Growing the garden of your dreams on a budget takes creativity, resourcefulness, and patience, and that’s why the art of frugal gardening is all about starting small, dividing, sharing, seeding, and searching.
When I worked at the garden center it was really hard for me not to take home armfuls of gorgeous plants, I’d watch rather enviously as other’s got to load up their carts with full-grown plants, flats of colorful bedding plants, basket stuffers, potted shrubs, and trees.
But I knew if I was going to be able to fill out the garden of my dreams I’d have to start smaller, and be patient.
Long division, garden style
I’m still big on spending my budget on perennials rather than bedding plants, and making my own hanging baskets, because short-term color burst isn’t a lesson in longevity. Annuals last the summer, but perennials can last for decades, with the added bonus of all those extra plants from division.
When we moved up to the Okanagan, our new yard was a jagged, half dead, worn down empty football field that the birds ignored, and wildlife wasn’t visiting. Since then we’ve built garden beds, planted trees, and filled the empty spaces with perennials, and shrubs bit by bit. It’s starting to fill out and looks great this spring.
We have deer in the winter, more species of birds then we can keep track of, butterflies and hummingbirds flitting around, birds nesting in the bird houses, soaring from treetops to feeders all day long.
Each year I divide, split, move, replant, take cuttings, and seed for color, and texture. It’s amazing how one tiny 4 inch pot of groundcover can spread and cover a huge space when your gardening budget is tight.
Buy small, think big
Purchasing smaller 4 inch pots of ground covers, and perennials instead of the more expensive 1 gallon, and larger, means that I’m saving money, it’s like getting 3 or 4 plants for the price of one. Ajuga, [bugle weed] creeping thyme, creeping jenny, and scotch moss perform wonderfully and this, next year you can divide the nice patch in half and get a free plant or two. Look for plants that are spreading out past the pot edges, and especially those generously forming roots in their neighbors pots.
Daylillies, and hostas sold as bare rooted perennials are bargains! Dollar store seed packets may contain common seeds, but they’re a steal if you work out what it would cost you to buy a full-grown bedding plant later in the season. Marigolds, cosmos, veggies, cucumbers, squash, beans, peas, zucchini, tomatoes, and herbs such as parsley, thyme, and cilantro all grow easily from seed. Surprisingly the dollar store seeds are usually good quality, buy them early, and store them in a dry cool spot until it’s time to plant.
I make sure to do my research before heading out to the garden center to buy. They say don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, and it’s probably not wise to go without a good idea of what you are looking for, and what plants work best in your garden.
The colorful trays of bedding plants arrayed so prettily are there for a reason, they’re bright, cheerful, and instant gratification. Of course you’ll need a bit of color, you can’t grow it all yourself, a little will go a long way if you mix them in with your perennials.
Share more than a fence
Good fences make good neighbors but you can share more than a fence, if you start a neighborhood plant exchange. Or try yard sales, asking friends if they have any volunteer plants to share stopping at a flea markets, and smaller nurseries that have lower prices. Haunt the nurseries, buy during end of season sales, today’s pooped perennial will be gorgeous next year.
Compost is king
Start your own backyard compost throw in your old veggie scraps, turning them into a black gold that enriches, and adds the nutrients that your plants need, and save on soil.
Recycle your veggies
Don’t toss it, recycle it, plant cut ends of cabbage, sprouted onions, garlic, and potatoes that have sprouted in the garden for a crop later on. Grocery store bunches of fresh basil easily root in water and you’ve saved a few bucks. Lemon grass stems are easy to root in water also.
Great gardens are worth working for and this way you’ll be able to stretch your budget to meet the needs of your gardener’s heart.
Happy gardening – Jen @ The Light Laughed