Any gardener who goes to the plant nursery knows it’s possible to quickly and easily spend a fortune on plants! So many wonderful choices to create beauty and interest in the garden. But what about gardening with limited funds? How can you create a flower-filled paradise on a budget? Gardening is a hobby that appeals to all kinds of people, and there are many different ways to approach it. There are all kinds of tricks for saving money on gardening. We’re sharing a few tips to help you with creative ways to achieve plenty of beauty without breaking the bank.
1. Make Friends with Other Gardeners: Gardening communities can be wonderful for sharing resources. You can split a bulk load of mulch to help keep costs low or share/trade divisions of plants with each other. Maybe you need some milky spore for your roses, but a whole bag is too much: ask a rose-growing friend to split a bag with you. Try bartering: maybe you have some extra petunias and marigolds, and your friend has a leftover bag of compost. Or maybe that gardening friend who is dividing their peonies would trade some precious plants for a batch of homemade cookies. Gardeners are often very practical and resourceful when it comes to sharing supplies.
2. Plant Seeds: Many annual flowers can be ground easily from seed for a fraction of the price of purchasing them in flats. And many of them put out seeds that are easily collected and saved for the next year’s planting. Some of the easiest ones include the cosmos, spider flowers (cleome), calendula, and zinnias. Collect the seeds at the end of the blooming season (late summer through autumn) and save them in a glass jar or plastic baggie in a cool, dry place, then plant as you would newly purchase seeds the following spring. Some annuals will also reseed themselves and spread throughout your garden, including columbines, snapdragons, forget-me-nots, and black-eyed Susans.
3. Shop Sales: Check circulars or online for weekly specials. Always check the markdown shelves at your nursery. Sometimes plants that look sad get marked down for quick sale, and they just need some deadheading, water, or other TLC to bounce back easily. Check end-of-season sales from your favorite mail-order nurseries, too, as this can be a great way to save money on bulbs or bare-root perennials. Your local garden shop may also sell damaged bags of potting soil or mulch at a big discount.
4. Organize a Plant Swap: A plant swap is a great way to add additional plants to your garden. You can send invites on social media or post flyers at your local nursery. Spring or fall is a good time to do it, as that is when many gardeners divide perennials. Encourage people to bring divisions planted in cups or small pots of soil. Those without plants to swap can bring refreshments or contribute volunteer labor and still take plants home. After a couple of years, those folks will have perennials to divide and share! A yearly plant swap can be a great way to socialize with other gardening enthusiasts, as well as increase the variety and beauty of your garden.
5. Plant Perennials That Increase Quickly: Some perennials grow fast enough that they can double in size every year, giving you more plants to add to your garden. Also, dividing perennials can keep them healthy and in some cases, might make them flower more vigorously. One example is German irises, which will flower less abundantly when the rhizomes spread and get too crowded. Choose perennials that divide easily, like sedums, phlox, daylilies, asters, hosta, astilbes, perennial geraniums, bee balm, helenium, echinacea, Queen of the Prairie (filipendula), and rudbeckia. Some shady ground covers (pachysandra, lily of the valley, vinca) spread quickly too, but can also be invasive. Sweet woodruff and barrenwort (epimedium) both spread fast but are easy to control. The best time to divide and replant perennials is in the autumn as they begin to go dormant. Dividing in spring is possible, but there is a somewhat greater chance of damaging young growth, particularly with hostas or sedums.
6. Check Garage Sales and Even the Trash: You never know what you’ll find at a neighborhood garage sale. Most folks are happy to accept an offer on their used items. Garage sales are a great place to find gardening tools, outdoor décor, and planting pots. Also, after that garage sale, check back to see if any leftover items are put on the curb for trash pickup. People throw plants away, too. It’s astonishing how many people throw away perfectly good perennials. Maybe they get them as gifts (like a small potted hydrangea for Mother’s Day) or as seasonal décor (baskets of mums) and aren’t sure what to do with them once they stop blooming. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. People often throw away useful gardening items, too, like tools, planters, or buckets. Reusing items instead of sending them to the landfill is a good way to cut costs and garden in a sustainable way.
7. Find Free Compost and Mulch: Maybe you already collect used coffee grounds, wood ashes, and egg shells to add to your soil, or you have a small compost heap. But many municipalities provide free compost and mulch to residents. All you have to do is pick it up. Check with your city about free compost or mulch availability. Usually, the mulch is made from downed trees and has no added dyes or chemicals, making it a great choice for organic gardeners.