One thing that’s great about gardeners and their communities is their love for sharing and their hate for wastage. Gardeners, both indoor and outdoor have a lot of information to share.
On the money saving front, specifically for indoor gardening (some useful for winter gardening too), there’s a lot of ways you can cut your growing expenses and some things to think about with what your growing. Because funnily enough, you could be spending more by growing plants that are going to be wasted (The $64 Tomato springs to mind).
With that in mind, check out these…
12 Ways to Grow Plants Indoors for Less
1 – Grow What Your Family Eats the Most of
Sounds simple and sensible, yeah? Yet, when you consider the amounts you’re growing in a vegetable garden, think about whether that’s really needed. If it’s only you in a family of four who loves chili peppers, chances are, most of your harvest will not be used.
Waste is money.
Just because a plant is high-yield, doesn’t mean you ought to grow it.
If everyone loves fresh tomatoes, grow more tomato plants and stop growing the chili plants. Unless, of course, everyone loves spicy food, then grow more. And you can grow chili pepper plants indoors. Here’s how.
2 – Regrow from Leftover Foods
A lot of the fresh veggies you buy can be regrown. You just need the right part to start. Take a Romaine lettuce as an example. You can’t grow from the leaves, but if you snip it carefully, you can keep the heart intact, pop it in a bowl of water and it’ll grow new leaves (with time of course). Every couple of weeks you could have enough lettuce leaves to serve as a small side salad.
If you’re forever throwing away greens, see what you can regrow in a small plastic container like an empty yogurt carton to grow more of it from what would otherwise be tossed.
3 – Grow Your Herbs in Vertical Stacks
For this, you don’t need to buy a vertical gardening kit. You know those fabric shoe containers designed to be hung over the door? Those do the same job. You only need a sunny place in your home to hang it.
Here’s the general idea:
4 – Maximize Your Grow Space
This comes back around to growing what your family will use. Plan for this because growing more of the same is a great way to make sure the money spent on climate control is going to save you money in the longer-term.
For easy plants to start with, try just a few, like green onions, lettuce and cherry tomatoes. Perhaps the odd garlic clove, regrown from one you bought, because you don’t need much of it.
Spacing is the integral ingredient. If you choose vegetables that you can plant a few inches apart, you’ll get more out of the space than you would if you were trying to grow a bunch of lettuce heads. Chances are, a few hearts are all you’ll need for a small amount of leafy greens to serve as a side salad. Not 12 lettuce heads harvested all at once.
5 – Plan Your Outdoor Garden the Season Before
If you don’t know already, it’s far cheaper to grow annuals from seed than it is to buy container plants to put in your garden. Seeds are cheaper than flowers and besides, home grown fresh flowers make for great gifts. If you spend on buying flowers at the florists to gift to people, you’ll save a lot by growing your own.
For some general guidance on what to plant and when, Kathy LiLiberte has a great resource on Gardeners.com about planning seed planting. She’s kept journals for years on the what and when. Keep in mind, your growing climate will be different. That said, that page linked to above is a good starting point to learn an effective way of planning for seasonal and annual plants.
6 – Reuse Egg Cartons and Toilet Rolls for Seed Starting Kits
Save money by using what you’d be tossing out. Egg cartons and toilet roll tubes are ideal to use as seed starting pots. A dozen eggs will give you room to grow a dozen small plants. If you need a deeper level of soil, use a toilet roll tube.
Here’s some other disposable items you can use as plant pots and/or seed starters:
As your plants get larger, move them to other containers that you already own, such as coffee mugs.
7 – Give and Get What You Can
There’s a lot of things people want to throw away, but don’t. Instead, they put up offers and wanted ads in communities like Freecycle.org. There are likely groups on Facebook for your community too.
Items that can be reused can range from plant pots to worn out car tires that are only good for gardening DIY projects.
8 – Buy Used – Always
This is the golden rule of saving money. If you can buy second-hand, go for it. Things like gardening tools, plant pots and any materials you could use for a craft project like building your own compost bin. You can ask at a building site or factory if they have any old pallets being chucked out and see if your local farmer has some spare chicken wire you can use to seal around a timber frame. That’s all the materials you need to build a compost pen, instead of buying a compost bin.
Think out the box before you buy anything. If it looks simple, you can likely build something that’ll do the job. For tools and smaller bits and bobs, keep an eye out for people having garage sales.
Not everything gets listed on auction sites like eBay because of postage and packaging. For bigger items, it still makes sense for people to have a garage sale, because they don’t need to pack and ship items. You just show up on the day, see what you like, agree on a price and load your car up.
That’s the same for market fairs too. If you have your eye on something, anywhere you’re likely to get a bargain price – go.
9 – Seed Swaps
Seed swaps are done both online and in communities. The one thing to remember about these events are that they are swapping, not just taking, so you need to bring some seeds with you. Chances are, you’ll have some anyway as most seed packets have more than you need. Like 50 seeds when you only need 3. That’d be 47 seeds you can take to a seed swap event.
Before you jump into swapping seeds, get to know how to save them so they will germinate for the person you swap with.
There’s two upsides to using seed swaps. The first is you get to save money, and the second is you get to grow a variety of plants that you may not have considered.
There is a third upside, but it’s not applicable to online events. It’s the seed swap meetups, where you attend in person. Go to these in your local community because those are the gardeners who’ll be able to advise best on the grow conditions applicable to what you’re growing.
Some resources on saving seeds: https://robinsonloveplants.com/saving-seeds/
Just in case there’s no events near you, chances are there’s other gardeners who would attend – if there were one. This guide on the Eden Project details how you can organize your own seed swap event for your community.
10 – Get Cuttings from Friends and Neighbors
Here’s the real key to frugal gardening… Divide and multiply!
How not to do this is taking a stroll around gardens armed with a pair of scissors and a plastic bag. That’s just wrong on every ethical plane.
The right thing to do when you see a plant you want to try to grow is to ask the owner for a cutting. That way, you can grow from stems and leaves instead of roots and buds. It won’t work on all types, but you’d be surprised by the number of plants you can propagate from a healthy cutting.
If someone’s unsure or confides in you that they aren’t great at snipping and pruning for propagation, this is the right process to take a healthy cutting.
11 – Repurpose Water
For this, collecting rainwater is the obvious choice. To save money, you can use an old barrel of any type, or just leave tubs out in the yard with the lid left off. Use that to water your plants.
Indoors… every time you boil water for food, that can be used as fertilizer.
Foods like pasta, vegetables and eggs work best because what comes out of the vegetables, is used as plant food. You need to let the water cool down first.
12 – Shop Smart at the Garden Center
Before you go to your local garden center to buy anything, think about what you want so you don’t impulse buy. Lists work great.
When you get there, start at the back of the shop where the clearance section usually is. Check out the entire range right around the shop because the ones that aren’t looking their best, you might be able to barter for a discount.
And speak to the staff. They know you’ll be back and if you’re nice to them, they’ll tell you the best time to come back. Ask them if there are any sales coming up and they’ll likely tell you to stop in at the end of the month when they have a big delivery coming in. Along those lines anyway, they’ll tell you when they expect a sale to be coming up.
Also, ask for discounts. Most stores have loyalty cards because garden centers know customers return.
Pro Tip: Save your receipt because some garden centers give you a guarantee, which could be along the lines of – “if your plant dies within three months, bring it back and we’ll exchange it.”
An exchange is just as good as a refund, because you can try again without having to buy another plant.
Indoor gardening can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. By following some of the tips listed above, you can have a nice indoor garden, whether that means food for your family or simply beautiful plants to have in your home, at a low cost that you can feel good about.