How to Find Free Gardening Materials

Do you want to grow your own produce, but don’t have a lot of money to get started?

You’re not alone.

Lots of people want to eat healthier and grow their own food, but don’t have extra money to throw at a big garden.

I’m here to tell you that vegetable gardening doesn’t have to be a big strain on your wallet. I’ve been gardening for years on a tight budget, and I’ve had great success. Gardens don’t have to be expensive!

Here are my best tips for how to find free gardening materials for starting your vegetable garden.

Seeds

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How you choose to grow your plants is an opportunity for big savings in the garden.

If you go to the garden store and buy transplants, you’re missing out on some serious savings.

Starting your vegetables from seeds is a great way to save money. Transplants cost as much as $4.00 per plant – you can get a whole packet of 100+ seeds for $2.50! Seeds are viable for 4-6 years after you buy them (sometimes longer if you have good storage).

I’m still using seeds I bought years ago and I don’t re-buy seeds every year. This saves so much money over time!

Use An Online Seed Exchange. Get to know nearby gardeners online with local Facebook groups and seed exchanges. Often, these groups will host free seed exchanges to trade seeds with other gardeners. You can also get cuttings and seedlings from these exchanges.

Visit Your Local Seed Library. Many public libraries launch new seed library programs in the Spring and Summer. Browse their collection and check out a packet of seeds. At the end of the season, save some seeds to bring back for the next person!

Fertilizer

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Many vegetable plants are heavy feeders. They need nutrient rich soil to encourage plant and fruit growth. The best fertilizer is from natural sources. Organic fertilizer is made from living organisms and not chemical processing.

My two favorite free fertilizers are:

Homemade compost. Start your own compost pile, and in 6 months you’ll have rich, loamy fertilizer that will make your plants thrive.

Rabbit manure. Rabbit manure is a “cold” manure, which just means that it can be applied directly to the soil without burning the plants. Throw a handful of rabbit pellets into your soil when planting out your transplants. They will break down in the ground and provide great nutrition to the plant.

Mulch

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ChipDrop is a company that connects arborists and tree trimmers with home gardeners. Sign up for free online and get a delivery the next time a local company has a load of wood chips.

Be careful, as these chips aren’t always sterile for garden use. They sometimes carry disease or pests like termites. Use these chips for beautifying your garden, such as pathways and edging. Don’t apply directly to your plants.

Newspaper is a safe and effective mulch for using on your beds. Contact your local paper to ask if they have misprints or old issues to donate. Or, use free local classified or entertainment papers that you can find around town.

Tools

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You don’t need a lot of tools to start a garden. Garden stores love to display the latest “must-have” gadgets, like electric rototillers and chrome-plated shovels.

In truth, a lot of these things are unnecessary. A sturdy shovel, a sharp pair of shears, and sunscreen are my go-to tools for the garden. Other things may make it easier or faster. If you’re on a budget, skip the convenience tools.

The Dollar Tree usually has a garden display each year when spring comes around. I always stock up on simple tools like garden gloves, hand rakes and shovels, and pruning shears.

Scope out yard sales for bigger tools like shovels and stakes. The best time to go searching is at dawn on Friday and Saturday. Make the effort to get up early and you can usually find these things for just a few bucks!

A Note on Soil

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Okay, so this is really important. A big part of saving money – in general – is knowing when to shell out and when to cut corners.

Soil quality is the single most important element for a successful vegetable garden. High quality soil is the foundation that you build upon.

For this reason, I don’t recommend sourcing free soil. Although there are free ways to get soil, it’s important that you know what’s in your dirt.

Be wary of free soil from freecycle, landscaping companies, or random “buy topsoil” signs on country roads. You have no clue what is really in it.

Often, these soils will have insects, pesticides, nematodes, etc. I don’t want to risk my precious garden with these contaminants.

Create a sterile soil environment for your garden by filling your beds with peat moss + organic matter, like compost or fertilizer. It’s simple, relatively cheap, and a lot safer than trusting dirt from outside sources.

Gardening is for everyone. You don’t have to have big manicured beds or fancy flowerbeds. You can grow a bountiful vegetable garden without a lot of money. Use your creativity to think of ways to garden frugally and you’ll be successful.

Do you have any tips for finding free garden materials? I’d love to hear them! Follow me @tropicalvictorygarden on Instagram and let me know!

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How to Grow Epic Peppers in Pots

Peppers seem to be universally loved by gardeners. There’s just something about the waxy green leaves adorned with bright fruit – like a vegetable Christmas tree.

