Wednesday, February 19, 2014

5 Tips to Start Your Garden -- for Cheap!

It's been too long since I've had a chance to write something fun here on the blog! (of course I've shared quick great deals, but I have missed actually writing!)  Here in West Michigan we're getting really tired of the months of blizzards and we are itching to get our garden started!  The hubzy and I have been doing a lot of talking, dreaming, and planning about warmer weather and what our goals are this year.

Last year was our families first "real" garden and overall it was a great success!  We had a good harvest, a few problems to learn from, and the kids *loved* being part of it all.  I was thrilled with the extremely cheap, delicious, organic veggies! 

There's just nothing like walking out your door (front door in our case), and grabbing handfuls of fresh broccoli, peppers, and tomatoes off the vine...still warm from the afternoon sun. ::sigh::

Jacob and Lucas helping Papa fill the raised beds

Our backyard raised beds and the kids helping - especially baby Levi 
(It didn't get enough sun to be very successful back here, but it was pretty!)

I've missed it dearly this winter, but the growing season is right around the corner and we aim to be more prepared this year.  There are lots of products and things you can buy to get started, but there are also really cheap DIY ideas to keep your costs low.  I thought I'd share some ideas we've seen and things we've found helpful....

Our first peppers! (bell, jalapeno, and something else, lol)

1. Work With What You Have - for a long time we didn't even attempt a garden because our backyard is all shade, and we were quite sure our city would have a problem with front yard gardens.  We gave them a call though and found out that there was nothing prohibiting it!  And as a bonus of creating a front yard garden, we've also gotten a chance to meet and talk to a lot of new neighbors in the process - win win!  ;)

First we assessed what we already had on hand.  Randy had recently rebuilt a deck and was able to bring the old deck pieces home.  We re-purposed the stairs for a tiered herb garden, used the porch railings for trellises, and we also used pallets for our raised beds.  (Later he turned most of the deck boards into beautiful bookcases for our office!)

Obviously everyone won't have an old deck lying around, lol, but do think about what you already have.  Also, you can look around for free supplies on Craigslist, freecycle, Facebook, friends...

Our first harvest!

2. Build Your Own Raised Beds - As we looked around, I found a lot of premade raised beds online (that I gravitated toward for the convenience factor).  My husband made our beds and tomato cages though for much cheaper, very much like they did in this raised bed tutorial.  If you're handy, it can be much cheaper to go this route.

We used the same ideas to layer, starting with the cardboard....
"Lay down a thick layer of brown corrugated cardboard (the plain stuff), or newspaper. Either is perfectly safe to use in the garden and will fully decompose, but not before killing any grass below it. They’ll also provide compost and food for worms."

 Lay down a thick layer of brown corrugated cardboard (the plain stuff), or newspaper, to safely kill weeds in your raised beds.

3. Free Seed Starters - We took too long building our beds last year to be able to start from seed, so we bought almost all of our plants inexpensively at our farmers market.  You can save a lot of money though by starting from seeds.  If you plan on starting your own vegetable and flowers indoors to get a head start on the growing season, here are a few ways to use recycled materials to start for free...

(*Here's a great "how-to" when starting your seeds indoors!)

4. Companion Planting
- learning about companion planting can make your garden much more successful!  Something as simple as planting certain plants next to others can deter pests, make them more flavorful, and make the most of your space!  You can learn a lot just by searching online, find a great book at the library, or get a good ebook about companion planting with great reviews here!

My hubby tending our front yard garden

5. Just Go For It! - we were hesitant at first because it had been so long since we had been part of a "real" garden, but we found that we learned so much along the way!  There is tons of information available at your fingertips online, and family and friends are happy to share what they know to help you along! 

We found wonderful gardening Facebook pages designed specifically for helping each other with questions, another with great information about saving seeds (which we did successfully!), and......we found that really it's not as intimidating as we thought.  =)
So, get started and enjoy the beauty of your own garden!

Some of our homemade tomato cages, along with cabbage and marigolds


Pipes Girl said...

I recall stopping by your house one day last summer and admiring your gardens! You will be an inspiration for my new garden this year. Last year my dog destroyed mine, since we've added a second dog, we will now be moving our garden to my in-laws house! Keep the good gardening ideas coming and good luck this year!

Anonymous said...

Oh Mara, you are making me ache for spring! Your raised garden beds looked amazing and I love the frugal tips for starting seeds.

Mara said...

(sorry I missed these comments til now!)

Denise, I remember being so sad for you, when I heard about your pups destroying your garden! I'm excited to see how it goes this year at your in-laws! =)

Stephanie, thank you! Randy did a wonderful job building our beds and herb garden! As I wrote this post and looked at those pictures I could almost smell the fresh air and taste the tomatoes. I know spring is close, but the seemingly endless snow is making it hard to believe, lol.

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