Every year I try to devise new ways to save money on gardening. Individually, the savings are small. But the collective total is large enough to make it a bit easier to dream up new projects or splurge on the things I really want.
1. I fill the bottom of my big pots with Styrofoam peanuts.
This is one of my favorite summer tricks. It makes the pots much easier to move and reduces the amount of potting soil I need to buy. For pots that don't drain well, it's a lifesaver for plants whose roots might rot in soggy soil. I fill the bottom of each big pot about 1/3 full of Styrofoam and reuse the Styrofoam every year.
Savings=Money spent on potting soil
2. Buy cheap pots and use them in the very back or middle of a grouping so no one can see them.
Tired of spending big bucks on big pots, I've started buying cheap terracotta plastic pots and using them in the very back of a grouping of more attractive pots to hold tall plants. Because the more attractive pots are placed in front, all you see is the plant and not the pot. Savings = Money spent on pots
This pot holds an agastache 'Ava', a gorgeous hummingbird magnet from High Country Gardens that would die if grown in my heavy soil. Growing to almost 5 ft tall, it thrives behind a cluster of pots full of summer annuals. It overwintered in this pot and is full of new growth.
3. Match the plant to the soil.
No matter how much you amend the soil, there's a strong chance a poorly placed plant will die. I've learned this the hard way. Regardless of how desperately I might want to put a plant in a specific spot, if the site doesn't match the needs of the plant, the plant will die and I've wasted money. By allowing the moisture levels of my soil to control my garden design, I've created a healthy garden full of plants that thrive without needing to be constantly replaced. Savings=Your sanity plus money spent on plants
I had to move the stokesia (Stokes Aster) several times before finally realizing it wanted steady moisture. Here it grows happily with a bunch of chives. This picture was taken last spring. By mid-summer it needed constant watering to stay alive and by fall was in a new spot.
4. I stop deadheading my plants in August and use the seedlings to fill in empty spots.
Every spring when my plants emerge, I start looking for seedlings that can fill in for plants that didn't make it through the winter or that can be traded with friends. I currently have a big empty spot next to my air conditioning unit. I'm hesitant to do too much digging there because of all the wires, but will be able to transplant my latest crop of obedient plant seedlings without a problem because their roots are so small. Savings=Money spent on plants
Pink obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana) is native to my area and grows well in a moist, partially sunny spot. It self seeds with abandon, but I consider that a bonus.
5. I shop the plant sales every fall.
Every fall, most nurseries and big box hardware stores sell off their summer inventory at drastically reduced prices. This is when I buy the bulk of my plants. I've purchased gallon pots of perennials for only $1!! By doing most of my planting in the fall, the new plants are already established by the following summer, which means I use less water in the garden. Plants with a well-established root system aren't as thirsty as plants dealing with transplant shock and possible heat stress. Savings=Money spent on plants
6. I always try to buy smaller pots of plants as opposed to gallon pots.
I don't follow this rule 100% because I can't always find what I want in a smaller pot. But smaller pots equal smaller root systems, which means I use less water. However, if I notice that the larger pot actually has several plants in it, as is often the case with daylillies, then I'll usually buy the larger pot because the plants can be divided, resulting in a cheaper unit price per plant. Savings=Money spent on plants
7. Get creative with what you have at home.
I find it really frustrating how expensive cute outdoor decor can be. My local garden center is bursting with fabulous finds for both the garden and home. Unfortunately, they are usually so expensive I rarely buy anything. This year I've decided to turn a two tier metal fruit bowl that always turned my fruit brown into a decorative planter. Savings=Money
The bowl on the top is supposed to go inside the larger bowl on the bottom. Instead, I'm going to fill them both with a liner and xeric plants. I'm thinking of hens and chicks, Mt. Atlas daisies, sedum.... Help!!
8. Keep it simple!
The most exotic gardening tool I have is a cheap shovel. Combined with sheer determination and a lot of coffee, it's been very effective at turning my compacted clay into a real garden. Savings=Money spent on fancy tools
9. Get bare, baby!!
Bare roots, not bare naked! Although that might make for an interesting sunburn... Every fall I make a list of the plants I want for the garden and head straight for the bare root bins, but usually end up at Prairie Moon. Many of my native plants have come from Prairie Moon. The more you buy, the cheaper it is. If you buy a tray of 38 potted plants for $96, the plants are only $2.52 per plant!! Savings=Money spent on plants
10. Feed your soil
Using compost and other organic amendments to enrich your soil will create a healthy, fertile environment full of the micro-organisms plants need to survive. It will help your garden fend off disease and pests, reducing the numbers of plants you need to replace every year. Avoid those gimmicky bags of chemically-enhanced Miracle Grow "Garden Soil". Once the nitrogen has been consumed by the plant, there's nothing left to enrich the soil. It's like taking a vitamin but washing it down with a bottle of whiskey and a cupcake. After a quick trip to the toilet, you're right back where you started. Full of cr*p! Savings=Your sanity plus money spent on plants
11. Link your blog to Jan's Thanks For 2 Day blog to win a bunch of free stuff!!
She's even giving away a rain barrel!!