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How To Start A Garden The Eco-Frugal Way

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Fresh produce that is entirely free of pesticides and other funky business is hard to come by these days, and even if you plunk down the big bucks for organic versions, it’s still possible that your cucumber could be hiding a deep, dark, creepy-crawly secret. Perhaps that’s one major reason why gardening has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, especially among the younger set. Taking control of your food destiny by sowing the earth in your own backyard is incredibly soul satisfying, healthy and as natural as it gets.

But, it sure costs a lot! Who can really afford all of the mulch, pots, plants and other key gardening tools… especially these days? Well... actually, every single one of us can pull together our own victory garden, with virtually no out-of-pocket investment, as long as we exercise the following creative green and ka-ching saving strategies for gardening supplies:


Consider this basic ingredient the magic that can literally make or break your garden. By ensuring that the dirt you use is up to snuff, you’ll be paving the way for a bodacious harvest down the road, but you really don’t have to rack up a $200 bill at Home Depot in order to create the ideal, nutrient-rich medium that your veggie plants will thrive in.

Aside from diligently reserving all of your organic kitchen scraps for a cute little compost pile in your backyard – which takes time and consistent effort – here’s how to convert any old soil into ‘garden gold’ the instant gratification way. Just take advantage of the organic material that your local municipal composting facility has up for grabs by searching, and don’t forget to add your own grass clippings, hay/straw, autumn leaves, pine needles, crushed eggshells and the complimentary ‘used’ coffee grounds that Starbucks offers to patrons directly into your garden plot. (Now that's what I'm talkin' about!)


Just Google ‘free mulch’ along with the name of your city and you’ll be blown away by how many opportunities are available for shrewd eco-gardeners. The majority of the municipalities across the country are generally more than happy to serve up a heaping truckload of the stuff – created from an amalgam of recycled organic material such as Christmas trees, trimmed limbs, and basic yard waste.


The Dinner Garden is a non-profit organization that offers a free collection of vegetable seeds to American families who want to create their own backyard gardens, but they’re not the only ones that want to give your green thumbs a workout. Tomato Bob offers complementary heirloom variety seeds to anyone participating in a community or school garden project, as does the America The Beautiful Fund, One Seed Chicago and various other urban renewal organizations. You can also participate in a seed swap with other aspiring or established gardeners by accessing Heirloom Seed Swap, World Food Garden or Craigslist!


Posting a classified ad on Craigslist or Freecycle expressing your desire for free garden plants is an often reliable way to score perfectly wonderful materials that other green thumbs don’t want going to waste. Did you know, however, that your local landscaping nursery tends to kick less than lush seedlings to the curb... that can easily rebound with the proper care? Ask the manager if they’d be willing to put their casualties aside for adoption – you’ll probably be pleased with their response.

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From the Organic Authority Files

You might also try joining a local online gardening forum in order to take advantage of the kindness of fellow green thumbs who realize that they will never be able to plant all 41 of the carrot seedlings that are still occupying their sunroom. For those who prefer a more passive approach, Free Plants By Mail ships leftover nursery stock straight to your doorstep for a flat $6.95 shipping fee. Whichever route you take, there is absolutely no shame in recycling – it’s actually quite noble to make the most of perfectly viable resources!


You really don’t need to drain your wallet purchasing shiny new pots and planting containers when there are oodles of people out there who are hanging up their gardening gloves for the last time. Perhaps they’re moving, or they decide that all they’ll ever have are two big brown thumbs. Whatever reason they have for saying buh-bye to their collection of pots, all you have to do is let them know that you’re more than eager to take them off their hands. Once again, Craigslist, Freecycle and gardening forums are the best way to connect with individuals in this situation.

Please don’t forget that you can also make perfectly wonderful planting containers out of almost any conceivable recycled material, such as old tires, shoes, lighting fixtures, steel food cans, vintage china, soda bottles, bathroom fixtures, wine barrels – you can even craft raised planting beds out of repurposed wooden shipping pallets!


Are you a fan of beer or wine? Then there are probably a whole lot of glass bottles clogging your recycling bin. Time to engage in a nifty DIY project by artfully rooting those bottles around the perimeter of your garden, which will show the world that your beverage of choice really is good to the last drop! Other equally eye-catching and readily available recycled edging materials to consider include old bricks, stones, seashells, tires and chipped mismatched dishware.


Pre-manufactured plastic and metal garden plant labels look so soldierly lined up in your garden, but there’s something missing in that formula – oh yeah, character! If you like the idea of rocking a personalized and totally UN-cookie cutter look in your outdoor environment, then peruse your garage for inspiration. Got a pile of old floppy disks lying around? Perfect – whip out a Sharpie and bada-bing, you’ve got yourself a really durable name tag. Just as beverage bottles, shells and dishware work well for edging material, they also work wonders for individual plant markers as do repurposed spoons, the slats from an old window blind and pretty much anything that is rainproof (old chipped mugs, anyone?).

And for more, check out this article of recycling garden ideas, which covers everything from recycled seed pots and bird feeders to plant stakes and pest deterrents!

Image: chatirygirl

For more juicy green goodness, follow Elizah via Twitter @elizahleigh

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