Organic Gardening for Less

As I posted about in March, recession gardens or as I prefer to call them, Victory Gardens, are the newest gardening trend and are being prominently featured in the media. We’re even getting one at the White House and at the California State Capitol. So, does that mean you have to be a wealthy first lady to grow your own?


Not at all, according to most garden writers, experts, victory gardeners, and even yours truly! It’s actually possible to have a bountiful garden without spending a fortune. You just have to learn some tips and tricks like how to recycle and reuse common household items for gardening purposes, use your creativity, and tap into your own personal networks.


For example, Joe Lamp’l has started what he is calling “My $25 Organic Victory Garden Challenge“. Lamp’l (aka Joe Gardener) is the host of two national television shows: “Fresh From The Garden” on the DIY Network and “GardenSMART” on PBS. He’s also a syndicated columnist and author. His latest book is The Green Gardener’s Guide: Simple Significant Actions to Protect and Preserve the Planet.


The idea came about when Lamp’l put up a post on Twitter seeing if he could get “moral” support for his idea to grow an organic victory garden that would supply his family of four with all the vegetables they needed for the summer without spending over $25.


He not only got moral support from his social networking friends, but they sent him donations of seeds, hand-painted plant markers, and other items as he embarked on his challenge in mid-March.


And, although he is a master gardener and a nationally known gardening expert and writer, he decided he wasn’t going to use any of those resources or supplies he had on hand from previous seasons, and was going to “level the playing field” by doing this as if he were a brand new gardener, “So that anyone following along can do the same thing and truly create his or her own $25 Victory Garden.”


When I asked him why decided on $25, Lamp’l told me, “That number just came out in a conversation with my staff. It’s a good round number and I felt like I could do it, a lot of people think that’s not a lot of money and I am determined to show people you can grow a lot without a lot of money.”


Why do this now? Lamp’l says that now is the perfect time for his challenge, “The economy is bad, and seven million people are turning to gardening. Right now resources are more limited than ever, with my background, specializing in growing a good garden on national TV, I felt like I was the guy who was passionate and had enough of a reach to make a difference. People are struggling with the desire to do it, and may not know how to do it, and have no money to do it, so I am telling them, ‘hey follow me.’”


Not only is he posting about the $25 Victory Garden Challenge on his blog, but he is hoping to get more coverage on radio and TV, and is writing about it in his syndicated garden column.


He is also creating his own videos to document his progress and the process as he goes along. That means showing it all, the good and the bad, the successes and the failures. As he said, “In the videos, they are real candid, each of those will have lots of little lessons, why I am doing what I am doing and to see how I am doing it.”


So, how is he doing? Lamp’l says that “so far I have only spent $7. That was for 2 bags of organic seed starting mix.”


As he posted on his blog recently,  he was able to save a lot of money up-front because of the free seeds he got from his Twitter friends. And, he got free boxes and cake toppers from grocery stores and birthday parties. Lamp’l also seems to really be getting into the challenge, “I’m pretty sure I’ve become obsessed with this challenge as I constantly ponder more ways to find free things I’ll need to fill the gap of conventional gardening supplies I won’t have the money to buy.”


Aside from actually being able to pull off his $25 Victory Garden Challenge, Lamp’l is hoping that this will spur interest in gardening. “I would love for this to go viral. The more people that write and link and tell it to their sources, it can become more than a national story. Gardening is finally going to the masses and we have an opportunity for momentum.”


And, his challenge is already taking off and spreading through the blogosphere, as like-minded Victory Gardeners are writing about his challenge, sending him their own money-saving tips, and providing their own tips for those who want to join the challenge on their blogs. I will be posting about some of them here in the weeks to come starting next week with Red, White and Grew, a wonderful resource for all things having to do with Victory Gardens.


What’s already evident from his challenge is the power of personal and social networks as he keeps getting things in the mail from his Twitter friends. What this means for the “average Joe,” is that even if they don’t have the same gardening knowledge or resources that he does, even brand new gardeners have their own social networks that they can tap into and everybody knows at least one or two people who love to garden and love to share that love with somebody else.



