Friday, June 4, 2010

Frugal Friday - Inexpensive Gardening Tips

I love my garden! As I wrote about on Sunday, I'm a bit of a "ball twine and duct tape" gardener, meaning the easier the better! I truly don't have a lot of time and bit of weeding and dead heading each week is usually all I can manage. So, I need low-maintenance plants that pretty much fend for themselves.

Also, with both John and I both being in school, money is definitely something that we need to watch! Still, I've found that it's easy to have a lovely garden with a bit of elbow grease and a bit of ingenuity. I'm sure I could have done this cheaper than I have, but these are ways I've saved money on our garden:

Clean out your yard! You would be surprised what you already have! When we bought our home, the previous homeowners had buried the orange day lilies under literally piles of junk (broken appliances, pieces of concrete, bags of old leaves and trash). We cleaned those out when we moved in in September and in the spring, Surprise!, we had day lilies! After talking to the neighbor we also found out that the people who had build our house put in really, really good dirt along the fence line and around both the house and the garage. Additionally, we have 5 beautiful lilacs that just needed trimming to get them back to their original glory! Love that!

Take advantage of those free plants! We were even more fortunate because we have 'invaders' - plants that had come up under or through the fence from the neighbors. We have the lovely bleeding heart pictured above and raspberry bushes. How cool is that?

And more free plants! Perennials like lilies, irises, peonies, and hostas (or "pastas" as my son calls them!) need to be divided occasionally. Our neighbor across the street had irises that she had gotten from the people who built our house. Guess what? I have a bunch of those in my yard now too - hers needed to be divided and so she shared! My cousin shared peonies, giant and miniature irises, more day lilies, Asiatic lilies, goat's beard, columbine, and rhubarb. When my Aunt moved west, she split her peonies and dug up some of her bulbs for both me and another cousin. I traded orange day lilies for hostas, coral bells and lily of the valley with a friend. Even better, now that my plants are established, I've been able to pass some on to others! Once generous soul in our town even put clumps of day lilies out on his front yard in plastic grocery bags with a "Free" sign on a stake next to them. They were gone in a matter of hours!

Gift plants! The year I was pregnant with our twins, we purchased two hydrangeas for the Easter garden at church. We took them home and planted them, thinking "what the heck? Why not?" Miraculously, they have grown and bloom about every other year! Not bad for what is supposed to be an "indoor" potted plant! We've done the same thing with mums. This year we got a Fragrant Heliotrope. It smells great and it is makes it through the winter, we'll have a fragrant purple addition to our flower beds!

Even more free plants in the form of seeds! Many annuals re-seed themselves. I have friends who collect their seeds each year from four-o-clocks, cosmos, and several others (whose names I'm struggling to remember right now!). As their own plants reseed themselves in that location each year, they have seed to spare. I have gotten lots of free seeds that way. Another friend who was moving had extra heirloom vegetable seeds as well. I was able to get seeds for zucchini from her this year!

Make your own compost. Several years ago our city ran a deal where we could buy a compost bin for about $10. We did. And we've added our grass clippings, deadheaded flowers and leaves, used tea leaves and bags and vegetable and bread scraps plus a little bit of water to make our own compost. It's free, easy and we just use a spading fork to add it to the ground each spring and fall, enriching the soil for our plants. I add my coffee grounds to the soil directly around the base of my hydrangeas, rather than adding them to the compost. In the fall we also mulch our gardens to protect them over the winter by adding our mulched leaves. John empties the bag from the leaf blower directly onto the flower beds, covering the plants and providing a layer of insulation to get them through the winter. I do not put pulled weeds in my compost, since I really don't want the seeds from the weeds in my compost.

Take advantage of sales. Our local greenhouses often offer two for one deals on things like hanging baskets, selected annuals and/or perennials, and vegetables. I've bought hanging baskets this way and reused the baskets for several years by planting petunias in them. One local greenhouse even has a coupon each year for a free tomato plant with accompanying purchase of a specific amount! Our Menard's store (and others) run $1 or 99-cent geranium plants each year. And at the end of the season, plants are almost always 50% off or more! We also use sales for things like bark, fertilizer, and the paving stones, sand and gravel base we used to make our patio!

Reuse what you have or buy used. As I wrote above, I plant petunias in my old hanging baskets each year. Pots - even decorative ones - can be found cheaply at garage sales, secondhand stores or even clearance sections. Keep these and use them again next year! You wouldn't believe how many people I know who throw these out each year and buy new the following spring. You can also find great deals on gardening tools at garage sales and second hand stores.

How do you save money on gardening?

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