Nothing worse than building a garden and realizing you spent about $10 a tomato, right? It’s totally doable to build cheap raised gardens or container gardens, and I will show you how.
If cost has ever stopped you from building your own garden of delicious vegetables, herbs, and fruits, it shouldn’t. Here’s how to start your own veggie or herb garden for about $50. (You could actually do it for even less, but I wanted to be generous/fair in my estimation.)
Disclaimer: While the items listed below were available online at the time of publication, inventory and sales may vary by location for both online and in-store purchases.
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1. Find raised garden bed kits on sale at Home Depot for around $30 or less.
If you’re going this route, The Home Depot is the best place to find raised garden bed kits — sort by as low as $30, and prices dip even lower during seasonal sales. Always check sale prices during Home Depot’s Spring Black Friday and around holidays like Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day.
You can also make your own raised garden bed using free wood. Redwood and cedar are best, as they are rot resistant. To find scrap lumber or discarded pallets, call local businesses and check online marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor, and Craigslist to see if anyone is trying to unload any extra materials. If you use a soft wood, like pine, be sure to seal it with paint or line your container with plastic so that the wood doesn’t decay.
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2. Snag free large containers and planters through local recycling programs.
Vegetables and large herbs will do best in a pot that is at least 12 to 18 inches tall. For some reason, nursery pots and planters are weirdly expensive. Like, why would I pay $15 for a hunk of plastic?
You can sometimes find free planters through Home Depot’s recycling program, which allows people to return plastic pots and trays to their garden center to be properly disposed of. You can also ask an associate at Lowe’s Garden Center if they have any containers to spare. Or check to see if there is a Freecycle community near you; the site is for giving away, finding, and trading free stuff.
FYI: Container gardens are great for veggies like zucchini, kale, peppers, cucumber, and lettuce, but not so great for plants that will grow super-tall, like vines, or for root vegetables like carrots, ginger, or sweet potatoes that grow underground and thus need deep soil.
PRO TIP: Place the planters in the sunniest corner/spot in your yard. Or, in the case of indoor herbs, on a windowsill.
3. For microgreens and small herbs, buy small clay pots for just $1.
A 2-pack of 3.5 in. Terra-Cotta Clay Pots from the Dollar Tree are just a buck. Sizes may vary in stores, but they’ll always be $1 at the Dollar Tree.
The Home Depot also sells simple, self-draining one-gallon plastic pots — 1/2 inch deep and 7 inches tall — for $0.98.
PRO TIP: Make sure you don’t put your pots where they can’t drain without ruining something. I put some pots on my tile deck and didn’t realize that the runoff was staining the tiles.
4. Or get super creative by “making” your own containers.
You may find something like this lying around your house or garage. But if you don’t already have something like this, you can also peruse JOANN and Michaels — especially during a sale! — to find other fun, unconventional containers for just a few bucks each. Definitely cheaper than buying a brand-new planter.
Just make sure the container is sturdy enough to hold lots of water and soil for months at a time and has drainage holes so that the excess water can run out. Plants don’t like having their roots all soggy.
5. Buy garden accessories like pots and stake lights from the Dollar Tree.
The thing about Dollar Tree’s online inventory is that much of it requires bulk quantities to be eligible for online purchasing. That being said, there are some great deals on gardening tools and accessories.
Here are some cool items that are also available for free store pickup from the Dollar Tree:
- Garden Collection Two-Toned Plastic Hexagon Planters, 8×5 in, $1 each, minimum 24 units
- Floral Garden Chalkboard Wooden Stakes, 7.875×4.25 in, $1, minimum 1 case of 36
- Garden Collection Silver Honeycomb Solar Stake Lights, 14×2.5 in, $1, 4 unit minimum
6. Find bags of soil from Lowe’s or Home Depot for less than $5.
When it comes to growing, well, anything, it’s all about the soil. You have to have the right soil for your plants to thrive.
You can find cheap mulch, compost, and potting and garden soil from Lowe’s and Home Depot pretty much year-round, but don’t be afraid to buy soil on sale! The best outdoor sales usually happen on holidays — Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Veterans Day.
Here are some current examples of good prices:
- Miracle Grow Moisture Control 8 qt. Potting Soil Mix from Home Depot: $4.97
- Sta-Green 1-cu ft Garden Soil from Lowe’s: $2.50 (reg. $4.98)
- Miracle Grow All Purpose Soil for In-Ground Use from Home Depot: $3.88 (reg. $4.27)
PRO TIP: If your soil is still healthy (i.e., no huge insect or fungus problems), you can save it and reuse it for next year. Just remember to fertilize!
7. Get free compost, mulch, or fertilizer from your city.
Many cities and counties have compost, mulch, and fertilizer that residents can pick up for free. The mulch isn’t really suitable for growing veggies, but some cities do have organic compost. Either way, check with your county or city to see if they have any public programs like this.
Have you heard of worm tea? It’s not an Arnold Palmer mixer… Worm tea is basically water and worm poop mixed together. Yes, gross, but it’s full of phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and nitrogen, making it an excellent natural fertilizer. You can buy premade worm tea or buy worm castings to make your own. Some cities have programs where they sell or give worm castings away for free or sell for nothing.
8. Grow new vegetables and herbs from leftovers you already have.
For first-timers, the easiest vegetables to grow include lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes — all of which can also be grown from scraps or seeds!
9. Get free seeds from the National Park Service.
In an effort to restore pollinator populations — like bees and butterflies — the National Park Service is offering people free seed packs. To get yours, fill out the request form, and note whether you’d like Black-Eyed Susans or Butterfly Milkweed seeds.
10. Save on your water bill by collecting rainwater.
Simply put a pot, cup, or bucket outside, and let that precipitation come to you. (Be sure to cover it with a piece of scrap wood when it’s not raining or you’ll get mosquitoes!) Or, put a bucket under the stream in your shower to catch all the water that gets wasted as you lather up. Smart, and cost-effective.
11. Buy gardening tools and accessories from Walmart.com.
Here are some good deals on gardening tools I found recently:
- 3-piece Fiskars Steel Garden Tool Set: $11.68 (
- Deluxe Aluminum Cultivator: $7.39 (
- Formosa Tools 20-inch Hedge Shear: regular price $7.88