Monthly Archives: January 2021

Grow So Easy Organic – Find Free Tools to Start Your Garden

Want to start organic gardening but don’t want to spend a lot of money?  You can and it’s pretty darned easy.  Unlike traditional gardening, if you go organic, there are a lot of things you will NEVER have to buy.

You do not have to buy any chemicals or herbicides.  You don’t have to have fancy sprayers or a rototiller – not even one of those small ones named after the bug that prays.

The short list of what you need is dirt, water, seeds and sun.  If you try organic gardening and don’t like it, you’ve probably only invested a few dollars and some time.

But if you do try it and you do like it, you probably already own just about everything you might need to get started.  What you don’t own, you can usually get, for free.

So, here’s my list of what you need to be an organic gardener:

  1. Dirt – free.
  2. Seeds – cheap to buy and even cheaper if you save some for next year’s garden.
  3. A big spoon or small shovel – something to dig holes with when transplanting.
  4. Newspapers – free if you ask your neighbors and co-workers for them.  You can use them for mulch and make transplant pots with it, too.
  5. Straw – free if you find a farmer who has old or moldy straw to get rid of and which works just as well as the golden yellow stuff.
  6. Some found items that your cukes, tomatoes and peppers can climb
    Cucumbers growing up an old inner spring.

    Cucumbers like to climb and did great on this old bed spring.

    up or grow in.  When I say found, I mean things like the old double-bed spring I use for climbing vegetables or the headboard and footboard from the cast aluminum bed that I found on the side of the road.

  7. Epsom salts – dirt cheap in half gallon milk shaped containers.
  8. A bucket – free if you can get a hold of a kitty litter container or a dog food bucket.
  9. A mug – free if you liberate it from your kitchen and use it to deliver water or fertilizer right to the roots of your plants.
  10. Twine – free if you (or someone you know) buy straw by the bale, save the baling twine and use it to tie up plants.  You can also get tons of baling twine in any horse barn.  NOTE:  Do NOT use green baling twine.  It has been treated with strychnine to kill mice and rats.
  11. Old, sheer curtains, old bed sheets and even old mattress covers – free if you save yours or ask relatives and friends to give their old ones to you.  They don’t look as pretty as commercial row covers but they will keep frost off your baby plants.  And they’ll slow down all the bloody beetles that want to share your food.
  12. Access to a public library – free and there are always books and magazines about organic gardening ready for you to browse through, borrow and take notes from.Oh, and libraries have computers and internet connections. Using them is free. And online is just FULL of ideas, tips and advice on organic gardening.  All you have to do is put in your search terms and hit Go.
  13. An old 3-ring binder and some paper – can be free if you ask co-workers to save used copy paper and write on the back.  NOTE:  I consider this a requirement for my gardening.  If I don’t write down a tip or a “lesson learned”, I forget and end up repeating my mistakes again and again and again.
  14. A bit of inventiveness, a dollop of gumption and enough courage to try, fail and try again.

There’s no hurry.  You don’t have to have all of these things all at once in order to get started.  In fact, I accumulated all the items above over the years.

So, you can garden happily without most of them.

FYI – I call this section in my book – Grow So Easy: Organic Gardening for the Rest of Us “practical” because most of the tools you need are in your closets or cabinets, the garage or the shed.  Don’t buy….just give gardening a try.

Who Gardens in January?

I mean, really? It's a bit hard to dig through that! But you can garden!

Even in frozen Pennsylvania, January is a perfect month to get started. All you have to do is answer a few questions:

What do you want to grow?

This is the fun part! It’s tempting to go for something you’ve seen it in the grocery store, maybe something exotic or expensive.

But maybe you should start by growing the veggies that you like the very best. The chances are you can grow it in your backyard.

Tomato just turning red
Ripening tomato

For most people, the easiest (and most forgiving) plants are tomatoes and peppers.

Cucumbers and zucchini are also pretty easy to grow and you get fruit, fast from these two.


Next question: Do you want to start from seeds or buy your plants?

If it’s your first garden, you might just want to pick up plants that are ready to go in the ground. It’s easier on you and probably easier on your transplants.

If you want to start from seed, you can buy packets a whole lot of places but I only buy from 4 sources. NOTE: The following companies are also organic and non GMO. And oddly enough, seeds that are not organic often carry herbicides and fungicides in them, both of which will show up in your vegetables.

Territorial Seeds This company lives, breathes and grows organic crops on its 75 acre farm at the foot of the Cascade Mountains. It also researches and trials seeds with an aim of helping family gardeners and farmers grow healthy food in healthy soil

Seed Saver’s Exchange This is a a network of gardeners interested in preserving heirloom varieties and sharing seeds. Today, with 13,000 members and 20,000 plant varieties, maintaining a collection of over 20,000 different varieties of heirloom and open-pollinated plants, the seeds they save have the ability to regenerate themselves year after year. These seeds can withstand unforeseen pestilence and plant disease, climate change, and limited habitat.

High Mowing Seeds This company believes that re-built food systems can support health on all levels – healthy environments, healthy economies, healthy communities and healthy bodies, focusing on re-building of healthy food systems through the seeds they source and grow.

Baker’s Seeds At Baker’s Seeds, they aim to provide the seeds of a sustainable food supply for everyone and keep heirloom varieties alive for future generations.  Their drive is to preserve seed diversity and food security in an age of corporate agriculture and patented, hybridized or genetically modified seeds.

These four companies works in its own way to try to save heritage breeds. But they also work hard to put the power of the food supply back where it belongs – in our hands and the hands of local farmers.

If you aren’t convinced yet, think about this:

The average distance any supermarket vegetable or fruit travels to the store is 800 miles. But a gardener’s own fruits and vegetables move from the garden to the table within minutes, with every ounce of nutritional value intact

Gardening is easy – soil, seeds, sun and water and you have fruits and vegetables galore. Nxt week – tools you need.

PS – this is my first time trying to edit in the new “improved” WordPress editor. UGH! It will get better, I promise.