Tips for thrifty gardeners
Looking to save money on plants – what gardener isn’t these days? Check out these tips for a lovely garden on a shoestring. And if you grow vegetables and herbs, you can save on your grocery bills too.
When we bought a country property and needed plants to start the gardens 15 years ago, this is how I did it without breaking the bank.
Shop garden centers and online sales wisely
- If you’re looking for perennials, evergreens, trees, or flowering shrubs, you can save money by choosing the more economical smaller sizes. When these plants grow, they’ll soon catch up to the bigger sizes.
- Online suppliers often have special deals on bare-root plants, which ship very economically. This can be a great way to get lots of plants inexpensively. (Here’s what to do when your plants arrive: bare-root growing tips.)
- Buy annuals by the flat. They’re usually 20 percent cheaper than if you buy individual cell packs. If you don’t need that many you can divvy-up the flat with a friend or neighbor.
- Save money on plants at special fund-raising sales put on by garden clubs, botanical gardens, or community groups. You’ll often find excellent and unusual specimens at reasonable prices.
- If you keep in mind that fall can be a great time to plant, you can really save money on plants by shopping end-of-season sales at garden centers. You’ll find excellent bargains when garden suppliers are trimming their inventory. (I filled my big country-garden flower beds with good-sized perennials at penny-pinching prices by doing this. Some of these plants were even big enough to divide!)
Save money growing your own
- For the price of a seed packet, you usually get more than 50 seeds. That means lots of plants for a couple of dollars.
- Easy annuals from seed are alyssum, cosmos, sunflowers, larkspur, hyacinth bean vine, morning glory and zinnia.
- If you want to grow your own vegetables tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, peppers, string beans and zucchini are all are easy from seed. Just follow the instructions on the seed packet.
- Herbs from seed are a good value too. Try basil, coriander, dill and summer savory. Plant a short row every couple of weeks for a steady supply through the summer. More herb-growing information.
- Many annuals and biennials are self-sowers, which means they can come back season after season (as long as you don’t weed them out). More on how to grow easy annuals from seed.
- Collect and save seeds from your own garden in the fall, when plants have finished flowering, and their seed heads are dry. Here are tips for harvesting and saving seeds.
- For seed-sowing, you can reuse old three- and four-inch nursery containers or four- and six-packs that you have on hand. Just make sure you wash these containers with soap and water and a little bleach beforehand. See these seed-starting tips.
Divide perennials to save money on plants
- For the price of a little digging, you can double or triple your perennial holdings and trade divisions with your friends and neighbors. Spring is the perfect time to divide many perennials.
- The following plants are all easy to divide and will reward you with vigorous and almost carefree growth: daylilies, asters, coral-bells, heuchera, astilbe, Siberian iris, campanula, hostas, cranesbill geraniums and rudbeckias.
- Learn more about when and how to divide perennials.