By Rachel Paxton
Gardening can be expensive. When you're on a tight budget, garden projects seem to fall way to the bottom of your list of spending priorities.
I love the outdoors. And I love spending time at home in our yard. We've never been able to spend the kind of money I'd like to for landscaping, but over the years we've found some ways to make a little bit of money go quite far.
Shop end-of-season sales. It's easy to remember to do this when shopping for clothes and other household items, but I forget the same goes for plants. You can get a great deal on outdoor plants and trees shopping at the end of the season. Even annuals that are almost out of season are a good buy. They won't bloom again until next year, but for the savings you're getting it's worth it to plant them now and wait until next year to enjoy them. You can also get a great deal on fruit trees at the end of the season. Don't forget to check out the sidewalks of grocery stores and neighborhood markets. They mark down the prices of plants significantly at the end of the season.
Divide and transplant. It doesn't take long for plants to start to take over your flower beds. I grow some herbs and daisies that seem to creep inches through the flower bed each week. Instead of letting plants like these take over the flower bed, transplant them to another part of the yard. Flowers like daisies are easy to dig out in big clumps and move around wherever you want them. In several years time, the investment of a few dozen flowers or flower bulbs can multiply into many times the amount you recently purchased.
Give and receive. It's fun to trade plants with friends and family. I've landscaped much of my yard this way. Iris bulbs from one friend, grape vines from another, it adds up fast! And all from people who were looking to get the excess plants out of their yard. After your yard has had a few years to get established, you will be able to share also. This is the best way to plant your yard with no expense at all.
Look for unexpected opportunties. One of our neighbors gets free sod from several local curb companies. After a job, they just unload the sod at his house. When he doesn't have a need for the sod, he gives it to us free of charge. We've put down several hundred dollars worth of sod at no cost to us.
Creative container gardening. I like to plant in containers a lot, but planters can be so expensive. Get creative about your garden containers. People use wheel barrows, tool boxes, kitchen sifters, colanders, old boots, children's wagons, baskets, and many other things for creative container gardening. Just make sure there is adequate drainage so the water can find its way out. See http://www.gardenguides.com for more container gardening ideas.
Weigh the alternatives. It's easy to get carried away in the vegetable garden. I get all caught up in having a little of this, and a little of that, often spending more than I had intended to and growing vegetables that cost next to nothing at the grocery store when they're in season. For example, green peppers in season you can get for 4 or more for $1. That's maybe not worth it to me to grow them. Tomatoes, on the other hand, are definitely worth the effort and will save us a lot of money throughout the summer. You don't have to have a lot of money to have a nice garden. You just have to be creative and look for opportunities. Make the decision that you will only spend what you can afford, and you will still end up with a beautiful yard you can be proud of.
Originally published at Suite 101.
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