How do you plant a spring garden for free? I can’t tell you how to keep the greenery alive, but there are great ways to start growing without spending a dime.
1. Get free coffee grounds from Starbucks or local coffee shops to mix into your soil.
Coffee grounds are great for your garden because the organic material keeps plants healthy by regulating drainage and water retention while attracting microorganisms.
Starbucks started the Grounds for Your Garden program in 1995. To reduce waste, most Starbucks will give away used coffee grounds on a first-come-first-served basis by the bagful.
Local coffee shops will often also do this as a way to limit their trash. I’ve seen mom-and-pop cafes give their coffee grounds away in buckets.
2. Get seeds from your local library.
More and more libraries are starting to loan out seeds in addition to books and all their other services. All you need is a free library card.
In return, the library just asks that you bring in seeds from the plants so they have more for next year.
3. Get free compost from your city by giving them your garden debris and food scraps.
Many cities have started programs to collect your kitchen scraps, leaves and other organic materials so they can turn them into compost for the community to use.
By contributing to the compost collection, you can pick up ready-to-go compost at a set location anytime they have it available. For example, here in Boise, they have it at the Botanical Gardens.
4. Use vegetable scraps — like celery — to grow your own.
Before you toss scraps from fruits and vegetables, see if you can use them to start a garden in your backyard. Celery, potatoes, lettuce and even pineapples can be regrown using portions of the produce you didn’t eat.
For a stalk of celery, cut off the bottom where all the ribs are connected, and place it in a jar with some water.
Once roots start to grow out of the bottom and leaves appear, you can plant it outside in your own garden.
5. Ask stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s for leftover plant containers.
Large stores like these get tons of plastic containers for plants all the time. They are often more than willing to unload them to you for free if you ask.
Use them as seed starters to get your plants ready to be put into the garden.
6. Get free wood chips delivered to your house using Chip Drop.
It seems too good to be true, but this is totally free. Chip Drop connects arborists with people looking for wood mulch for their gardens anywhere so tree trimmers and removers can get rid of excess wood chips.
You can pay $20-$80 for delivery, but it’s totally voluntary. Any money they get goes toward the tree companies who pay $20 every time they drop off wood chips.
7. Use empty wine bottles to slowly water potted plants.
I’ve killed so many plants by forgetting to water them on a set schedule, so this has changed the game for me.
Just saturate the soil and then quickly overturn a glass bottle, filled to the brim with water, 6-8 inches into the dirt. As the dirt dries, additional water will be released from the bottles.
8. Use free online planners to map out your gardens.
Sometimes just figuring out how to organize your garden is one of the most overwhelming parts.
There are tons of free sites that will help you plan out how you want your garden to look and keep you organized through the season. Some great sites for this are:
9. Use free apps to stay organized and know what’s growing in your garden.
Apps like Garden Answers identify plants when you take a picture of the plant itself and upload it to the app. If you see a plant in someone’s garden you’d like to grow, you can find out what it is.
There are free apps made specifically to track your garden’s progress and set reminders to water your plants, like SmartPlant.
10. Use free Home Depot paint sticks to mark each plant.
Use a Sharpie to write the name of the plant you’re growing, and place the stick in the soil next to it. You could buy wooden sticks to use for $1.98 at Home Depot, but you can always get free paint sticks at Home Depot.
11. Join the Home Depot Garden Club to get members-only deals and the occasional freebie to save up to $300 a year.
Sign up for Home Depot’s Garden Club — no matter what your gardening skills are — to not only get tips and tricks but to get exclusive discounts sent to your email.
Once in a while, you can even get a coupon for a freebie like a pack of seeds.
12. Join a seed swap program in your community.
Facebook is a great place to look for local gardening communities and find seed swap programs. Basically, you trade some of your own seeds for other people’s so you can get a better variety.
13. Share plants with your friends by trading cuttings.
There are several plants you can grow by cutting off a small portion of it and planting it. Swap cuttings from plants like Honeysuckle with your friends to grow your garden.
14. Get 10 free trees when you sign up for a membership with the Arbor Day Foundation.
A membership costs $10 for six months but comes with 10 free trees.