RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Fresh food free of toxic chemicals, healthy soil that's better able to resist droughts and floods, tasty veggies that are as close as your own backyard...these are all good reasons to start your own organic garden. Here's another one: thanks to the reduced up-front costs of growing organic, organic gardening is the inexpensive way to grow. You’re relying on resources you have around your yard, rather than buying expensive bottles of chemicals.
Here are five easy ways to start an organic garden on a budget:
1. Forgo the beds. If the cost of supplies needed to build raised beds give you pause, don't worry. You don’t even need them. Organic Gardeningmagazine recommends that cost-conscious gardeners mound up soil and plant vegetables among the flowers and landscape plants you’re already got growing. Parsley makes a beautiful border plant; basil comes in ruffled forms and in dark-leaf forms that are wonderful mixed with flowers and yield lots of leaves for making pesto. And since you won’t be dousing your veggies in toxic pesticides, you don’t have to worry about the chemicals doing collateral damage to other plants.
2. Find free mulch. A bag of mulch may cost only $3, but that provides just enough for 2 square feet. A better idea is to scavenge your recycling bin and yard waste for free alternatives that can cover your entire garden. Try laying down sheets of newspaper directly on top of the soil or using grass clippings as mulch. Both add nutrients, help water stay in the soil, and suppress weed growth (so you won’t have to shell out for chemical weed killers). You can cover your repurposed mulch with straw, perhaps from a decorative bale you saved from last Halloween or Thanksgiving. The decaying straw will feed the soil. If you don’t have any leftover straw, a single bale usually costs about $5 and will cover much more than 2 square feet. See Why-And How-To Mulch the Heck Out of Your Garden for the basic principles of mulch use.