Growing your own produce and flowers can be more expensive than buying them from the store unless you know how to save money gardening. From choosing the proper plants to stretching your gardening budget, here’s how to save money gardening while still indulging your green thumb.
1. Know what grows well in your climate. If you live in the northern reaches of the country, you’ll never coax an Angel’s Trumpet vine to cover your gazebo in one season, and it won’t live longer than that outdoors. Likewise, Southern gardeners will find pansies don’t last past late May, and cilantro bolts almost as fast as you can plant it. Spend the time researching your plant hardiness zone (they’ve changed recently!) and select specimens that do best in your particular climate.
2. Buy mostly zone-appropriate perennials. Perennial plants bloom year after year, with the best flowering taking place in the second year and beyond. By filling your garden primarily with perennials, you only have to pay once but you’ll enjoy them for years to come.
3. Buy annuals once and use their seeds for years. Poppies, larkspurs, coreopsis, cosmos, hollyhocks and some other showy annuals will reseed themselves at the end of the flowering season, so next year you won’t need to buy them again. Allow other annuals to set seed then harvest and dry them on a paper towel indoors for a week. Once they’re thoroughly dry, slip the seeds into an envelope, seal and label it for next year.
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4. Look for multiple seedlings in a pot. Many times you’ll find two seedlings growing in the same pot, so you can get two plants for the price of one. Before purchase, make sure the plants aren’t root-bound (check the bottom and make sure no roots are growing out of the holes there). When you get it home, carefully tease the seedlings apart with your fingers and plant them in individually prepared holes at the recommended spacing.
5. Shop late in the season for good deals. Since our summers tend to be very hot, our local garden center cuts the price of perennials by 2/3 starting in late June, a time when most people are afraid to plant because the new plants require so much watering. I’ve scored great deals by waiting until late June to buy some of the more expensive perennials I’d been hankering for. By running a timer-operated soaker hose at their base, I’ve had great luck getting them to grow despite planting them during a heat wave.
6. Start seeds indoors in late winter. Most seeds need to be started 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. You can do this indoors with seed pots purchased from the garden center or make your own from toilet paper rolls. Keep the soil moist by misting several times a day until the second set of true leaves appears, then transplant them into larger pots to continue growing until they’re ready to plant in the garden.
Once you know how to save money gardening you’ll be able to grow your own vegetables and flowers economically, which means you’ll have more “green” in your wallet, too!