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Thursday, March 23, 2023

The Budget Victory Garden

We're not at war, so perhaps my garden is not a "victory" garden -- maybe more of a "recession" garden. But I am still concerned with gardening budget-style. 

There are some gardening things for which you just need to fork out the money, such as some soil amendments or soil testing. But there are many other areas where you can save considerable money in gardening. For example, I've mentioned before that I start all of my vegetable plants from seed, I save seeds from one year's plants to use the next year, I sometimes plant bits from the kitchen (sprouting potatoes, sprouting garlic cloves, green onion roots) at very little cost, I make bone meal from chicken bones and crush eggshells to use as a soil amendment, and we make compost in our backyard. 

Here's another way I save as I start my plants. I wash and reuse plastic food containers for use as pots for seedlings during their growth period weeks before planting out to the garden. My husband and I don't buy much fast food, but my daughters sometimes do. Here I've got 2 plastic cups from Shamrock Shakes, a plastic cherry tomato container, a couple of deli salad containers (Valentine's Day lunch), and a small plastic produce  cup, 

Today I needed to move small tomato seedlings into larger containers. I had 5 garden pots I could use, but I needed another 6 containers for all of my tomato starts. 

Before planting in these recycled cups, I stabbed them well with a pointy knife on the bottoms for drainage.  (The tomato cup already had ventilation holes on the bottom.) With thinner plastic, such as milk jugs, I use a corkscrew to add drainage holes.

While I save money by not buying additional potting containers, there is one drawback. My repurposed plastic containers don't fit together compactly like a purchased set of potting containers. I'm currently working on how to manage all of my indoor seedlings to compensate for that issue.

Not seen here, I also use a 6-inch square take-out container and it's corresponding lid as trays to hold additional potted plants.


  1. As always, you do a great job thinking outside the box and working with the materials you have!

    While I reuse trays as much as possible, many of mine were cracked and broken after much use. This year, I invested in a soil blocker and am trying that route. Seems to be working well, though there was a bit of a learning curve.

    1. Hi Cat,
      Many of my purchased trays and purchased planting cells and pots have cracked a lot too. I've used them for many years, so I don't feel badly about having to throw some out. But it has left me short on some small pots for transplants this year, hence saving all of our single use plastic containers to use as pots. A soil blocker sounds like a good alternative to buying plastic planting cells and pots. I've also seen a small tool that one can use to make biodegradable pots from newspaper that looks cool. Good luck with your new blocking tool!

  2. Smart of you to use what's available.

    1. Thanks, Kris.
      I like being able to use those single use plastics an extra time before sending to the recycler.

  3. I like using old containers for various things. But I also think sometime I am going to invest in some in consistent shapes and sizes to make storage that much easier. But for now it's a mish-mash. Lili, I bet there are people around with old pots they've gotten from plants they bought who would be happy to gift them to you. We used to be able to recycle them, but can't now. Some nurseries will take them, but mostly people collect them and never use them. You might be able to get some consistent sizes that way.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      I do sometimes see plastic pots and multi-cells in free piles at yard sales. I'll be keeping an eye out for those this year. I think you're right that a lot of folks hang on to them and never get to using them.

      I would love to have some food storage containers that all matched and fit together neatly for storage. Our food storage containers are such a hodgepodge of mismatched pieces. Perhaps someday I'll buy some that are attractive and store tidily.

      Thanks for the reminder to be on the lookout for planting supplies at yard sales and free piles this year.


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