Finding Free Garden Supplies

Imagine creating a kitchen garden that yields heaps of produce all summer long—for free!  Thanks to our recent family budget cutbacks and some wise neighbors, we’ve suddenly found that free gardening is quite possible.  Here are the latest tips we’ve discovered:

  1. Find free wood, recycle what you have, or just dump dirt:  When our friends replaced their cedar fencing, they saved the old boards and used them to build raised beds.  Since the boards were just one inch thick, they cross braced them so that the wood wouldn’t bulge.  On Craigslist or through your friends you can usually find people who are looking to unload wood.  If you can’t find wood, just dump dirt on cardboard in your yard and make a bed without the border.  It will work fine and still grow some lovely veggies.
  2. Ask for composted dirt: The soil generated by a home compost system is lush and loaded with nutrients.  You may have neighbors or friends who will be happy to donate a bit of their stash for your garden.  If their compost bin hasn’t reached the proper heat, there may be seeds in the soil that “volunteer” over the summer, but that can be an added bonus to a free garden! 
  3. Search for free plants.  Since home gardening is all the rage this year, many families have extra garden starts that won’t fit into their beds.  Check Craigslist and ask neighbors to find if you can score a few free plants.
  4. Use cardboard instead of weed mats/landscaping fabric.  Instead of weird polyester fabric, cardboard is completely made of paper—and it’s free!  We just cut large boxes open laid them down between the plants.  They block weeds from growing up to the surface and finding light without any harmful pesticides or chemicals.  People also use layered newspaper but I have found that cardboard lasts longer and is a more formidable barrier.   Then we layered on our next free item…. 
  5. Use leaves as mulch. Here is our son Roscoe perched upon a mountain of free leaves the city provides to its residents for mulching. The spot is close to our house and we’ve gotten a few carloads already.  The leaves work great to enrich the soil and we’ve just heaped them on top of the cardboard.  They’re attractive, eco-friendly, and, again, free!
  6. Make friends with arborists. We asked another neighbor if the giant pile of mulch her driveway had been bought and delivered.  She quickly told me that she’s in the habit of searching out arborists and asking if they will unload their chipped wood at her house.  They’re happy to do it rather than hauling it across town to the dump site.  She also checks with city workers and if she sees that they have extra bark dust after they’re filling a park or public space, she asks if they’ll leave it at her house.  It saves them money, and always provides her with free mulch!  I haven’t mastered this skill yet, but I’m on the lookout for a chipper/shredder to visit our neighborhood sometime soon!

If you use even a few of these tips you’ll save hundreds of dollars and create a food generating system that you’ll enjoy all summer long.  Happy hunting!

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  1. great idea to search Craigslist for free plants!

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  3. Here is my link: . We have been enjoying using a reel mower at our house.

    I love your tips. We are in the garden planting mode right now. (living in Northern MN means we have to start rather late.) We have spent very, very little this year and that is normal but yet we get a lot out of it. Gardening can be very expensive but it doesn’t have to be.

  4. These are great tips. I’m already using your tip for keeping down weeds with cardboard. I read it in your post about building a raised-bed garden last year! I have been trading plant starts, overgrown herbs, and seeds from packets with a friend. Really a packet of seeds can suffice for two small gardens – they give you so much!

  5. Gina, we’ve been trading plants around here, too. One coworker gave me her divided hostas (great for that area that just isn’t growing grass); I gave two coworkers my leftover onions, shallots and garlic that aren’t fitting in my bed this year. It’s fun to see what you come up with – and it doesn’t cost you extra!

  6. We did raised beds this year for the first time. We lined the grass inside with cardboard to try to keep the weeds at bay. So far it’s working out just fine. I never would have thought to check Craigslist for plants! Thanks for the tips. 🙂

  7. This last summer when we were out hitting yard sales I stumbled across a construction site where they had uprooted many beautiful palm trees and put them at the street to be thrown away! I quickly told hubby he needed to go find a truck and get them. I ended up with 5 new trees planted in my yard the next day.

    This fall when the leaves started to fall from trees in my neighborhood, I asked my son to volunteer himself to rake the neighbors yards so I could use the leaves in my gardens. Even though he was not eager to do it, he did and I needed to buy no mulch!

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