New to Gardening? FREE and CHEAP Ways to Make Your Garden Thrive!

Introduction: New to Gardening? FREE and CHEAP Ways to Make Your Garden Thrive!

These are free and low cost ways to grow your own vegetable plants and beautiful flower beds. You can pay a fortune at the chain hardware , and they prey on those new to the growing game. Here are tricks handed down for generations in my family. We grow beautiful vegetable plants that feed us all summer and winter, fill our flower beds with gorgeous plants every year, and sell our annual seedlings, perennials, and produce.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Gone for the Weekend? Ways to Water When Your Gone

2-Liter Bottle Waters- Clean empty bottle, poke atleast 7 holes in cap, Fill with water, Half dollar size hole beside or between plants, turn bottle upside down and twist bottle into earth to seat it. Done!

Normal Plastic Water Bottle- Take bottle and poke holes on all over bottle, atleast 40. Easy way,grab a nail with vice grips, heat nail with fire to poke holes fast. Bury bottle close to plant, til just neck shows, soon after its planted. Roots will surround bottle and slowly give plant water. Good against root rot too.

Timers and Soaker Hoses- Hose timers are around $10 and great for when your not home. They can rack up your water bill if many leaks, so replace your O rings yearly. Hook your hoses up to sprinklers or soaker hoses with quick attchments and Y splitters, to water everything or each flower bed individually. Soaker hoses are one of the best way to conserve water and can be burried.

Bribe someone-
As long as your watering is easy, you may be able to find somebody to help you with this. Bake them cookies, buy them a 6 pack, promise them produce, watch their dog. Barter and trade is how people used to survive!

Step 2: Pest Free Feed You Plants for FREE!

Dish Water Nutrient Bath-
Use your nasty leftover dish water, at room temperature, and water your plants! broken down food particles=Nutrient Rich Fertilizer and Dish Soap=Bug Repellent
Only once a week, and less during drought time. The chunkier, greasier, smellier the better!

Used Coffee Grounds- Mix in soil or on top of new or established plants for nitrogen rich soil, which also helps breakdown in composts. It keeps out slugs, snails, and ants and adds nutrients to soil. Not good for all flowers, but this high acid/caffiene additive is great for tomatoes and other veg plants. I sprinkle to grounds and then water so the good stuff slowly seeps into soil. Some people mix grounds in water and let sit in a closed container for days to make a soup for their plants.

Compost, the stuff your kids won't eat-
You can buy this by the truckload from your local growers, by the bag at your chain stores, or make your own. When made right, this is superfood for your plants. Do not confuse this with something like fresh Cow Manure which is pure fertilizer. Proper compost when done will look similar to dirt/mulch. While its processing, it gives off steam because its chemically reacting, breaking down. In the bags, you'll see vapor under the plastic. It is a mix of organic waste decomposing. Typical things in compost are any food waste, manure, yard clippings, sawdust, wood chippings. To make this at home can be tricky, you need a thermometer your goal is between 110-160 degrees, pitchfork to turn the matter once a month, and the area. Covering the pile in hay helps, and putting the pile on pallets helps circulation.

Purdue University's Horticulture Dept on Lawn Waste Composting

Step 3: Critters Using New Spouts As Personal Buffet?! Don't Get the Gun!

Spring Mini Terrarium- Cut 2-L Bottles in half, take off lid, recycle bottom half, and stick on top of tiny sprouts being nibbled. The bottle will even create its own moisture usually and water itself. Not good for over 80 dregrees, you will bake them.

Chicken Wire Fencing- With a roll of this stuff and tin snips, you can gate anything in, shape anyway you like, and won't rust. City Gardener: It may not look pretty but until those veg plants are 8in off ground bunnies will eat the greens, and chickmunks/squirrels will even dig to eat the roots. Country Gardener: Groundhogs and Deer are horribly hungry and can bother you year long. Not good for tomatoes, you can't get your hand through the holes. Roll typically cost $20

Tall Plant Stakes and Plastic Fencing-
They have the orange kind like at fairs and construction sites. They also make black garden sheeting for this.Just another way to fence in your veggies, but I hate how ugly it looks.

Most people make tall circular cages, as these don't interfere with plant height and are easy to remove. I've seen teepee style cages, whole rows of same plant with half circle fencing ,like a roof for plant. BTW, Raised Bed Gardening is good for water drainage, but won't keep out critters.

Last Resorts!
Live traps come in many sizes
Electric Fence, solor power styles
there are inhumane ways too, if your crop is your paycheck you find ways, just google them. I don't want the hate mail, lol.

Step 4: Container Growing! Can I Really Grow a Tomato on My Porch?

Plants like water but have to have good drainage. They do not like to sit in water, but only have the little square footage of your container. Root rot and soil fungus growth are very common issues. Here are ways to combat that.

