Kitchen gardens can be anything you have the time and space for: big or small, indoors or out, decorative or edible. Whatever style you choose, there’s one thing your container garden doesn’t have to be: expensive. In fact, there are so many materials found materials out there that you may be able to start your garden entirely for free. Containers, dirt and plants can all be obtained without out spending anything, leaving your money available for other fun projects.
Plants can thrive in any kind of holder, as long as it’s somehow breathable – so choose a fabric container or punch some holes in a metal or plastic container (a screwdriver does this perfectly). Look around your house for anything reusable: Woven baskets make lovely planters, and lining them with newspaper keeps any mess away. I have a closet shoe organizer (pictured below) in a pretty pink and blue floral print hanging on my balcony wall right now, with a different plant in each compartment. Right now it has dill, basil, garlic chives and strawberries.
Empty oatmeal and olive oil tins, milk gallons, and 2-liter bottles make excellent planters. The tins are actually quite lovely and stylish and look great on a kitchen counter. If you’re looking for something bigger, restaurants will often give away empty industrial-sized condiment buckets (or sell them for about a nickel). Or, if you’re feeling especially whimsical, a kiddie pool makes an excellent herb garden.
Check to see if your local government has a composting facility: – if one exists, the compost is there for the taking. (Or create your own compost!) Websites such as TonsofDirt and FreeDirt can direct you to homes and businesses in your city giving away good soil.
It’s all about the cuttings when planting for free. These can be started from a friend’s garden or purchased produce: snip a four- to six-inch piece. Strip the plant of any flowers and lower leaves, and plant in moist soil. (Plants with soft stems, like basil, oregano and mint, should be kept in a cup of water until roots form after about a week, then planted.) If the weather is still cold, put a plastic bag around the plant to increase the ambient temperature.
Some might advise using a rooting compound, which is a hormone mix. But in the interest of keeping things simple and natural, let’s skip it. You’ll be surprised how easily the cuttings form new plants. I once grew a beautiful tomato plant by accidentally snapping a branch off, then shoving it into the dirt. Soon you’ll be having these happy garden accidents yourself.