Free Gardening Ideas
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25 Free Gardening Tips & Tricks! Low-Cost Growing!

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This article is packed full of free ideas to help you garden on a budget and I will be regularly coming back to it and adding more ideas!

Free Compost Materials

Compost will be one of your main gardening expenses, so making your own is essential if you want to garden with little cost.

You will need a compost heap or bin before you can get going. You can make a heap for free with pallets or source a bin. “Dalek” style bins are often given away for free on Facebook marketplace, so have a look in your area.

Once you have a bin setup, here are some excellent free materials to add to it.

1. Food Scraps

Put food scraps in your raised beds
Fooscraps make the perfect compost material

Food scraps are perfect for adding to the compost heap. They are packed full of nutrition that your plants will need and also rot down quickly and soon become compost.

Don’t add meat, dairy or manufactured products. Just add natural products like potato peels and other fruit and veg items.

Meat and dairy products can attract rats which is why I don’t recommend adding them unless you know what you are doing.

2. Grass Clippings

Grass clippings are excellent
Grass clippings are excellent

If you mow a lawn, ensure that your grass clippings go into your compost. Grass clippings are packed with nitrogen and are a great material to add to your compost.

Just make sure you break up your layers of grass clippings with some brown materials, sticks, cardboard etc or your pile could go slimy and smelly.

If you are going to use your grass clippings in compost, then don’t treat your lawn with any chemicals or weed killers as you don’t want these in your compost.

3. Cardboard Boxes

Cardboard on the compost heap
Cardboard on the compost heap

Cardboard is great for adding to your compost heap and helps balance out all the green plant materials you will add.

You want to add green and brown materials to achieve good compost. greens being plant materials and grass clippings and browns being sticks and cardboard.

Add these materials in alternating layers (the lasagne method) to achieve a quality but easy compost.

Don’t add glossy, printed cardboard as that contains many chemicals. Stick to plain cardboard, Amazon boxes are fine even though they have the logo printed on the side.

You also want to rip your compost up or shred it ideally into smaller pieces before adding.

4. Eggshells

Use crushed eggshells as a fertiliser
Eggshells are packed full of calcium

Another great free resource for your compost is eggshells. These are packed full of calcium, which can be hard to otherwise add to your compost.

Crush them down as small as possible, and then just add to your compost heap.

The smaller you can crush them down, the quicker they will break down in your compost.

5. Leaves

Leaf Mould
Leaf Mould

Leaves can be added to a compost heap or turned into a material all of their own.

If you get a lot of leaves falling naturally in your garden or allotment, then you may want to consider making leaf mould.

This is a type of compost made entirely from leaves and is excellent for your garden. Pile the leaves up and let them rot down over a few years – it’s that simple.

6. Wood Chippings

Wood Chippings
Wood Chippings

If you have a local tree surgeon, then get in touch with them, they may be willing to deliver wood chippings in bulk for free.

This is one of those win-win situations as you get a useful resource and the tree surgeon doesn’t have to pay someone to get rid of what is a waste product for them.

You will not be able to directly use them as compost for a good 2-3 years. But once they have properly broken down they produce an excellent growing medium.

You can just leave them in a pile to break down if you have room. The smaller the chippings the quicker they will break down.

Containers

There are lots of items you can reuse and turn into containers and seed trays so you don’t have to buy them, lets’s take a look.

7. Egg Cartons

Egg Carton Seed Starter
Egg Carton Seed Starter

Milk cartons make great seed starters as each egg holder works almost like a module in a module tray.

This means you can grow plants individually in each section before planting them on.

8. Eggshells

Protect vulnerable plants
Eggshell Seed Cups

Eggshells can also be used for starting seeds in.

This is more of a gimmick than a practical option, but it is something fun to do with the kids or grandkids.

9. Milk Bottles

Milk bottles can easily be turned into planters.

Just chop them in half and fill them with compost and you have a ready-made plant pot!

10. Milk Bottle Propagator

Sweet Pepper Seeds In My Milk Bottle Propagator
Sweet Pepper Seeds In My Milk Bottle Propagator

As well as being used as pots, milk bottles also make excellent propagators or mini-greenhouses.

Read my guide here to find out how to make one.

11. Pop Bottles

Pop Bottle Planter
Pop Bottle Planter

Just like milk bottles, old pop bottles – both large and small, can be turned into plant pots.

12. Loo Roll Tubes

Toilet Roll Seed Starters
Toilet Roll Seed Starters

The centres of toilet rolls are commonly used for seed starting.

These are great as they can be planted into the ground whole with the seed still inside and the cardboard will rot away and disappear.

13. Tyre Planters

Tyre Planter
Tyre Planter

Tyres are commonly used as large planters for flowers and sometimes veg. As you can see above, they can look very nice when painted.

