Want to save money in the garden? These articles provide tips on thrifty ways to recycle everyday materials, get free plants, make your own fertilisers and organic pest remedies and loads more. I share ways to tread lighter on the planet and your wallet!

How to Mulch Your Garden for Free

The Magic of Mulch

Mulch has so many benefits and is a vital input for every healthy garden. Mulch plays many roles besides framing your plants and making your garden attractive. Mulches inhibit weed growth, minimise erosion and retain precious moisture just to name a few. But how do you mulch your garden for free?

How to Mulch Your Garden for Free

It depends on the mulch you want. There are two types of mulch – organic or inorganic. Let’s take a quick look at them both with their pros and cons.

Organic Mulch

This mulch type is either a dead plant material you apply over the soil surface or a living species you grow to cover and protect it. Organic mulches are biodegradable and decompose over time – some fast; others over a period of years. This depends on the material and your climate. Here in the subtropics, organic mulches break down quite quickly with high moisture and humidity.

These types of organic mulches add value to your soil health and quality. They are a way of layering organic matter on top of the soil to build humus and encourage worms. Organic mulches like leaves, hay, shrub prunings and lawn clippings improve drainage and aeration. They also add nutrients and hold water; create habitat for soil microorganisms; improve fertility and soil structure. However, buying these types of mulches, especially in bulk can be costly. You also need to reapply them over time. This is one of the key reasons to learn how to mulch your garden for free!

Inorganic Mulch

Inorganic mulches are non-living or made from synthetic materials like weed mat. They typically don’t decompose, are low-maintenance and long-lasting but are usually more expensive to purchase. However, they don’t need replacing over time as organic mulches do. Decorative inorganic mulches include pebbles, rocks and gravel. It’s worth considering the environmental impact and one-off cost of these inputs. Pebbles and rocks can help prevent erosion and can be suited to windy gardens. They don’t however, feed the soil in any way.

There is a place for both types of mulches in many gardens. You can go to your landscape yard, nursery or hardware to buy bags of mulch in small quantities or get it delivered in bulk.

However, if you want to save money, why not consider all the potential materials you could use as mulch from your garden or neighbourhood? Here are a few sustainable ways to source your mulch at no cost. Dig in!

Organic free mulch materials - Top Left: Dead leaves | Top Right: Nut shells | Bottom Right: Corn Husks | Bottom Left: Pine cones and needles

These are a few of my favourite organic mulch materials – Top Left: Dead leaves | Top Right: Nut shells | Bottom Right: Corn Husks | Bottom Left: Pine cones and needles


How to Mulch Your Garden for Free

“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” ― Arthur Ashe

We all have access to different resources. You may have to think creatively about what materials you can source from your own garden, family and friends, neighbours or within your local community. Don’t give up! Even starting with one of these free mulch ideas can help save you money. Aim to be as sustainable as you can.

1. Reuse ‘Waste’ Plant Materials

Grasscycling Lawn Clippings.

There are several ways to use nitrogen-rich, fresh green lawn clippings or when they are carbon-rich, brown, dry and aged.

  1. Firstly, if you have a catcher on your lawnmower, dry the grass clippings out in the sun to prevent them from clumping. Sprinkle lightly around pots or garden beds as mulch.
  2. Avoid applying a thick layer of grass clippings all in one spot as they can form a mat. This can prevent moisture from getting through to the soil.
  3. Instead of using a catcher, allow the clippings to self-mulch on the lawn as you mow. This prevents weeds, adds moisture and feeds the soil and thatch with nutrients. Healthier weed-free lawn too.
  4. Lastly, add clippings to your compost when fresh as a nitrogen (green) ingredient. Or dry out and use as a carbon (brown) input in the composting process. Compost can also be used as a feeding mulch under a more durable layer like bark chip.
How to mulch your garden for free: Pile of pruned branches and leaves for mulch from our garden

A pile of pruned branches and leaves I used as mulch for our garden

Prunings from hedges and garden maintenance.

