Love flowers and vegetable gardens but don’t love how much they cost? Follow my step-by-step guide to becoming a frugal gardener!
I LOVE spring. It’s my favorite season. More sunlight, flowers blooming and the perfect 70 degree weather. I also love trips to Lowe’s and Home Depot, but I have to remind myself I don’t need every plant I see! Last spring, after buying a bunch of plants I got tired of how expensive flowers and vegetable plants were getting. So, I decided to try growing plants from seeds and become a frugal gardener!
The first time I tried frugal gardening I started out slow with a few varieties of flower seeds. I sowed those seeds directly in the ground per the packet instructions. Well, that didn’t work out so well with North Carolina’s finicky spring weather and constant rain. So, I took to the internet and researched seed starting trays. The best deal I found was for a seed tray, humidity dome, and heating mat for $35! I ordered that frugal seed starting kit and promptly started some seeds inside. After growing the sees to a few inches, I planted those sees outside and now have beautiful hollyhocks around my house! So with the last frost date quickly approaching for this spring, I set forth to get my little seeds started for my frugal garden.
The short answer, no! Truth be told, I am only a half decent gardener. The beauty of growing plants from seeds is that it is so cheap. So if you make some mistakes, who cares? Buy another packet of seeds for $1.50 and try something else. I also only buy perennial flower seeds because I’m lazy and don’t want to plant flowers year after year.
Not a lot! These 4 items below will get you set up and ready to go:
- Seed packets – Go to any local store and you will likely find seed packets for anywhere from 50 cents to a few dollars. Grab a few packs to try out!
- Seed Starting System – Seed starting trays and systems can get really expensive quick. Don’t let the depths of the internet get to you! This seed starting tray fits 72 seedling cells and comes with a heating mat and humidity dome, all for $35! If you are starting seeds inside, it’s important if you are frugal like me and you keep your house at frugal temperatures that you keep your seeds warm.
- Full Spectrum Grow Light – Once your seeds start to sprout, it is important to provide them adequate light. I bought this full spectrum grow light for $24 and it helped keep several of my seedlings from dying off due to inadequate access to light.
- Peat Pellets or Seedling Soil – I prefer to use pellets since they are so easy to transplant outside, but if you want to use the 72 cell tray that the seed starting system comes with then I recommend getting seedling soil. Normal garden soil is too dense for young seedlings to properly grow.
For under $75 you can jump start your frugal garden right inside your own home! The great part about the seed starting system and the grow light is that you can use it year after year. So this spring, it only cost me a few dollars for the peat pellets and seed packets to kick off my spring growing season!
Now that you have your supplies, it’s time to get started!
Your Last Frost Date is the approximate date of the last frost in your area. Frost can kill little seedlings so it’s important not to plant your seeds outside too early. I usually wait for a week or two after my last frost date to plant outdoors. This also gives me a little time to harden off (getting plants use to being outside) my plants before planting in the ground. You should start your seeds inside about 6-8 weeks before your last frost. I started a little late last year, and that’s totally okay. You can always keep plants in planters for a year and let them get even bigger before planting them in the ground.
I picked our storage closet because I didn’t want to the grow light to be obnoxious to any of our friends or family that stay over. You don’t need a lot of space for the system as long as you have access to an outlet. Pro tip: put a towel under your seed starting system! The condensation from the dome has a tendency to drip off of the rim of the lid a little so a towel will help keep that from getting on any of your things!
If you are using the seedling cell tray, fill the cells with seedling soil. If you use peat pellets like I do, you will need to hydrate the pellets. Pour some warm water in the tray and wait a few minutes for the pellets to come to life!
Like I said above, I’m a lazy gardener and frugal gardener. I picked out three perennial flower seeds that will come back year after year and also had some grape seeds left over from last year that I wanted to try my hand at growing.
I’ve noticed that not all seeds germinate so I tend to over seed my pellets. The easiest way I’ve found to get the tiny seeds in the pellets is to wet a toothpick to place the seeds in the pod.
Once you have all of your seeds in the soil, cover them up just slightly with soil by using the toothpick. Don’t forget to label your tray so you know what you planted! I used some blue tape and a sharpie to write the plant varieties on the front of the tray.
After preparing my seeds in their new home, I took my seed tray in to my storage closet and placed them on their heating mat. The heating mat that comes with the seed starting system keeps the seedlings about 10 degrees warmer than the air around them. My other half and I keep our house pretty cold to save on our late winter/early spring energy bills, so I knew I’d need a heating mat to help these seeds thrive. The mat is pretty energy efficient since it doesn’t put our a ton of heat. I also set up and plugged in the full spectrum light. You don’t actually need the light until the seeds start to sprout. But like I said before, I’m a lazy gardener and figured I might as well get it set up now. I can always turn it on later.
Hardening off is the process of preparing your plants to live outside. This process is important because your seedlings have become used to their cushy life in your home and now you need to get them ready for the harsh reality of outdoor weather. To start the process, put them outside for an hour in the afternoon in direct sunlight and then bring them back in. Over the next week to two weeks (or longer if needed), increase your seedlings time outside by an hour each day. At the same time you can start having your seedlings stay in a sheltered or shady location when they aren’t getting their vitamin D. Once your seedlings are hardened off, it’s time to get them in the ground!
Now you are ready to plant your seedlings outside! Make sure to wet their roots and provide them with lots of garden soil to grow and thrive. Their first week outside is really important. Make sure they stay properly watered. Transplant shock sometimes happens and seedlings die off. Remember you are a frugal gardener and if that happens, that’s okay! You didn’t spend ton of money on plants so give it another go and learn from your mistakes. Growing flowers and vegetables from seeds is a rewarding process, especially once they bloom or produce fruit.
Sit back and enjoy some sweet tea outside and watch your garden grow! Planting your own flowers, fruits and vegetables is such a rewarding feeling. And don’t sweat it if some plants don’t grow as well as you hoped. Frugal gardening means you get to try stuff out without spending too much money. There’s always another growing season right around the corner!
While you watch your plants grow, join me on my journey to financial independence and learn how you can make an impact without worrying about an income through my middle class path to financial independence!
Disclosure: Advice given in this post are for education and entertainment purposes only. Please consult a financial professional for further advice. Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.