How to Garden on the Cheap

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You spent the winter researching and planning your new perennial garden. For a splash of color, you learned to use three plants of the same variety. You plan to get seven kinds of perennials to have color spring, summer and fall.

You spent the winter researching and planning your new perennial garden. For a splash of color, you learned to use three plants of the same variety. You plan to get seven kinds of perennials to have color spring, summer and fall.

So far, so good.

And then you take a look at the price tag. Yikes! The most common perennials start at $7, with many priced much higher.

It’s time to learn to garden on the cheap.

Make smart purchases.

The most obvious way to cut costs is to use seeds instead of transplants. It takes longer to get mature plants, but watching them grow is half the fun.

Another idea is to purchase annuals instead of perennials. Annuals are much cheaper, so for the first few years buy only some of the perennials and use annuals to fill in the gaps. Most annuals have the added benefit of blooming all summer instead of just part of the growing season. And there is always a wide selection of transplants at nurseries in the spring.

Plan appropriately.

Time is another way to lower the cost. Buy one perennial this year and four years from now, you can divide it to get three plants. Many plants self-seed or send out runners.

For a formal garden, transplant these where you want them, or let them flourish where they sprout for a more relaxed effect.

Shop for plant sales at nurseries in August and September. You can get some great bargains, but always check the root ball to make sure the roots are still healthy. Make sure to get the plants in the ground as soon as possible, so they have a chance to get established before winter.

Go live for Christmas.

Choose a live evergreen tree for Christmas this year. After enjoying it inside for the holidays, it can be moved outdoors to become part of your landscape.

In late fall, determine where the tree will be planted. Then, dig the hole, saving and storing the soil in a garage where it won’t freeze. When you’re done with holiday décor, plant the tree using the saved soil. It won’t matter if the rest of the ground is frozen.

Realize your resources.

Check out your county’s Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). In the spring, the SWCDs have a list of perennials and trees at great prices. Pay close attention to spacing for trees even though they might look too far apart the first decade.

And don’t forget about your friends. The biggest money saver for me over the years is having a good friend who is also an avid gardener. She lets me know when she thins her perennials, and I return the favor.

She is at the top of my list for overflow asparagus and strawberries, neither of which she grows, and I get her extra tomatoes.

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