5 Tips for Gardening on a Budget

Amanda Cazzolla

5 Tips for Gardening on a Budget

Spring is just around the corner, which means now's the time to start planning your garden. If you're worried about the cost of a garden but still want the benefits of one, look no further. You'll be growing on a budget in no time with these 5 easy tips.

1) Buy seeds instead of living potted plants.

If you have a green thumb, growing plants from seed can save you lots of money. Instead of paying $5.99 for a 4.25" potted live plant from your local greenhouse, you can buy a pack of seeds for $1.58. Plant the seeds with dirt from your yard in a shallow container (follow the instructions on the packet) and watch dozens of plants sprout! Not only will you have more live plants at a lower cost, you're also likely to find joy in nurturing the plants and seeing the fruits of your labor.

TIP: Did you know you can get seeds for free? Check your area for seed swaps or library seed catalogs, like this one – Digging Durham – in Durham County, NC.

2) Find and transplant "volunteers" that are already in your garden.

If you give me 10 minutes of your time, I'll give you free plants. That's a pretty sweet deal, huh? All you have to do is look in your yard and garden for plants that have seeded themselves. What's great about volunteers is (a) they cost you nothing and (b) they probably sprouted from plants you already like.

Yesterday, I walked around our yard and found lots of volunteers: a dozen Vinca sprouts, one well-established Petunia, a handful of Purple Secretia, and some pink polka dot plants. 

All of these came up from annuals I planted last year and removed at the end of the season. Carefully transplanted, these plants are ready for a new season... and I didn't spend a dime!

TIP: When scouring your yard for volunteers, don't only check obvious places like garden beds or pots. Check the walkway, trails, and behind larger plants. Often these hidden spots provide volunteers the protection they need to sprout.

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3) Root offshoots into new plants.

Many plants root easily. By simply taking an offshoot from the plant and placing it in water, you can prompt root growth. If you have a plant you'd like more of, do a quick Google search on how to root it. It may be easier than you think!

From personal experience, I've found that pothos, philodendron, and coleus root very easily. Save some small glass jars, like those from jam or mayo, and use them as vases for rooting. Time to trim that pothos in your office? Great! Put the trimmed pieces in a vase of fresh water, place them near a window, and watch them root! Once they have a good network of roots, you can transplant them.

TIP: Mark your calendar now with a reminder to root your favorite plants at the end of the season. Some plants won't survive the winter outside, but you can root them inside and save them for Spring!

4) Buy clearance plants.

If you prefer to buy live plants instead of seeding your own, consider getting them from the "clearance" section. Clearance plants may look worse for the wear but often come right back with a little TLC (Tender Loving Care).

5) Plant perennials rather than annuals.

Annuals, or plants that complete their life cycle within one year, can be beautiful, colorful additions to your garden. However, they need to be replaced each year. If you're not lucky enough to find free volunteers in the garden (see #2), that means you're spending money every year on short-lived plants.

Consider investing your money in perennials instead. Perennials live more than two years and can still add color to your garden. Check out these long-blooming perennials for ongoing color in your garden.

Gardens come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you're looking to expand your office plant collection or fill an established in your yard, these tips will help you to save money and build a beautiful garden you'll love. Check back next week for more tips on how to garden on a budget.

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