Peppers also tend to be low-maintenance and highly productive. If you give them the right conditions and lots of heat, they’re a guarantee. In a garden full of fussy tomatoes and sensitive cucumbers, peppers are a steady friend. If you love your peppers, they will love you back.

paprika-1539491_1920Why grow Peppers in Pots

If this is your first time growing peppers, you should grow them in pots. Peppers do well in pots. I have not had great success with growing things like tomatoes and squash in containers, but my peppers have always thrived..

Peppers are happy in pots because they respond well to infrequent watering. Veteran gardeners often say, “they don’t like wet feet.” You can water your plants once or twice a week when they are small. Water every other day once they get established and start to set fruit.

Peppers are generally compact plants and are easy to maintain in containers. They also need lots of heat and sunlight. Experiment with your pepper pots by moving them around your yard to see how they respond to different levels of sun. Almost always, they will thrive in direct sunlight.

Choose Containers

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My Aldi Bag cloth pot

Self-watering containers are a great choice for low-maintenance peppers. These containers have a reservoir built into the bottom of the pot, separate from the soil. A wicking system allows water to move from the reservoir to the soil. These pots are ideal for peppers.

Another great option for growing peppers in pots are cloth pots. These are usually a type of reinforced felt that supports the pepper plant and its root system while allowing good drainage. You can find and order cloth pots here.

If you are gardening on a budget, you don’t have to shell out for fancy cloth pots. I often use re-usable grocery bags for planting out my peppers. At $1.00 per bag, the price is right, and they work just fine. Keep in mind that they are flimsy, and usually deteriorate by the end of the season.

Soil Mix

If there is one thing that peppers can be picky about, it’s their soil. Peppers are big producers, and they need a nutrient dense soil that will feed them as they yield fruit.

Make sure their needs are met by using a great potting soil rich in organic matter. Don’t use regular garden soil – this can become compacted in containers. A good potting soil will stay aerated in the pots and encourage a strong root ball.

33852485_10155602016701274_2088042546163875840_nHarvest often

A good tip for an epic pepper harvest is to harvest often. The more you pick, the more the peppers will produce. I love sweet bell and Cubanelle peppers, and these will ripen off the plant if you pick them early to encourage growth.

 

 

 

Have you grown peppers in pots before? I’d love to hear your experience and any tips you may have. Follow me @tropicalvictorygarden on Instagram and let’s talk epic peppers!

How to Start a Vegetable Garden in 3 Easy Steps

Do you want to start a vegetable garden? Summer is approaching, which means now is a great time to start working towards growing your dream garden! Growing your own vegetables is a great way to eat healthier, save money, and enjoy the outdoors.

1. Prepare Your Vegetable Garden

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Start by selecting a space for your vegetable garden. Choose a sunny spot in your yard – most vegetables need 6-8 hours of direct sunlight to produce. If don’t have a lawn, a sunny balcony or window will work well for container planting. Before you’re ready to plant, prepare your soil. For in-ground gardens, amend your soil with fertilizer and compost. I recommend natural composts such as Gardenscape Mushroom Compost. If you are gardening from a balcony or window, use an all purpose potting soil in your containers.

2. Choose Your Vegetables

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There is nothing more delicious than fresh produce that you’ve grown yourself. Choose vegetables that are easy to grow, such as tomatoes, potatoes, beans, and greens. Keep in mind that some vegetables need more space than others. Tomatoes, for example, typically grow anywhere between 4-7 feet tall or more. If you want to grow tomatoes, plant with size in mind. Or, you can plant dwarf varieties that don’t take up much space. These are perfect for small spaces and container gardens.  Carrots, beets, radishes, and corn only produce once – so keep that in mind when making your decision. Many gardeners choose to grow plants that produce many vegetables over the season.

3. Learn and Grow

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Once you’ve prepared your garden space and chosen your vegetables, plant them out according to the seed package directions. Some gardeners choose to buy transplants from a local garden store to save time and get a head-start on the growing season. As your plants grow and begin to produce, be sure to check your garden and be alert for pest problems, weeds, and fungus. Most pests can be eliminated by hand-picking the bugs off the leaves. Avoid chemical sprays and pesticides. Water your garden deeply twice a week, angling the water so that it hits the base of the stem and not the leaves. Watering overhead can cause disease and mildew to form on the leaves of the plant. Some plants, like tomatoes, are especially sensitive to overhead watering.

 

Growing a vegetable garden is fun, rewarding, and healthy. Are you ready to start your vegetable garden? Check out @tropicalvictorygarden on Instagram for daily tips on how to grow your garden!