guano
- Blood Meal
- Bone Meal
Gardening tools are not cheap in the least. If you have Harbor Freight in your area go there. I also can find some good tools on Craigslist, at yard sales, and just by asking friends if I can borrow theirs for the day. Clean your tools with a good strong vinegar water solution so that you are not bringing bacteria or pathogens into your organic garden.
Following these tips will reduce the cost of initially starting your organic garden. Just wait until you no longer have to pay $4 for a bag of organic spinach or $3 for a bunch of kale!
I did another post on Ready to Start a Garden that has a lot more things listed out and you might want to give it a quick read.