(more…)

10 Smart Tips to Garden on a Budget

With weather challenges, food security concerns and shortages plus escalating prices for fresh produce and living costs, it makes sense to grow your own groceries and garden on a budget. Even just a few basic homegrown vegetables and herbs can make a positive impact on your budget and more importantly, your health.

10 Smart Tips to Garden on a Budget - money saving ideas to grow food

These tips will help you:

  • Save money.
  • Live more sustainably.
  • Eat healthier.
  • Be more self-reliant.
  • Improve your food security.

So let’s dig in!

How to Garden on a Budget

1. Sow Seeds vs Seedlings

Seeds save you money, whereas seedlings save you time. You just need to be organised to plan ahead. That’s because seeds take time to germinate and grow big enough to transplant. However, you can grow way more plants from one packet of seeds than a punnet of seedlings!

(more…)

9 Foods You Can Regrow from Kitchen Scraps

Are you growing an edible garden? One easy way to save money is to grow some of your plants for free. How? From leftover food scraps that are often thrown away!

9 Foods You Can Regrow From Kitchen Scraps | The Micro Gardener

9 Foods You Can Regrow From Kitchen Scraps

You may already be composting your kitchen ‘waste’. That’s a great way to build healthy soil. However, it may save you money to be selective before throwing everything into your compost system. There are many plant parts that can help you propagate new plants. For minimal effort and no cost.

Why Should You Only Regrow Organic Food?

  • First, a word of warning! For health reasons, I suggest you select organic vegetables, fruit and herbs. Too expensive? So is the cost of poor health! I think safe food is one of the best investments we can make.
  • Sadly, non-organic produce is grown using chemicals. Not just one spray either. It’s commonly a cocktail of herbicides, fungicides, pesticides and other -icides. These are applied during the growth cycle and even after harvesting. These are often systemic chemicals. That means you can’t wash them off the skin.
  • The chemicals are absorbed internally into the plant tissues through soil and water. Root crops like potatoes are especially vulnerable. Other crops are genetically modified or imported and radiated.

(more…)

20 Reasons Why You Should Mulch Your Garden

Are you sick of weeding or watering your garden all the time? Losing plants to hot summers and freezing winters? There may be a simple solution to minimize the impact of these challenges – Mulch!

 

20 Reasons why you should mulch your garden

20 Reasons Why You Should Mulch Your Garden

What is Mulch?

Mulch is a material that is spread around a plant or over the soil surface as a protective layer. If you think of soil as a ‘cake,’ the mulch is simply the ‘icing’ or ‘topping’. It provides a huge range of benefits for you and your garden. Mulch comes from a wide variety of organic or inorganic materials. Mulch ranges in cost from free to expensive.

(more…)

20 Creative Ways to Upcycle Pallets in your Garden

Inspiring Pallet DIY Garden Projects

Looking for ways to upcycle pallets? Some creative DIY pallet garden projects? Recently I repurposed a pallet and large square wooden crate lying around a local landscaping yard, into a mini garden shed for $7. I was so pleased with the result, it made me consider other ways to reuse materials for my garden needs. More of us are conscious of repurposing rather than impacting on landfill with unnecessary waste. So I thought I’d share these DIY creative ideas to upcycle pallets. You may be amazed at the possibilities!

Cheryl has turned this hardwood pallet into a stunning vertical garden - perfect for a narrow balcony or limited space. Repeating coordinated colours works well. You can find the DIY instructions below.

Cheryl has turned this hardwood pallet into a stunning vertical garden – perfect for a narrow balcony or limited space. Repeating coordinated colours works well. You can find the DIY instructions below.

“Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value.” – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upcycling

(more…)

Easy DIY Potting Mix Recipe

Do you want to learn how to make potting mix at home? Want a quality potting mix recipe? Look no further! My early experiences with bagged potting mixes were not happy ones. With a sea of choices, clueless salespeople and confusing labels, I made more than one bad choice. Maybe you have too!

Easy DIY Potting Mix Recipe - learn how to make your own moisture holding, nutrient rich potting mix at home in simple steps.

Easy DIY Potting Mix Recipe – learn how to make your own moisture holding, nutrient rich potting mix at home in simple steps.

