Starting a garden on a budget

Springtime in northern Nevada is making its way to our doorsteps. Some of you have probably spent the last few months planning out what you want to do in your garden and hopefully have found some great tips in our past articles to help you on your journey. Starting a garden can seem overwhelming financially. Starting a garden on a budget takes a little creativity.

watering can and bench
Metal watering cans can be repurposed to grow plants. Photo by Wendy Hanson Mazet, Cooperative Extension.

First, let’s talk about containers. One of the most important things to remember is to make sure whatever container you use has drainage holes. Plants dislike soggy roots.

You can repurpose many items you were thinking about throwing away. Plastic, metal or wooden buckets are great for displaying your favorite flowers. Have your children started to outgrow their sand pails? Give the pails new life by using them to start individual plants. If you have bigger buckets on hand, you can use these for large single plants or colorful plant combinations. Old metal watering cans and old coffee containers can also be used. Remember, some metal tends to rust over time, so keep an eye out and replace metal containers as needed.

You can reuse gallon milk jugs for planters. Clean milk jugs can be a great way to start seeds. All you need to do is cut off the bottom inch or two of your milk jugs, and use them as trays for starting seeds. After you have added holes for drainage, add soil or seed starting mix, and plant seeds. I have seen people use the top section as a cloche: a protective covering for outdoor plants. Another creative use is to cut milk jugs at an angle to create a scoop.

Garage sales are a great way to find gardening items such as tools, containers, and even ideas to help you get started on your own garden. Spring cleaning has commenced for many homeowners, so keep an eye out for sales. Don’t forget to check out your local thrift stores and classified ads for leads on free items, using caution when choosing where to pick up your newly found treasures.

So now that you have ideas for containers, what about seeds? A packet of seeds costs less than purchasing starter plants, especially vegetables. Starting your vegetable seeds indoors takes a little work but can give you a jumpstart to the growing season. Not all plants are easy to start from seed. Ask your friends, family or a neighbor if you can take a cutting from a plant that you admire. Cut a few small sticks, pot them up and with proper care, you should be able to see roots and leaves emerge.

Next fall, think about saving seeds from your favorite flowers, herbs and vegetables. For those that would like to save money and are new at starting seeds, start with plants that are self-pollinating, such as tomatoes, beans, peas or peppers. As you start saving your seeds, check around for local seed swaps. This can be a great way to meet new gardening friends.

Leilani Konyshev is the Master Gardener Program assistant for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension in Washoe County. Have questions about your plants? Contact a master gardener at 775-336-0265 or And visit