Cheap or Free Garden Gear

Save money and improve your garden with these easy-to-make or low-cost garden tools.

Dollar-Store Shears

Why risk your expensive pruners on everyday garden trimming tasks? These dollar-store kitchen shears make quick work of deadheading spent flowers or clipping twine. And if you leave them out in the rain, you won't be kicking yourself in the morning.

Milk Jug Scoop

This handy scoop, fashioned from a half-gallon plastic milk jug, is perfect for lightweight materials like fertilizer and potting soil. And its flexible spout eases the task of laying down materials in a small pot. To fashion the scoop, make horizontal cuts on the sides adjacent to the handle, and diagonal cuts on the other two sides.

Portable Potting Bench

This cast-off plastic dishpan allows you to create a mini potting bench anywhere. Just fill with potting mix and supplies and carry it to your preferred work area.

No-Cost Seed Flat

Starting your own plants from seed is an economical way to garden. In fact, it is the only way to get many varieties of plants. Seed flats -- shallow trays -- are the traditional equipment used to start seeds, which are transfered to individual pots after germination. This no-cost seed flat is nothing more than the lower portion of a gallon plastic milk jug with a few holes poked in the bottom with a nail.

Heavy-Duty Mover

Never toss a worn out vinyl tablecloth. Instead, put it to good use in your garden. Here, with its plastic side down, a tablecloth becomes a sledge for moving bags of mulch or other awkward loads. Tablecloths also are handy for corralling dirt when digging holes.

Handy Rake

Bamboo leaf rakes are famous (infamous?) for broken and split tines. Before you toss your old beater, consider slicing off enough tines to create a rake that's perfect for narrow spaces between plants.

Towel Tie

An old bath towel gets a new "leash" on life, supporting a tomato plant's heavy stems. The look is a bit dowdy, to be sure, but the gentle caress of the terry cloth is ideal for the vegetable patch. Best of all, one towel can be cut into enough strips to last a lifetime.

Free Greenhouse

Here's our best friend, Mr. Milk Jug, in yet another incarnation. Shorn of its bottom, this gallon plastic pal is perfect for protecting young seedlings from mild frosts. You can achieve a modest amount of temperature regulation by putting the cap on or off. Just be sure to remove the jug on warm, sunny days, lest you create a sauna instead of a greenhouse.

A Protective Collar

One of the most menacing mauraders in the garden is the cutworm, a nightly visitor who mows down young seedlings while you sleep. You can combat these vermin without chemicals by placing a collar around each little plant. To make this reusable collar, cut the bottom off a yogurt container and sink it an inch or so into the soil around each seedling. You can remove the collar once the plant's stems have hardened -- or just leave the collar in place as a permanent adornment.

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