William C
William C8 months ago


W. C
W. C8 months ago

Thank you.

ChronicTonic CA Girl
Kathleen R8 years ago

We've been gardening to lessen our grocery bill for many years now. It's great to have huge tomato sandwiches for dinner or lunch. Love the summer squashes, salads and herbs. All we really need to buy is meat to go along with the endless sides that a garden produces. It's hard work, but it's such a huge payoff in the end. We know where our food comes from, we feel it is safest, add to that our fresh daily eggs from our chicks and we are good to go. Our grocery bill is reduced to paper goods and products and meat. We dont use pesticides but the "victory gardening" is not really a new idea to us, it's a way of life.

Judy R.
Judy R.8 years ago

COMPOST is so very important for organic home gardening. If you don't have enough veggie peelings and scraps and leaves to get a good start, you may find that your local supermarket might give you their old veggies, juice bars may give you their peelings and fiber, etc... It doesn't hurt to ask. If you just simply don't have enough space for a compost bin -or don't want one - then just bury the stuff where you will be gardening. Compost is black gold.

Gerardo Barriga
Gerardo Barriga8 years ago

Silva W, Thanks for the idea of utilizing strawbery containers for seeding. I'm a born recyceler, doin it before it was considered important. As kid,collected glass pop bottles,copper wire,metal, for spending money for my likes,--movies,candies,pop, all kid stuff. Presentley I can't throw noting away. I repair/fix anything from tillers,mowers,elect.stuff-radios/cd players,etc. IF I or my familyfriends cannot use al these items, I donate them

Bernd Hoffmann

Always be careful if somebody tells you something of "organic" or "ecologic" e.g.- very often its only a smart idea to get people's money....

Judi G.
Judith G8 years ago

Thanks all for getting behind Joe's Challenge. For those concerned about HR 875, here's a post by noted sustainable food advocate Marion Nestle, debunking some myths that are going around, for instance it is a myth that it will outlaw organic food, farmers' markets, etc.,

Mary Miller
Mary Miller8 years ago

This challenge is absolutely attainable. For just $50.00, I had enough seed to grow for 3 families. I had a 30 by 40 garden.. The most rebellious act is to grow your own food. You Can grow enough to can and freeze for your family through the entire year, and gather enough seed for the next year garden taking that $25.00 down considerably. Make and use your own compost and biochar, and you have a yearly sustainable food source. Oppose these bills, absolutely,, but the bigger protest would be to grow your own food and not have to chance buying GMO and other unhealthy foods.

Joe L.
Joe L.8 years ago

Hi Judi. Nice job on this post. You really captured the essence of what I'm trying to accomplish. Thanks for taking the time to help spread the news of this important and challenging endeavor. I'll post my second video today, showcasing the bounty of seeds and supplies that arrived in the mail last week. National coverage is going well. I just returned home last night from another round with GMA and this time, we really keyed in on the $25 garden. But even though we had six minutes (seemed like six seconds) I feel like we flew through it, barely scratching the surface. But for a national show to give "that much" time to a single segment is noteworthy!
We're making progress on the campaign so thanks again for your support!
Joe Lamp'l

Barbara M.
Barbara M8 years ago

We don't need the HR 875 bill if the government just enforced existing laws! There is no support for small farmers yet they can control the quality of their food.
The consortium of farmers with Organic Valley and Organic Prairie (for beef, chicken etc.) can tracer their product to it's origins. Why can't the big agri businesses?
Profit margins and dishonesty. It's all about the money, always has been.
This is one step closer to control over our rights to normal natural unadulterated foods. AS NATURE INTENDED.
Most of the GE frankenfood companies are for this.
Go to and check out what Bayer is doing with GE rice . Sign the petition there, Very Important. They are another Monsanto type danger.

Thanks for the heads up on "The Mothers Act" have not heard of that one.... should have heard from Planned Parenthood about that if it involves protecting women.