I would only ever grow ornamental flowers in them though as they can contain some pretty nasty chemicals which you wouldn’t want in your food!

14. Yogurt Pot Seed Starters

Yogurt Pot Seed Starters
Yogurt Pot Seed Starters

Save yoghurt pots and use them as seed-starting pots.

These small pots are brilliant for starting seeds in.

15. Drinking Cups

Plastic Drinking Cups
Plastic Drinking Cups

Much the same as the yoghurt pots above.

Small plastic drinking cups, the one-use kind, can be saved from landfill and put to good use as pots to start your seeds in.

16. Newspaper Seed Starters

Newspaper Seed Starters
Newspaper Seed Starters

Newspaper can be wrapped up a few times to create a seed-starting pot.

They work like toilet roll seed starters and can be planted with the seed still inside. The newspaper will rot away, leaving the seed to grow.

Gardening Accessories

17. Coffee tubs seed storage

I Like To Store Seeds In These Old Coffee Tubs
I Like To Store Seeds In These Old Coffee Tubs

These coffee tubs make great tins for storing seeds.

They are watertight thanks to the lid and also block out any light from getting to your seeds which can sometimes cause premature germination.

18. Milk Bottle Seed Labels

Making Milk Bottle Seed Labels
Making Milk Bottle Seed Labels

A milk bottle can easily be cut up and turned into seed labels, see my guide here.

Free Fertilisers

19. Banna Peel

Banana peels are often used as a natural fertiliser because of their high potassium content. The jury is out on how much potassium actually remains once you make a banana peel fertiliser, but its not going to do any harm!

Cut up banana peels and put them in a jar or old milk bottle with plenty of water. Leave them like this for a few weeks.

Then strain the banana peels out and use the water as a plant feed. You probably want to do this outside as it will smell!

No need to dilute, you can use the water straight.

20. Nettles

Nettles make a great free fertiliser
Nettles make a great free fertiliser

Nettles make a great fertiliser, they are so good in fact that many people actually leave them to grow in an area of their garden so they can harvest them.

Nettle tea is one of the favoured ways to turn nettles into plant food.

You want something large like an old bucket, pack it full of nettle leaves, cover it and let it sit. You want to leave it for many weeks, preferably over a month.

You can then use this tea as a plant food, this one does need to be diluted quite strongly, roughly at a 10:1 ratio.

21. Comfrey

Grow some comfrey to make your own plant food
Grow some comfrey to make your own plant food

Comfrey tea works just like the nettle tea above, soak the leaves in water for over a month.

Unlike nettle tea, you don’t have to dilute the water, just pour it around for plants for a good healthy feed.

Many gardeners also add comfrey leaves to their water butts as a constant ongoing natural feed.

Comfrey is widely treated as a toxic plant, and while there is an ongoing debate around this I would strongly advise you to be cautious. Use gloves and ensure it is never digested by humans or animals.

22. Compost Tea

Compost tea is a great way to feed your plants
Compost tea is a great way to feed your plants

23. Wood Ash

Wood ash can be used as a free feed
Wood ash can be used as a free feed

Wood ash from fires can be scattered around your plants like a granular feed.

You don’t want to overdo this, so only do it once a year in the same area. You also want to be careful about what the ash contains.

Don’t use anything that had chemical treatment or the like before burning. So woods like MDF, plywood and materials like printed cardboard should not be used.

Just as an FYI, you shouldn’t burn MDF in wood burners as it can clog in your chimney and lead to fires!

24. Manure

Well rotted manure
Well rotted manure

Well-rotted manure is the perfect natural plant food. It is usually applied as a mulch on the surface of your soil, but sometimes people also dig it in.

You want to use well-rotted manure and not fresh manure. Fresh manure can actually be dangerous for your plants.

Well-rotted manure is manure that has been left to compost down in a pile for over a year at least. Make sure it is no longer hot and actively breaking down.

It should be darker than fresh manure, not as smelly, and cold. Usually, most of the straw will also have broken down.

25. Coffee Grounds

Used coffee grounds can be used to feed plants
Used coffee grounds can be used to feed plants

Coffe grounds can be scattered around plants to work as a natural fertiliser. Many people say it is acidic and should be used on acid-loving plants like Blueberries, azaleas etc.

You can scatter it around plants or turn in into a liquid feed by diluting it with water.

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One Comment

  1. I planted gardens, the old fashioned way,
    Prepare the ground with good soil, a mixture
    Of compost, potting soil, and fertilizer after
    Frost has passed, Spring
    Viable seeds that haven’t expired
    After a few weeks, seedlings will sprout
    Herbs, vegetables, beans, okra, arugula….

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