This post was originally published on August 10, 2011. It was updated on April 2, 2020.
Michael and I talked about planting a garden just before Naomi was born. He picked up a large rectangular planter at a yard sale that spring and a few herb seeds and soil from the local dollar store. We planted them, fussed over them, and prayed over them. Slowly, but surely, the little shoots started to break through the soil and emerge.
Then we went into labour. Then we had a baby. Then we moved. And then winter came. And in the process, our lovely little herbs were pretty much forgotten and died. But our dream of a garden didn’t disappear. Here is how we have continued to grow food for ourselves for free.
5 Ways We Gardened For Free!
Keep Your Eyes On Freecycle, Kijiji, WeShare and Craigslist.
In early winter last year, I saw a note on Freecycle for a bunch of plant pots. Eagerly, I contacted the person offering them and bundled up my pretty little girl, and we ventured across town to find them. The lovely lady who gave them to us was an avid gardener who had accumulated more than her fair share of plant pots and wanted to give them to someone who wanted to start a garden. We fit the bill ideally. We have also received gifts in the past from folks on Kijiji, our local WeShare groups, and on local buy/sell/trade groups, especially local gardening groups.
Dig Through Your Recycling Bins
Water jugs, milk boxes, butter tubs and tin cans can all be used to make perfectly servicable pots for plants to grow in. Egg cartons (and shells), newspaper cups, plastic yogurt or pudding cups, and even old shoe boxes can make great seed starters. It doesn’t have to be Instagram worthy in order to be used!
Find Ways to Use What You Already Have
Did you know there are a whole bunch of fruits and vegetables you can grow from the seeds of grocery store items? Green peppers, tomatoes and squash can be grown from seeds found in the fruits you purchased. Leeks, green onions and lettuces will squeeze out a few more leaves from their bulbs. Celery will grow some new stocks from their base. Ginger, potatoes, pineapples, onions, garlic, and various herbs, can all be cut and planted to grow new growth.
Never Pass Up an Opportunity
Recently, I went to the grocery store and as I was leaving, I noticed a large assortment of half-dead seedlings. I looked at them longingly, but knew we weren’t going to be able to afford them. Until I noticed the “Free” sign on the cart. I began sorting through the seedlings and discovered mostly cauliflower, but also a tomato, a lettuce, a broccoli, and several spinach. I took the majority of the different ones and left a few of the cauliflower. Then I headed home.
Start Your Own Vermicompost
Both Mike and I have allergies to animal dander, but we do have about a million pets — worms! If you can get past the ick factor, having a thriving vermicompost bin can help you create wonderful compost and fertilizer for your garden. Simply save the scraps of vegetables and fruits (no meat!) and add it into the worm bin. Your worms will happily chew it up and “process” it into some of the best compost and fertilizer you can imagine!
It Never Hurts to Ask!
After having received the pots and the plants for free, I figured I had nothing to lose, and I posted on Freecycle a request for some soil. It took me a few days, but finally, someone offered me half a bag of all-purpose potting soil! I picked it up one evening on my way home from work.
Once the weather was nice enough, Naomi and I planted the seedlings we thought were most likely to survive. Unfortunately we lost most of the spinach and lettuce, but the tomatoes, cauliflower and broccoli looked promising. So with a little love, patience and faith, maybe our lovely little garden will bring about some blessings!