9 Things You Should Stop Buying (for your garden)

Gardening is more than my hobby. It is my passion. It is my therapist and personal trainer. It is my grocery store and my happy place. When you love gardening as much as I do, it is so very easy to justify spending all sorts of money on it.

For example…

I grew enough greens that we don’t need to buy any this month. That means I can spend that savings on manure for the garden! Or how about this - one blackberry bush will provide me with a gallon of fresh berries. I should buy 12 and never have to buy berries again! Oh, and I better buy a deep freezer to store all those berries.

Thanks to some prolific and hardy kale, we have not had to buy greens since March 2018 even though we eat greens daily.
We also grow lettuce year round in quick hoops and an indoor grow station.

 You get the idea.

There have been plenty of products I have purchased for my gardening and/or homesteading that I do not regret one bit. The apple corer/peeler/slicer I bought cut down the time it takes me to process apples (and other foods) by more than 75% (yes, I timed it) and now my toddler can easily “help” me with that task. We get more done and have more fun doing it together.

But, there are so many things I see folks needlessly buy (or I buy myself, and then regret), that I feel compelled to write this post. So.

Here are some things you can stop spending money (or at least spend significantly less) on for your gardening. I’ll try to write enough for each item to give you the complete idea, but for some I’ll be posting for articles on later. I’ll add the link below as soon as I have the post up.

1. Stop buying potting containers.
Plastic recyclables make excellent potting containers of all sizes. I most often use our family-sized yogurt containers for my large seed starting needs, like squash, tomatoes, and peppers. I use the plastic flats that grocery store berries typically come in for sprouts. Milk jugs with the top cut off are great for a lot of plants, too.

For my smaller seedling starts, I do have a lot of small seed pack trays. Some of these were purchased but most were salvaged from other people’s trash cans. Anytime you reuse a plant container, you should wash it thoroughly with soap and water. If you had any disease problems that year, you should also dunk the washed containers into a bleach solution to fully sanitize them. A tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water should be sufficient.

2. Stop buying seed starting kits.
Toilet paper tubes filled with a homemade starting medium and put in a flat, shallow plastic bin or old baking pan work perfectly. The rolls keep the seedlings’ roots from intertwining, and the open bottom of the tubes prevent them from become overly root bound (assuming you still transplant them in a timely fashion).

TP roll seed starting!

3. Stop buying seed starting medium.
Make your own sterile seed starting soil by scooping up your garden soil and baking it in the oven to kill off any critters or pathogens. Seriously. Seeds can grow in the middle of a concrete driveway. They don’t need fluffy coconut hairs and super special love. And if they do, are they really seeds worth growing? You can also use worm castings for this if you have your own vermicomposting system.

Sterilizing a home-made soil starting mix in the oven. 

4. Stop buying compost.
Make a worm bin for your kitchen scraps. Start a compost heap. Get chickens. Raid the dumpsters of coffee shops. Ask your neighbors for their bagged leaves and lawn clippings.

5. Stop buying fertilizer.
Use the compost from item #4. Pee in a milk jug, top off with water, and apply to the soil (not the plants) with abandon. Or add it to your compost pile if that’s too far out there for you ;) Use the excess fluid from your worm bin – this is great for seedling starts!

6. Stop buying gasoline.
Use good old fashioned hand tools, and hey – then you won’t need to buy a gym membership either. No offense intended to those who genuinely need some motorized assistance due to a disability or similar issue; for those folks, more power to you - get out and garden however you can!

My old school reel lawn mower is great for small yards

I also want to give a shout out to electric powered lawn tools, like my new electric lawn mower and weed whacker. As our grid moves (slowly, but it is moving) towards solar and wind powered energy, these tools are much “greener” than their gas powered cousins, not to mentioned quieter and less smelly.

7. Stop buying plant starts.
You can buy a $3 seed packet of tomatoes and get hundreds of tomatoes plants or you can go to the garden store and buy one tomato plant. Even taking into account the other things you’ll need to start your own seeds (soil mix, containers, possibly a heat and light source), you’ll still be coming out ahead by starting your plants from seed – especially if you are doing items #1, 2, & 3.

8. Stop buying new seeds.
Save your own seed from your own plants. Not only will you be saving money by not buying the same seeds every year, you’ll also be getting plants that perform better and better in your garden because they have acclimatized to your specific geography and weather patterns.

Fermenting tomato seeds for seed saving

9. Stop buying water.
It may not feel like “buying water” when you turn on your hose, but you do in fact pay for every drop. Instead, harvest rainwater if you are in an area that has rain. Use mulches to retain the water you have. Set up a greywater recycling system. Pee in your yard ;)

Also, don’t water excessively – most of your garden veggies only need the equivalent of 1 inch of water per week. When you are hitting the hottest days of summer, you may need to up that to 2 inches per week. I’ll definitely be posting again on water conservation with greater detail – since we live in an arid plateau, water is kind of a big deal for us.

What about you? What have you done to keep your garden spending to a minimum?