Gardening on a budget

We've listed a number of creative places to find low-cost gardening materials.

SOIL & COMPOST
  • Big-box stores and nurseries: Check the clearance rack for torn bags at nurseries and stores such as Fred Meyer, Bi-Mart, Home Depot, and Lowe’s. Also ask about coupons.
  • Bulk soil suppliers: Buying soil or compost in bulk is less expensive than buying it in bags. You can usually pick up or arrange for delivery. Check with your local waste disposal company or a bulk soil supplier to learn about bulk soil delivery. In Portland, the Metro Recycling Information hotline can help you find a soil supplier close to your home. Call 503-234-3000. 
  • Craigslist: Search the “free” listings at www.craigslist.org for compost, fill dirt, and other soil resources. (You may also find free plants.)
  • Google: Type in “free dirt,” “free soil,” "dirt fill exchange," or “free compost” and the name of your town. Follow the links to see what you can find!
  • Local landscaping companies: Sometimes, companies are willing to deliver extra soil left over from projects. Search for companies online or in the Yellow Pages. Be sure to ask where the soil came from and whether it might be contaminated with lead or anything else harmful.
  • Tons of Dirt and Free Dirt: www.tonsofdirt.com and www.freedirt.com are websites that help you find free or low-cost fill dirt, manure, mulch, and rock.

SEEDS & STARTS
  • SNAP program: Use food stamp (SNAP) benefits to buy plant seeds and starts. For information, visit www.snapgardens.org.
  • Stores: Look for seed sales at stores like Fred Meyer and Bi-Mart every winter, around February. Ask about coupons.
  • Online seed companies: Many offer online specials or sales.
  • Urban Farmer: Look for “cheap seeds” on www.ufseeds.com.
  • Nurseries: Look for plant starts on sale at local nurseries in summer.
  • Oregon Food Bank or your local food bank: Ask about free seeds or starts.
 
TRELLIS MATERIALS
  • Use dry bamboo or old tree branches from the backyard to build your own.
  • Grow vining plants along an existing fence to avoid having to build a trellis.
  • Use old twine or grocery twist-ties to tie up vines. Use old cloth or nylons to support heavy items like melons.
  • Re-use old pieces of PVC, wood, or chicken wire to build your own trellises.
  • Check out the DIY network for trellises that you can build yourself: www.diynetwork.com/topics/trellises/index.html.
 
MULCH
  • Fallen leaves: Instead of raking your leaves to the curb in fall, use them to mulch your paths and protect your garden beds in winter.
  • Wood chips from landscapers and tree companies: Local tree companies and landscape companies need to pay to get rid of the wood chips they grind up when they cut down trees. Look up companies in the Yellow Pages or online and ask if they will dump the wood chips in your garden instead of hauling them to the landfill.

GARDEN SPACE
  • Community garden space: City governments, churches, schools, and other programs offer garden space. Some community gardens have long waiting lists, but others are looking for new gardeners. Call the community garden operator in your area—and be sure to ask about scholarships! 
 
TOOLS
  • Neighborhood tool share programs: Tool share programs allow neighbors to save space and money by lending each other tools for the garden or home. Some neighborhood associations, libraries, and community centers in your area may have existing tool share programs. If there is no tool share program in your area, you can start your own: search “start a tool share program” online for tips.
  • Garage sales, thrift stores, and Craigslist often have inexpensive used tools.
 
CONTAINERS/MISC SUPPLIES
  • Thrift stores: Look for used containers and other gardening supplies.
  • Online: Visit www.freecycle.org or the “free” listings on www.craigslist.org
  • Stores: Stores like Fred Meyer, Bi-Mart, Home Depot, and Lowe’s offer deals, especially late in the garden season. Look for sales in the garden section and check the clearance racks.
 
PORTLAND AREA RESOURCES AND GARDEN EDUCATION 

Community gardens in Portland: