Start a Basic Backyard Garden for 50 dollars (10×10-foot Plot)

by: Sara on 03/01/2017

When starting a garden the costs can add up quickly. In today's post we learn how to start a garden for $50 in an excerpt  from Crystal Stevens book Grow Create Inspire: Crafting a Joyful Life of Beauty ans Abundance. You can receive this or any other New Society book for 35% off until March 2nd when you order at using the coupon code Spring17.


The wonderful thing about gardening is that it can be done simply by collectively gathering resources and sharing the end harvest.
This guide factors in the kindness of neighbors, the generosity of friends and relatives, and the resourcefulness of the gardener’s mindset. With 50 dollars and some creativity, you can create a basic garden in your backyard using the minimum number of new tools and resources. Not only are you saving money, but you are promoting the use of recycled materials. Starting a garden bed can be done during any season. If you want to have a bed prepared for spring, however, it is best to start just after the ground thaws. Throughout the world, gung-ho gardeners always find a way to grow food, despite the season. Check with your friends and neighbors. See what seeds they are sowing when you get started. The barter system is tremendously helpful for gardening. Sharing resources is one of the best ways to approach life in general, I’ve found!


First, gather your resources. In our estimation, these are the only things you’ll need to buy.

Seeds and plants: 30 dollars. Seed packets average about 2 dollars each or you can save your own. Neighbors and friends


can go in on bulk seed orders to save money. Plants average 3 dollars each. Smaller nurseries tend to have better prices. 

Garden fork: 5 dollars. You can find a used garden fork in decent condition from friends, flea markets, Craigslist or Freecycle networks. A garden fork is heavy duty and has four long tines, typically forged from a solid piece of carbon steel, making it great for turning over compacted soil. If you can’t find one to buy in your budget, borrow one.

Compost: 6 dollars per bag or free from a friend or farmer. Most cities have a free compost program. 

Straw bale: 3 dollars. Check Craigslist under “farm and garden” or ask alocal farmer. Straw bales can often be purchased at farm or seed stores.Garden hose. Most folks already own a garden hose. Neighbors might havean extra you can borrow in exchange for a few homegrown vegetables.

If you have a higher budget, consider investing in a broad fork, a tool that loosens and aerates the soil without disturbing the living network of microorganisms, bacteria and fungi.

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Lavender repels pests in the garden

Now, stock up on these free and repurposed useful supplies. 

Perennial (native) plants to attract pollinators: Free from friend or neighbors 

Vessels for starting seeds. These make excellent seed-starting containers and can be saved throughout the winter to start seeds in the spring: coffee bags, toilet paper rolls, water bottles, recycled plastic quart containers,reused milk cartons, egg cartons.

Plant labels made from recycled materials (use permanent marker, crayonsor waxed pencils to label): Old venetian blinds (simply cut individual blindsto the desired size), recycled yogurt containers cut into strips, reused popsiclesticks

Soil: Some city parks have a free soil program. A park may offer the following soil options:

 • Fill dirt: Good for a base layer or filler, but the nutrient level is unpredictable

 • Topsoil: Generally the top two inches of soil, which is more nutrient-richand brings your garden soil up to a more balanced and preferred level ofnutrients to benefit the plants

• Compost: A combination of various detritus materials with a soil basethat includes mostly yard waste, such as leaves, grass clippings, smallbranches and twigs

 • Chip mulch: Shredded limbs and trunks of trees are good for pathways,mulching around trees and perennial natives, shrubs and

Straw being used in the garden

flower and herb beds. Its job is to protect roots and maintain moisture levels. If you dump and spread chip mulch in your future garden bed and let it rest for one year, it not only will smother the weeds but also will break down into more of a loamy humus layer, making it an excellent foundation for permaculture garden beds or edible landscapes.

• Sand: Very useful especially when mixed with compost for growing herbs. Sand is also a good additive for fast drainage. It also works well mixed with compost for starting seeds to promote better drainage, as atop dressing or as mulch for heating up the soil around the base of herb plants.

• Free mulch for garden beds: Black and white newspaper (no color or glossy ink)• Leaves or leaf litter from your yard or neighbors’• Grass clippings• Weeds (as you weed your garden, lay the pulled weeds down flat around each plant to act both as green manure and to also help suppress the growth of more weeds) • Burlap coffee bags

Now, you’re ready to prepare your garden spot.

1. In an area of your front or backyard, find a somewhat level spot that gets full sun for at least six hours per day. Mark out a 10-by-10-foot plot using a few stones or pieces of scrap wood.

2. Two weeks before you turn under the area for your garden, spray a mixture of one part vinegar (white vinegar is the cheapest) to two parts water on this plot. This will act as a prevention measure for managing weeds as well as insects.

3. After your plot has sat for two weeks, it is time to start digging. With your foot, press a potato fork halfway into the ground, using leverage to turn under the soil. Once all of the soil in the plot is turned up, use the potato fork to break up large clumps of soil.

4. Let the plot sit for a day or two so that the weeds die back. Use the fork again to break up the soil to create a finer dirt

.5. Spread a bag (or wheelbarrow full) of compost over the plot. Work the compost into the soil until an even consistency is achieved.

6. Plant your garden with season-appropriate seeds or plant starts. For instance, greens do well in cooler weather, and tomatoes do well in hot weather. Mulch established plants with straw or whatever mulch you have on hand.


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