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Simple ways to start your winter garden for free; 3 plants to grow now

Posted: 9:47 PM, Sep 28, 2016
Updated: 2016-09-29 00:48:05-04

It's time to start your winter garden, but you don't have to go broke doing it. Our Smart Shopper team found simple ways to garden for almost nothing.

We got the help of Jake Mace from Tempe. He calls himself "Vegan Athlete."

He says there are costs involved in starting up a garden but there are several ways to save.

“The goal is to find the cheapest seeds possible for your first garden and then to plant your own seeds from that point on so your food is free,” he said. 

Cheap is good, but free is even better and you can get free seeds through several seed libraries and seed exchange groups throughout the valley.

The Phoenix Public Library currently hosts a seed library program at three locations:

All library card holders have to do is check out up to three seed packets at a time (limit of three per ever three week period). They also have free gardening workshops to help you grow a successful garden.

The Mesa Main Library also has a seed lending program called the "Seed Library." Again, you can check out up to three seed packets per month, plant and donate seeds back to the library. 

As for what to plant, first on Mace's must-have list is wheat grass.

He says ,”If you go to a juice bar, they might charge $3 for one shot of wheat grass. I can spend $3 and grow 20 or 30 shots.”

And the best part is you don't need a garden to grow wheat grass. You can grow it in trays, both indoor or outdoor.

Plant the seeds in a tray of soil and then cover the tray with a piece of cardboard or a paper bag to keep the seeds dark. Lift the paper bag or cardboard up at least once or twice a day and water the seeds (keep the soil moist). In about 2 weeks, the grass will grow and push that paper bag or cardboard up. When the grass is about a foot tall and dark green, it is ready to harvest, juice, and drink!

Mace also says you can save on seeds by simply buying them in the bulk section of the grocery store. Just look for red winter wheat berries. They look similar to brown grains of rice.

Next is bok choy. It’s full of nutrients that keep your immune system strong and it’s very easy to grow, which is perfect for a beginning gardener. You can plant it in your garden or even on a small patio or terrace. 

“It's really versatile for eating raw in salad, for juicing or cooking." 

Finally the moringa tree. Mace says ,”The moringa is the new kale, it's one of the healthiest foods on the planet.”

And it’s a very resilient tree, easy to grow. You can grow moringa in a pot but it does best if planted in the ground! Moringa is a tree that has edible leaves and flowers.

Mace has a tree that is already 15 feet tall and grew in less than nine months. The bottom line is that now is the main planting season in Phoenix, so plant things you know you will eat. And look for free resources before spending any cash.

The City of Tempe is having a Valleywide compost giveaway on Saturday, October 1st.

Tempe’s compost is made from green organic material – such as yard clippings and shrubs – that is collected citywide before it is processed, cooked, tested for quality, and redistributed to the community.

On October 1st, you can get as much compost as you want for free from 6 – 10 a.m. at their Solid Waste Compost Facility located at 55 North Rio Road. 

Be sure to bring your own bags or containers as they will not be provided.