Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Frugal Gardening

Spring is in the air!

Who has spring fever? I can certainly say that I do! For me, spring fever comes with the desire to get out in the garden and start getting my hands dirty. Due to time constraints, I don’t do vegetable gardens but I do have flower beds coming out of my ears! Every year I seem to add a little bit more.

Flower gardening can be a very expensive hobby if you let it. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law actually take bus trips around the state buying different flowers for their beds. In the past my mother has spent hundreds of dollars at a time buying flowers. If I’m going to be honest, I do get a little crazy with my annuals as well.

Gardening doesn’t have to be expensive, especially if you are doing perennial gardening. There may be a few of you non-gardeners scratching your heads so let me back up a little bit. Annuals need to be planted every year (which is where the majority of my flower budget goes) while perennials come back year after year. Quite often, perennials will multiple in a way that in some cases leave you pulling your hair out!

That’s where flower gardening doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money. I’ll share a secret with you; no gardener wants to waste flowers. When it comes time to split our flowers we’re sometimes begging people to take them. I’m jumping up and down for joy this year because I have two people that want to take my ferns. Last year I couldn’t pay anyone to take them.

How can you start/maintain a garden with minimal investment?

1. Befriend a gardener. I’m going to venture a guess that there are very few gardeners out there who aren’t delighted to share some of their flowers. Personally, I’ve rarely come across a stingy gardener. However, there are a couple of rules.
  • You can’t be overly picky. Remember, you aren’t going to a store buying what you need so don’t be offended if the gardener doesn’t want to split something. Not all plants split well, it may not be big enough to split or it may just be one of their favorite plants and they don’t want to share. If you don’t want what they are offering just say so.
  • Don’t expect the gardener to do it when it’s convenient for you. I love sharing plants but only when it’s convenient for me. If I’m splitting this weekend, that’s when I’m splitting. If it doesn’t work out for you then don’t take them. Ok – I’m not always that tough but you get the picture
  • Offer a small thank you gesture. Most of us don’t want money, but a home baked treat or a $5 gift certificate to Starbucks is always appreciated.
2.  Let everyone know you’re looking for flowers. I got a call one day from a friend who had a friend who had a friend that bought a house with beautiful flower beds that they didn’t want. They were calling people to come dig them out and take them home. I ended up with some fun flowers that I would have never bought on my own.

3. Ask for gift certificates. I have a $50 gift certificate for a local nursery that I got for Christmas. That will certainly help out when I go to plant my annuals this year. Letting the people who buy you presents know that you want money for a garden can help offset your investment.

4. Take advantage of garden club memberships. One of our local nurseries offers gift certificates when you spend X amount of dollars. Every little bit helps!

5. Get a buddy. Sometimes you just want to break down and buy some plants. My mom and I will sometimes go shopping; pick out a couple large plants that we like and split the cost as well as the plant. We each end up with the flowers we want but at half the price.

6. Buy off season. I always check out the clearance bins at the end of summer. Some of the flowers look pretty scraggly but if they are cheap enough I’ll take a chance. Most of them come back the following year.

7. Pay it forward. I’ve built most of my flower beds with help from other gardeners so I like to be generous and help others. I’ve been pleasantly surprised when I make a general offer (I’ll sometimes tack a note up on the board) for some of my plants to have other gardeners offer different plants back to me.

I hope these tips are helpful as you plan your spring plantings.  I'd love to hear your ideas for frugal gardening.  Feel free to leave a comment or link back to your gardening post. 

I’ll be posting this at We are THAT Family and Life as Mom



  1. I live in the desert, and most people have rocks for a garden. There aren't a lot of people who grow flowers for dividing, though I recently was able to divide my own lilies throughout my garden (that was fun!) I was blessed with violets from another gardener once, and also some calla lilies from someone; the callas were small; I hope they bloom this year.

    I wrote about what I do to fill my garden with flowers for less here:

    1. I know I've told you this before but your gardens put mine to shame! Lilies are my absolute favorite flower, some split better for me than others. If you were closer I'd share with you :)