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When living off the grid, one of the best ways to get food is to start a garden. Unfortunately, this can be expensive. Think about it- you need tomato cages, soil amendments, plants, seeds, and tools (among other things). That can add up to cost quite a bit! But while gardening is expensive by nature, know that it doesn’t have to be. In fact, if you play your cards right, there are garden supplies that you can acquire absolutely free. Yes, that’s right…free. With that said, let’s take a look at eight gardening supplies that won’t cost a dime once you know the proven steps.
When starting a garden, you’ll need mulch. Why? Because mulching is a very important step in the gardening process. For example, it does things like conserve water, preserve soil, and keep weeds away. But as many of you probably know, mulch isn’t cheap. There are many different “alternatives” out there that work equally as effectively. They include:
- Grass Clippings: Gather them from your summer mowing.
- Newspaper: Believe it or not, newspaper is great for blocking weeds.
- Wood Chips: Most tree services will be happy to give you their wood chips.
- Fall Leaves: They’re already there, so you might as well make use of them!
- Craigslist: See if people are giving away mulch (or selling it at discounted rates).
Due to the price of gardening supplies like mulch, some people may get discouraged from starting a garden. However, when you’re living off the grid, gardens are a must-have since they’ll be one of your primary food sources. You can also raise animals, but that’s a discussion for a different article.
While seeds aren’t that expensive, there’s no sense in paying if you can get them for free. Plus, it’s one of those gardening supplies you absolutely need. One of the first steps is to join a seed exchange. Don’t worry- just because you don’t have seeds to share this year, doesn’t mean you won’t get any seeds (just promise to save seeds from this year’s produce so that you can share them next season).
Also, make sure you’re saving seeds from organic produce you currently buy. For instance, save the seeds from cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, squash, and melons. You need to make sure they’re organic, otherwise, they may not produce at all when starting a garden. Finally, try to get seeds from the previous year. The majority of stores will sell seeds that are from the current year. If you ask nicely, you might be able to get the previous years’ seeds before they are thrown out.
#6: Plant Cuttings
When starting a garden, you’ll want to get your hands on plant cuttings. Fortunately for you, there are some ways to get them for free. These tips don’t “guarantee” that you’ll get free plant cuttings, but if you stay persistent, you dramatically increase your chances. Anyway, here’s what to do:
- Ask Friends Who Garden: There’s nothing to lose and it only takes a few minutes to ask.
- Use Wild Plants: Do you have a patch of wild blackberries in your yard? Then use them!
- Tomato Plants: Take suckers off tomato plants and root them in moist soil.
These tips aren’t “revolutionary” by any means. They’re simple, practical, and require a little effort on your part. With some luck, you’ll be bathing in free gardening supplies when living off the grid! Let’s take a look at some other stuff you can possibly acquire for little or no cost.
These days, it’s not uncommon for most soils to lack basic nutrients required for a garden to thrive. That’s why it’s recommended that you stock up on compost. As you can expect, there are some ways to get it for free. The first and easiest method is to make your own. If you don’t know how to do this, or simply don’t want to, you can use chopped leaves as compost. Believe it or not, they are an excellent source of nutrients. Also, when you first start a garden, make sure that you check Craigslist and call around some local farms. They may be able to hook you up with some manure from animals.
Gardening supplies like hoes, shovels, trowels, tillers, and rakes can all add up to be pretty expensive when starting a garden. Keep in mind that you don’t really need all this stuff. For example, if you plan ahead and mulch heavily using compost or newspaper, the weeds should die before planting time. As a result, you won’t even need a tiller (it’s also much healthier for your soil). Basically, mulching cuts back on the amount of tools that you’ll need as a whole. Most people don’t realize that their most useful gardening tool is their hands! Using some good ole’ fashioned muscle power, there’s no reason why you can’t drop a seed and pull weeds with nothing more than your hands. And I’ll repeat myself once more: check Craigslist! You’d be surprised by how many people practically give away gardening supplies (if they’re not free, they’ll still be very cheap).
#3: Seed Starting Containers
When it comes to starting your seeds, there are dozens of options to choose. Some of these options can be expensive. For example, if you are buying peat pots in which to grow your seeds, it won’t be cheap. But have no worries- here’s how to use what you already have:
- Recyclables: Did you know that yogurt cups make for great planters? It’s true. Simply poke holes in the bottom to assist with drainage, fill with soil, and add your seeds.
- Recycled Newspaper: This sort of falls in line with the previous tip, but I wanted to emphasize that recycled newspaper can make for perfect starting pots.
- Craigslist: There are people all the time who are willing to give away their pots and planters that they are no longer using. Take advantage of this!
Don’t be one of those people who gets discouraged from starting a garden because you’re worried about the cost of gardening supplies. As you’ve seen thus far, it’s not as difficult as you might think to get a lot of these tools and supplies for free.
One of the more overlooked gardening tips people miss is to use bamboo for staking tomatoes or for growing cucumbers (or peas) vertically. Bamboo can also be quite expensive, which is why you should seek to get it for free. Again, be sure to check Craigslist or Freecycle as it’s relatively easy to find people giving them away for free. Just remember to be patient. Just because you don’t hear back from someone today, doesn’t mean there won’t be another opportunity tomorrow.
#1: Plant Starts
If you’re a beginner gardener, it can be difficult to start from a seed. That’s why you should aim to get your hands on some already-started plants. But don’t go out and pay for them just yet. Let’s take a look at how you can potentially get them for nothing:
- Barter: If you have gardening friends, see if they’ll make a deal with you.
- Stores: When gardening stores restock, they throw out old inventory. Take advantage of this.
- Organic Food: Regrow onions from the cut-off root tips (just one of many examples).
These tips are simple, but you’d be surprised by how many gardeners never even think of them. Note, you can also plant the ends of your celery, or regrow potatoes from older ones. It’s all about being creative and thinking outside the box.
When living off the land, don’t make the mistake of not having a garden. Even if you’re raising animals, a garden is still highly recommended. Don’t be intimidated by how much you think you don’t know. Gardening is easy once you get the hang of it, and as you can see from the tips above, it doesn’t cost that much either. Be sure to share this article with fellow gardeners so that they can also claim their own free gardening supplies. Thanks for reading