Friday, March 18, 2011

Guest Post: Frugal Gardening

Today's guest post comes to use from Stacy who blogs over at The Full Circle Gardener. In addition to being a fabulous frugalista, she is one of my great friends.  I taught her how to coupon and now she is returning the favor by teaching me how to garden.  Thanks, Stacy!

There are so many benefits to backyard gardening.   But all of them aside, I garden because I love gardening.  I love that my children can eat peas, cucumber, carrots and other produce as they play in the backyard all summer long.  I love what I can teach my children right in my backyard, and... the list goes on and on.

So, how does one be a frugal gardener and keep it as economical as possible?  Here are a few things that I have learned in my adventure as a 'full circle gardener'.

Be a scavenger!

Always be on the lookout for free or nearly free items that can replace items purchased at retail prices.  Right now I am in the process of starting seedlings.  Instead of going to the local garden store for containers, I am using kitchen plastic (yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream containers), aluminum baking tins, and plant cells from my friends, family and neighbors.  One can be very creative with decorative containers for flowers and landscaping as well.  One year I came across a child's riding tractor wagon that was my husband's when he was a kid. It was old, rusty and no longer usable as a toy, but sure made a cute rustic planter!

Containers are the easiest thing to scavenge, but also keep your eyes open for a friend or neighbor who has cows or horses... they are probably looking for somewhere to get rid of manure.  Talk about great, free fertilizer!  Do you have a neighbor who doesn't use lawn chemicals that would be willing to let you take the lawn clippings off their hands?  You have just found free mulch and composting material!  Get the idea?  Be a scavenger!


Composting is one of the simplest and most frugal garden adventures one can take on since you can do it without purchasing anything!  It reduces your landfill input and provides you with free nutrient rich organic matter!  What could be better?

All of your uncooked veggie scraps, egg shells, shredded paper (newspaper, office paper, napkins, paper towels), hair (human or pet), untreated lawn clippings, etc. are compost-able. A compost “bin” can be as simple as an uncontained pile in a back corner of the yard, a pile contained by a circle of chicken wire, or a pre-made, designed composter. I purchased an Earth Machine Composter from the City of Fargo at a reduced rate a few years ago.  It is a great deal for those who want to keep that pile contained, hidden from the view of neighbors and decrease the time it take to get a good usable product!

Share or exchange seeds with friends and neighbors or attend a local seed exchange!

For most urban gardeners, there are more seeds in one package than they will plant in one year.  Here is a great opportunity to split the cost with a friend.  Or, save the seed and use it again next year.  All seed packages are dated and the viability reduces with age, but I have used seed from packages that are 3-4 years old and had good germination.

The Full Circle Gardener is hosting a Seed Exchange event next Saturday, March 26 at West Acres Mall in the Food Court from 10 -11:30 AM.  It will be an informal way to meet other local gardeners, receive seed you can plant and share your extra seed with others!

Collect and save your own seeds!

This is especially easy with flowers, but can be done with heirloom veggies as well.  The trick is being sure the seeds are fully mature, dried and labeled so that you know what you have when you're ready to plant the next season.


Use untreated lawn clipping, leaves, dry manure or chipped wood to mulch your flower beds and veggie garden.  This will reduce your need to water. Water, for the urban gardener, can be the most expensive part of home gardening, so any way you can reduce this expense is very helpful!  In Fargo, free wood chips are available to residents during clean-up week and again in the fall.

Gardening may not be the absolute most inexpensive way to obtain produce for your family, but these are some easy ways to reduce your expenses and provide yourself and your family with the benefits and adventure of backyard gardening!  Be sure to check out The Full Circle Gardener if you are looking for a step-by-step guide to backyard gardening.  I'd love to share the adventure as a “full circle gardener" with you!

Happy Gardening!

FM Cheapskate here: Fargo offers free compost as well as wood chips to Fargo residents.  See the City of Fargo's website for more info and dates.  Clay County and Moorhead residents may pick up free compost and wood chips any day at the City of Moorhead Compost Facility.

Thanks Stacy!  Be sure to visit her over at The Full Circle Gardener!


  1. Love to garden too! Wonderful advice and beautiful kohlbabi!! did you grow it? We are very fortunate to have the city compost here.

  2. I'm not joking you. I've got a lot of burning question to bring to coupon swap tomorrow, and one of them is growing herbs. After years of trying I finally got a few things going back in Vacouver B.C. Now I'm faced with a totally new environment and a tiny, shady back yard... will for sure get a lot of help from Stacy's blog. Thanks a million for the posting!!!