Every once in a while I am asked “how can afford so much gardening?” to which my Dear Husband invariably replies “We can’t.”. Sarcasm notwithstanding, there are a few simple rules to keep gardening at less cost, and robbing a nursery isn’t even one of them:
1-Start with seeds: A packet comtaining 20-100 seeds typically costs about $1.99 (up to $3.99 for specialty or organics). Your average potted plant costs anywhere from $ 3.99 (small annual) to $12 and up (rare perrenials can be hundreds of dollars). You do the math. I know what some of you are thinking-growing from seed is too hard, it takes too equipment, too much time. But Really, what’s so hard about sticking some seeds in soil, watering and (eventually) providing light? For the newbies, I’d suggest sticking to annuals-tomatoes, peppers, marigolds, etc are all plants that are easy to start on a windowsill indoors. You really don’t need those fancy starter kits; old plastic deli flats (the kind your leftovers come in) or egg cartons and some potting soil will work just as well. Beans, cukes, zucchini and greens can be started from seed right in the garden. I always laugh when I see people buying flats of lettuce-why bother planting, they are often already big enough to make salad!
2-Think large buy small: Small plants that is.This is essentially a corellary to the above. I have neighbors here who plant mature 30-ft + trees. Unless you run a public park there is no need for an instant garden or landscape. Gardening is about patience and watching things grow.
3-Trade with friends: Who says gardening can’t be social? Consider trading your extra tomato seedings or cuttings of that overgrown hosta for a few of your neighbors’ lovely lillies and perrenial tickweed (coreopsis). In this way you pass along plants you have too much of and get back plants you can be reasonably sure do well in your area.
4-Who doesn’t love a sale?: Come early spring and everyone is eager to get out there and plant. Nurseries knw this and their prices will be high. If you can wait until July, most nurseries run 2-for-1 sales on common perrenials and leftover annuals. As long as you are dedicated to watering these should do just fine. Meanwhile, plan on planting shrubs in the fall; they will do better in the long run and are often cheaper then, too.
5- buy in bulk: By this I do not mean purchase the bulk of your plants at Cosco or Home Depot. While these big box stores are fine for flats of impatiens or pansies beware that many plant diseases-including the Late Blight that devastated tomatoes throughout the neareast, and my garden-and infestation are thought to hAve originated with the huge commercial nurseries that supply these stores. On the other hand, you can save quite a bit ordering larger quantities of seed or bulbs from reputable online or catalogue nurseries. If you don’t need such large amounts, trying ordering and sharing with friends. For years I’ve ordered a box of 250 caladium bulbs and traded half with my Mom for her box of mixed gladiola bulbs.
Good luck gardening on a budget!