A good place to start is your immediate neighbourhood. Often there are significant resources right on your doorstep. One of the enduring premises of gardening (vege gardening in particular) is that it shouldn't have to cost you an arm and a leg. Many a garden has been initiated with thrift in mind, so it comes as no surprise that gardeners are, generally speaking, a generous bunch who enjoy sharing plants, knowledge and gossip over morning tea.
There are plenty of lucrative avenues to explore in the acquisition of free gardening materials as well.
A good place to start is your immediate neighbourhood. Often there are significant resources right on your doorstep. Four valuable items that immediately spring to mind are cardboard, bamboo, dried leaves and old wooden pallets. In garden speak, these items translate into mulch, structure, compost and compost bins.
Supermarkets and service stations are good sources of cardboard boxes and some places are happy for you to uplift wooden pallets as well. Cardboard is an excellent mulching layer in the garden, either on its own or as an underlay for more permanent materials. It can also be used directly on the beds themselves. Now is a great time to get into some weed suppression. Bamboo is often regarded as an invasive weed and this is true of most varieties but some are a little more treasured. Before you chop into the bamboo grove at the local reserve, be sure to make a positive identification - or better still, ring someone in authority just to check first. The benefits of bamboo to the home gardener are plentiful and obvious: from stakes or tripods for the beans and tomatoes, to stylish Japanese-style fencing or water features.
Deciduous trees are an invaluable source of dried leaves. Our local school has a collection of mature deciduous trees that dump mountains of leaves in autumn and drive the caretakers mad with their relentless littering of the school grounds. They are more than happy for us to deplete their leaf mountain and we are happy to oblige, as they are perfect for winter mulch around leeks and brassicas. They are also a valuable carbon component in your compost bin and can be made into much sought-after leaf mould. Certain varieties are considered more desirable than others however. Maples, liquid ambers and plane trees are regarded as having superior decomposition qualities to oak, for instance. Pine needles also make great mulch especially around citrus trees.
Wrapping up the local top four is the wooden packaging pellet. As mentioned earlier these can often be picked up from the supermarket, the wholesaler or anywhere else where you see them looking empty and abandoned. As they are made from untreated timber they are perfect for compost bin construction.
The final port of call is the dump but, if you're anything like me, taking a list might be a wise starting point if you don't want your yard to get too untidy.
The dump offers a range of exciting gardening friends and can even throw up the odd Renoir print or a copper-clad wall hanging of a knight in armour (both enthusiastically received by my children). On the gardening front though, there are tyres for growing potatoes in, old carpet and underlay for suppressing stubborn weeds, roofing iron and timber for creating screens or bins. Treasure at the right price.