New Diaper Smell- Put a unused pamper in the bottom of large pots to absorb water but keep soil moist. if its safe for baby, its safe for veggies.

Rock, Sand, Soil - Make equal layers of rock, then sand, and soil in container. Extra water will sink thru soil, soil, and rest in rocks. Learned this from a cubscout book, lol.

Watering Tubes- Find large tubes, like pvc, pipes, even hollow toy handles that are as tall as your pot. Plant tube with plant, down to bottom of pot with top sticking out of dirt. You water plant inside tube not soil, it waters plant from bottom up.

Drill Holes in every pot possible! Glass amd ceramic may not work, but everything else do this! Easiest hack there is

Paper Coffee Filters- Holes too big and loosing soil out bottom or side holes? Put a filter or two down, and cut small X for plants in side holes. It acts just like weed mat.

Step 5: Marigolds Are Awesome, Aka Companion Planting. Planning Out Your Garden!

Some plants love each other, and some don't. Bean plants put nitrogen in the soil, Geraniums attract bugs away from your Veggies. Symbiant plants work toether and thrive. It comes down what each like in the soil, soil type, soil ph, and other sciencey stuff. Plan out your garden (there are computer apps) after you research who likes who, and who's gonna rumble and hurt other. Drama is for Housewives of Atlanta not your garden!

tomato companion tips

wiki of companion planting

even better guide!

Step 6: Perennials, Gods Free Gifts, and Sometimes Your Neighbors

Just to remind you, Annuals live for ONE season, and Perennials come back every season. These are different in every growing zone, always check your tag. And look at a zone map to see your Zone USDA Zone Map

Example- I live in Zone 5b so if I buy Endless Summer Ice Rose Succulents and the tag say Zone 9-10, they will live this summer, die in our cold and never come back. That's called an Annual.

Now if I buy a PW Blue Hydrangea Bush, and tag says Zone 7-3, it will come back year after year, pending you don't kill it another way. That's a Perennial.

So here is why I love Perennials
1- Harder to kill, have even killed a plant one year and came back the next
2-These don't need babied, this proper plant food, cover it during frost, forgot to water it 1 day and its dead type of BS. Im a busy mom, ain't nobody got time for that stuff.
3-They may cost a little more in the store, but annuals cost every year!
4-People love to split these hardy growers, talk to others with nice flower beds, gardeners, your neighbors, co-workers, grandmas, and in peoples trash. I give away plants, trade plants for other plants, baked goods, services, etc.
5-If you find a Rare perennial like our Freeze resistant Pricly Pear Cactus, people go crazy over it, will pay good money for it, and spark major discussions. I had an Amish farmer call me a liar in German when I told him it was a perennial. Life finds a way, to cross pollinate, acclimate to new areas, and keep on trucking.

Step 7: Invasive Plants Vs. the One You Wanted to Grow There!

Invasive plants are ones that you plant, and take over the whole area, stunting or killing off all your other plants. Any area with multiple plants can turn into the Hunger Games, and not everyone can be Katniss. These are called ground cover, typically a Perennial, and are not weeds. They are great in bad soil, hard to grow areas, I'll never water, beginning growers.

Which ones are invasive plants?
First always look at the tags when you buy your plants. If you see the words ground cover or creeper, considerate invasive. If you don't know much about the plant, find it in other people's flower beds, or talk to other growers. Invasive species change with where you live/zone. Here is a list of invasives in the midwest

English Ivy
Any Fescue/Grass
Lilly of the Valley
Sunchokes/ Jerusalem artichoke
Creeping Jenny
Ditch Lily/wild tiger lily
Black Eyed Susans

Lambs Ear

and many more...

Some of these are beautiful plants.

How do we keep invasive plants from being invasive?

- plant them in containers

- when they make seed, collect the seeds immediately.

- when in your flower beds, make borders for them. Just like your children

- watch your invasives during happy growing times (70 degrees, lots of rain) like a hawk

-recognize what they do, and don't plant your new ornamental plant next to it! Purpose and placement

-learn from your mistakes (like that ivy I planted 10yrs ago that takes over the house!)

Backyard Contest

Participated in the
Backyard Contest

Reuse Contest

Participated in the
Reuse Contest

Be the First to Share


    • Declutter Speed Challenge

      Declutter Speed Challenge
    • First Time Author Contest

      First Time Author Contest
    • Leather Challenge

      Leather Challenge

    5 Discussions


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    I've been using coffee grounds stead for 5 years. I haven't noticed any downsides to this, although my garden is right beside a 50ft Walnut tree (also acidic). Since I'm an urban gardener, the critters are small and fight for food sources. They are tiny thugs that seem to hate the coffee. As for certain flowers, that could be different.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    I see. So I should definitely make some research when I decide how to fertilize my plants. Thank you :)


    4 years ago

    Sure! Thanks for taking a looksie.