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How to Start a Vegetable Garden from Scratch on a Budget

Figuring out how to start a vegetable garden from scratch without spending a fortune? Here are some low-cost solutions to a wealth of veggies.

watering plants

It’s one thing to figure out how to start a vegetable garden from scratch if you have a big ole pile of cash in your wallet and no credit card bills sitting unopened on your table. You buy a pre-fabricated raised bed or three, purchase oversized bags of finely-tuned vegetable garden soil, grab your favorite vegetable seedlings from the garden store, spring for that gorgeous gardening tool set, and you’re good to go.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. There is no “right” way to grow a garden. And when it comes down to it, all you need is love. Well, that and soil, seeds, and maybe a spade. For a larger garden, you might want to add in a hoe or a garden fork, but still, you don’t need much.

So let’s look at how to start a vegetable garden from scratch in some of the most economical ways possible.

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Woman Digging in a Vegetable Garden

No cash? No problem. Here’s how to start a vegetable garden from scratch on a tight budget.

There are a few approaches you can take when you’re determining how to start a vegetable garden from scratch. What you do depends mostly on how much work you want to put into it and what you hope to grow. You don’t need a lot of space to have a nice variety of herbs and vegetables, but that may require more planning if you want to take advantage of succession planting.

Container gardens are one option, and you can grow a wide variety of plants in containers. The most significant factor here is that containers can get expensive. A 10-pack of food-grade 3.5-gallon buckets will run you a little over $30. A 10-pack of non-food-grade 5-gallon buckets isn’t too much more. If you want something besides plastic buckets, however, the price can go up fairly quickly.

If you have space, a raised bed can be a fantastic option, although the cost can be all over the place, depending on whether you buy a kit or go completely DIY. A 4×4-foot kit will be somewhere around $40 and up. Building your own may not be any less expensive if you have to buy new lumber and supplies, but if you have a cheap source of lumber and you can use a screwdriver, you could get away with a free or mostly free raised bed.

Discover 7 top tips for growing, harvesting, and enjoying tomatoes from your home garden—when you access the FREE guide The Best Way to Grow Tomatoes, right now!

With either a raised bed or a container garden, one of the keys to success in learning how to start a vegetable garden from scratch is your soil. It’s worth the expense to buy a high-quality potting mix or raised-bed soil. These mixes are blended to provide the nutrients your vegetables need. They also help retain the moisture that can quickly evaporate or drain in a container or raised bed.

And there’s always the traditional in-ground garden. You may need to spend a fair amount of time removing rocks and roots and loosening compacted soil, but you won’t need to buy any additional supplies or soil.

Lastly, you’ll need seeds. It’s not unreasonable to think that you could have a dozen different herbs and vegetables, even in a small garden. For example, you can plant radishes and beets right beside each other because radishes grow so quickly. Tomatoes and basil make great garden companions. You can plant kale in early spring, then again in late fall.

Seeds are economical, too, especially if you share packs with a gardening friend. They generally cost around $2-4 per pack, and you get more than enough seeds for a good-sized garden.

All in, if you’re thinking about how to start a vegetable garden from scratch and aren’t sure how much money you might need, you can definitely do it on the cheap. In fact, even if you have to buy a small spade and seeds, you can ostensibly start a small in-ground garden for less than $20. There are several small garden trowels and spades for under $10, and another $10 will get you four or five packs of seeds.

If your budget is closer to $100, you can really expand into a raised bed, fresh soil, and even more seeds. Again, there are plenty of “right” ways to start a garden. The only real rules you need to follow are dictated by your vegetables. And as long as they have sunlight, water, and good soil, they’ll be off to a great beginning.

What do you feel are the essentials for starting a garden? Is there a “must-have” that you’d add? I’d love to get your thoughts in the comments. 

Discover 7 top tips for growing, harvesting, and enjoying tomatoes from your home garden—when you access the FREE guide The Best Way to Grow Tomatoes, right now!

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