Hi, Linda, I guess if I was going to grow just a small garden I would want to be sure my seeds were good quality. A cucumber from the grocery store would not have mature seeds and even an organic tomato probably was not ripe on the vine when picked as you would want for saving seed. A student seed bank project at Univ. of Arkansas sponsers a seed exchange every year here locally. There is always an abundance of seeds and most folks share even if you have none to exchange. The seed bank gives away a lot of open pollinated seed. Maybe an Oklahoma university does the same. I buy my cover crops from the feed store out of the bulk bins. How low budget? You can buy a lot of seed for 25 to 30 dollars even in packets.
...and if you are interested I would send any of the seeds on my list on the "seed swap" thread for the asking.
I am not sure of the title but there is a thread somewhere here discussing seed use from the grocery store...dried beans and such.
Anyone who saves seed usually has some to spare...I find I don't NEED to buy seed anymore, I just can't resist sometimes.
"We're all just walking each other home." -Ram Dass
"Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder."-Rumi
When I was young and had little cash to start a new garden the key for me was to select two tomatoes, one cucumber, one sweet pepper, one egg plant. I made sure they were able to grow well in my area. I also tried to select those that had the least disease and insect issues. Finally, I made sure the were not F1 hybrides, they were at least F5 or heirloom. So when I planted and got something to grow I would save seed. Then next year I would have those seeds which last years if saved properly and I would add a couple new ones. This allowed me to build up very useful seeds and to slowly build up my garden.
I do not know your level of experience but it sounds like you are starting a new garden. I learned the hardway many many decades ago that a few well tended varieties will yeild alot more than many poorly provided for plants.
So with a brand new garden I personally would not spend much money on seeds this year. I would just grow a few varieties. Where I would put my effort is in collecting any free compostable material you can get your hands on.
Things like lawn clippings, leaves, wood chips, etc. I would make creating a compost pile a number one activity for this year.
there are some websites like Dave's Garden in which people trade seeds/cuttings/plants. Typically people like to trade equally for things, but some will send you stuff if you send them money for postage. It is worth a try.
"Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you." ~Maori Proverb
Small Garden= what do you eat and how can any small purchase be too much? I don't get it? If you eat potatoes, onions, garlic and kale...those are all cheap and will fill a small garden. What about...maybe $3.00 worth of seeds/seed potatoes?
Sometimes you can find bulk seeds sold for sprouting for things like radish, turnip, kale, etc. and you can go ahead and grow these out. Potatoes you just let start to sprout and you can cut them up with one or two sprouts per piece, let dry out a few days and then plant. Butternut and acorn squash, etc. are mature as purchased and, unless they are hybrids (most aren't) will come pretty true from seed. With peppers, be sure they are red...green ones likely won't have mature seed. Get some bunching onions, eat the top part, and plant about two or three inches of the base along with the roots and they will grow right out and you will never be without green onions! A cucumber, eggplant, summer squash or zucchini will be immature as purchased and the seed won't sprout. Quite a few tomatoes are hybrids....so you won't get consistent offspring.....if you can find pear-shaped tomatoes they are probably "Roma" and should come true. Cherry tomatoes, too. You can propagate tomato plants (as well as sweet potatoes, basil, and several other things) by cuttings from existing plants. By pruning off the suckers and rooting them, you can easily get ten or more tomato plants from a single plant.....or get suckers from someone else's plant.
Not exactly what you are looking for and I haven't personally ordered from them but Main Street Seed and Supply seems to have excellent prices for the quantity of seeds in their catalog. For example the previously mentioned seed company sells 25 Mary Washington asparagus seeds for $1.50 whereas Main Street sells 393 seeds for $1.95. They have a generally good review at Dave's Garden though nothing recent.