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Jocelyn Hsu / Spoon

You Should Start a Garden and Here’s Why

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UWB chapter.

In 2020, many people feared the uncertainty surrounding the food supply. Horticulture companies sold out their products, and home improvement stores had trouble keeping supplies in stock. 2020 also created many personal financial crises for those who were losing jobs, who had to pay hospital bills, and so on. Combining these two issues, I sought to find inexpensive ways to improve gardening, especially for those just starting out and who might not have access to tools and other equipment from previous years.


One piece of equipment I use every year is actually from the Dollar Tree, and when pulling it out of storage, I realized there was untapped potential for beginner gardeners and those looking to save money while growing their own food or even just some flowers. I use $1 wire wastebaskets as cloches. Cloches are a piece of gardening equipment that is placed over young plants to help protect them from animals and anything heavy that could fall on them. I also use cloches as something to brace over a plant so I can hang a shade cloth or lightweight sheet over them if the sun is too bright or I’ve just planted a new plant that might want to hang out in the shade for a bit.


With that said, let’s look at the best products from Dollar Tree that make gardening easier on a budget:


  1. My favorite Dollar Tree find for gardening are the wire wastebaskets. They’re so versatile! They can be used as cloches, as I described above, or they can be used as lightweight buckets for some weeding, baskets for produce, or even a good way to store small garden tools. 


  1. This is a weird one, but hula hoops! If they are cut where the circle is glued together, they can pop open for some great plastic arches. These arches can be used for several things, but two big ideas include a rounded space for growing viny plants like beans and arches to create supports for an insulated tunnel. The insulated tunnels can be very expensive to purchase professionally, but these hula hoops work as an acceptable substitute. Use one hula hoop every two feet to create enough support for something like a bed sheet or piece of shade cloth to lay across. This will create a shady spot for new starts and a warm place for those slightly colder days.


  1. Plant clips are also a good find. These rounded clips have a divot in them for the stem of a plant to be safely tucked away when the clip is attached to a stake or pole of some sort. I also use them around the hula hoops to help keep my sheet attached to my insulated tunnel.


  1. Floral tape can be super expensive, but not at the Dollar Tree! Floral tape, also called gardening tape or plant tape, is a stretchy, soft, green material that can be used to gently tie up plants. For example, in my garden, I have a bunch of raspberry canes. They like to lean over and get stuck in my hair. To help solve that, I use floral tape to tie them to a stake.


  1. Plant wire is another item that can be expensive when bought from a garden supply store. This wire comes both in general twist-tie material (a thin wire coated in a bit of plastic) or a soft twist-tie (a slightly thicker wire coated in rubber). Both of these are great for helping tame particularly finicky plants, but they’re easier to coax into a specific shape than either the floral tape or the plant clips. They’re also great for household help, like tying a bread bag shut or adding reinforcement to a phone cable.


  1. There’s a neverending list of uses for buckets and baskets, and Dollar Tree has you covered for stocking up. Personally, I really like using the laundry baskets to carry around garden tools, but they also work great as cloches by just flipping them upside down. They are relatively big, so they work best for covering multiple plants at a time. Other containers Dollar Tree offers include plastic “toy totes” which are buckets with little handles on either side for easy carrying. They’re awesome as little portable planters! You can drill a small hole in the bottom for drainage, fill it with dirt, and get planting.


  1. Knee pads are a gardening must-have. Some may think they’ll be fine just kneeling on the ground, but trust me, your body will thank you later if you use a knee pad. For only a dollar, these foam pads really save your knees. I also set mine on top of a 5-gallon bucket for a cushy seat. Even more than that, they could be used as soft garden stepping stones or even cat beds. (My kitties love to usurp them since the knee pads do retain some heat. I now own one knee pad for every cat plus one for me!)


  1. If you’re a beginner gardener, you’ll likely need some tools. Dollar Tree has spades, forks, and a few other assorted metal gardening tools for sale. While I like to recommend buying quality for the tools that get used most often, I also know budgets can be tight, especially right now. Even though these tools are only a dollar apiece, it’s great that they’re metal.


  1. Gloves are essential for gardeners. I personally love getting my bare hands dirty, but I’m not a huge fan of directly touching bugs or thorny plants. Gloves are great for keeping hands clean and protected while working. I know I go through a lot of gloves – whether they’re expensive or not – so I like to keep a few extras just in case I need them.


  1. I have a bad habit of planting something, telling myself I’ll remember what it is, and then immediately forgetting. Garden tags are a good solution to that problem. Dollar Tree sells them in packs of 10, and for that price, I can easily get 50 tags for all of the random plants I’m growing. Now I won’t forget what’s growing and where!


Before I send you on your merry way to the Dollar Tree, I did want to give a quick disclaimer that I don’t know what these items are made of or how they’re processed. Anything that touches the soil will eventually seep into it. I always like to recommend buying quality items whenever possible as it helps preserve the land, but that’s not always an option. The items and suggestions above are purely from a cost-effective perspective. Personally, I don’t like letting the materials directly touch my soil, so I will coat them in something I know will not harm me, my plants, or the environment. I tend to wrap a lot of them in either food-grade plastic or weed block, as those are both designed to be element-resistant and touched by humans. I recommend weighing your options as much as possible and spending a bit more for something quality if you can.


With all of this information, head on out to your local Dollar Tree and see what garden hacks you can find!


Annika G.R. Bunney is an interdisciplinary creator focusing on traditional writing, nature-based creations, and assorted textual pieces. She is a second-year in the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Poetics at the University of Washington, Bothell. Her ever-evolving work draws on classic literature, folklore, and mass media. When not working on academics, she can be found taking care of her many cats and playing with her rescue dog. She also loves wandering in the outdoors, curling up with a good book, or playing video games.