Freebies for gardeners

How to get free gardening tools, supplies, and ideas because gardening is even more fun when it is free, in the main

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Yes, it is possible, to some extent, as you can make many things for yourself from what others would consider waste, etc.

Free compost

The first step, of course, is to make your own compost at home from your food and yard waste. Why send it to the council yard to be processed where you – often – have to pay to get compost back, though, and I will get to that in a minute, there are some municipalities that give away compost from their facilities for free.

Many communities also maintain large compost piles from yard waste the waste management department gathers from residents. Call your council or public works department to find out if your town offers free compost to its residents. As I have said above, some councils do while some will charge you a fee for it.

Free compost bin

If you don’t mind a compost bin with a rustic appearance, you can make one from discarded wooden pallets. Building sites, warehouses, and many other places regularly discard pallets, so ask if you can take them away. While it once was only damaged pallets that were thrown out nowadays it is pallets per se, and often you can find even those wooden “bins” in which bricks are delivered.

If you use pallets then wire together four pallets for a closed bin, or three pallets for an open model. If you get hold of one (or better still more than one) of those wooden “bins” then make those into a compost bin.

Some councils, in the UK at least, give away composers that look like the those Daleks featured in Dr. Who, while some allow you to buy them at a very reduced rate.

Old plastic dust bins with the bottoms cut out also work very well as composters.

Free containers

Container gardening is, in my view, the way to go, and that also and especially includes the growing of vegetables. Forget the ordinary raised beds; use builder's bag, the tonne bags, filled with soil, instead. You keep waste out of landfill and have great deep root growing beds that are easily maintained.

Other items of trash also make great planters and I could go on and on about this. But a few more examples. Old bathtubs from fly-tips are, for instance, employed in my garden too for growing of a variety of things, as are abandoned shopping carts.

To be honest, anything that is or can be made into a container can be used as a planter, as long as you remember to drill drainage holes into the bottom.

Free manure

Many stable yards have manure available for free just for the hauling away and some will even deliver to you if local in order to get rid off the stuff. Remember, however, that fresh manure MUST NOT be used immediately and must be allowed to rot down for at least a year or two but it can be added to the compost heap to help you stuff break down faster, as it has lots of heat.

Also, add manure as compost booster to help your leaves break down that you collect in fall.

Free mulch

Check with your local council or public works to explore the possibility of free mulch. Utility companies must often trim trees, and can drop the shredded remnants in your driveway rather than pay a dumping fee and the same is true for many a tree surgeon. Just ask them when you see them.

Free seeds

A lot of garbage is often being talked as to hybrid seeds and their seeds. I have successfully grown beans, for instance, for the seeds of F1 hybrids and had better results from those from the seeds than from the original plants.

The claim that we often hear and see that the seeds of hybrids are either sterile, will not properly germinate, or whatever, I have found not to be true in the main and hence I would suggest you save seeds, regardless, and try.

Free plants

Starting plants from cuttings or divisions is even easier than growing from seed. If you haven’t had luck with plant propagation in the past, pin down a branch from your favorite shrub and cover it with soil. The mother plant continues to nourish the new plant until roots form. Check for roots after six weeks.

Free row covers

Row covers cost money when you want to buy them. However, dry cleaning services usually send your garments home encased in a large plastic bag. Try to get as many of those that you can from friends, family and others and reuse those bags as row covers (long row cloches) by stretching them over supports that you have made from bent wire or such. As this plastic material is a little on the thin side layer several sheets for added protection from late spring frosts.

Free garden cloches

While heavy glass bell jar cloches of the Victorian style look lovely as a garden accent few gardeners can afford to buy enough of these protectors to cover every plant. In addition to that they are (1) breakable and (2) the glass bobble – for lack of better word – on the top is a problem as it concentrates the sun's rays and often burns plants. Hence you will see most serious gardeners knocking that glass ball off the top.

However, you can easily make your own cloches, even though they may not look as good, from items of waste. Cut the bottoms off 2-liter soda bottles and gallon milk jugs to help transplants adjust to the garden. Remove the caps on hot days to provide ventilation.

Free garden tools

Well, DIY is here the order of the day rather than someone or some company putting tools your way unless you are lucky like me, as a writer, who gets tools for review.

However, quite a few things you can make yourself. You really do not have to buy a dibber. One of those is easily made from a broken broom or other wooden handle, and a little whittling.

Many other wooden garden tools can also be made in this way, such as a diblet, whittled from some other “sticks”.

Use Popsicle sticks for row markers by writing the name of the plants on the wood by means of a marker pen.

Wire weeder handmade from wire coat hangerA wire weeding tool, a copy of the “Wonder Weeder”, can easily be made from a piece of fence wire or a wire coat hanger, by hardening the wire by means of vice and small hand drill, and then forming it similar to the one in the picture.

Milk jugs and other plastic bottles can be cut into a variety of useful garden tools including, if you can get some of relatively hard plastic material, into trowels, scoops and such like.

Tin cans too can be refashioned into tools for the garden such as soil scoops and the like. You can find ideas for this all over the Internet.

The Internet is also a great source for much free gardening advice & literature and quite a few of those books and publications, especially the older ones, are free for the download as PDF documents.

Otherwise there is a wealth of other information out there for the taking and the asking that our parents and grandparents could have only dreams of, and all for free. Well, basically...

© 2012