I fried my seedlings in what I thought from the label was ‘potting mix with fertiliser’ but was actually almost 100% fertiliser. I starved my plants with the next bag that didn’t have any food in it at all. Then another bag was virtually dead dirt that wouldn’t grow anything!

I got so seriously cheesed off wasting time and money with ‘dried arrangements‘ as a result. So I decided to make my own mix. It had to be better than going through all that pain!

Now, I try to be self-reliant and budget conscious where possible, by making my own supplies. If you don’t already, give home made potting mix a go. It’s easy, saves you money and a whole lot of headaches!

(more…)

Grow Your Own Groceries

The Urban Backyard Supermarket

“Growing your own veggies is the first step to self-sufficiency.” – Clive Blazey, The Diggers Club

What if you could save time, money and energy by growing your own groceries? Why ‘shop’ anywhere else when you can grow a bounty of your own nutrient-packed food in a small urban space?

 

A nutrient packed harvest from our backyard supermarket

A selection of veggies and herbs harvested from our kitchen garden including jap pumpkin, garlic, leek, zucchini, eggplant, shallots, red onion, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, herbs and lettuce.

 

Regardless of the size of your balcony or garden – if it’s tiny or spacious, abundance is not only possible – it’s easy to achieve.  It doesn’t cost a fortune in materials … backbreaking labour … expensive equipment … or too much time.  Simple frugal gardening practices can help you save money while you grow.

(more…)

How to Grow More Plants for Less

Are you serious about saving money in your garden? Want to grow more plants without it costing the earth? There are some clever ways you can grow your garden for free.

Frugal gardening is about ‘thinking outside the square.’ With some basic skills and knowledge, there’s no need to spend a cent at the nursery to grow your edible or ornamental garden!

Save money by learning some simple skills, developing neighbourly connections and working with nature for an abundant garden.

(more…)

Planting Tips to Save You Time & Money

Thrifty Ways to Buy, Sow and Plant

These are a few tips from my personal experiences to help you get the most out of plants you grow and cost you less.

1. Be Prepared

Prepare your garden bed or pot before choosing the seeds, seedlings or plants that suit your climate zone.

Check the amount of space you have available before planting. Some plants need more ‘personal space’ than others. So, avoid buying more than you need or have the space to grow.  There’s nothing worse than coming home with an armful of seedling punnets and watching them become ‘dried arrangements’ by the front door because you weren’t ready to plant them!  I’ve learned my lesson by composting too many ‘mistakes’!

 

Shallots are the lead actor in this edible micro garden - I prepare my potting mix first before rotating the food crops I grow in this productive small space.

Consider the space you have to work with: I chose shallow-rooted edibles like tatsoi, parsley, baby spinach, marigolds and skinny chives and spring onions which could all share this pot comfortably!

(more…)

DIY Fertilisers – How to Use Banana Peels

Want to save money in your garden and grow healthier plants?  One of the easiest ways to do this is to make your own free DIY fertilisers with organic materials and household food waste, including banana peels. A sustainable solution!

 

DIY Fertilisers - How to Use Banana Peels to Feed your Plants for Free

DIY Fertilisers – How to Use Banana Peels to Feed your Plants for Free

 

Tips for How You Can Reuse Bananas

Like all plants, bananas contain important nutrients. You can recycle these back into your garden to build plant and soil health.

Bananas are rich in minerals including:

Potassium

This mineral helps:

  • promote general plant vigour.
  • build up resistance to pest and disease.
  • fruit develop.
  • regulate around 50 enzymes in a plant.
  • build turgor (or uprightness of stems and the thickness of cell walls) i.e. plant strength!  This is extremely important for plants like staghorns which literally hang onto tree trunks in nature and vertical vegetables like spring onions, leeks and fruiting crops.

 

Bananas are mineral rich and recycling the peels back into your garden saves money and returns these nutrients to the soil where they can benefit other plants. This is NO WASTE gardening!

Bananas are mineral rich and recycling the peels back into your garden saves money and returns these nutrients to the soil where they can benefit other plants. This is NO WASTE gardening!

(more…)

Go to Top