Frugal Gardening Tips

By Patti Edson

Many thrifty people want to apply frugal principles to the landscaping and
gardening areas. Here are some tips and advice:

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Educate yourself:

You need to know what plants you want. In the western U.S., we
have the Sunset Western Garden Book, and its periodical cousin, Sunset
Magazine. Many times they have plans and plant lists for various types of
projects such as these. Another way to do this is to go to plant nurseries
and look at what's in bloom. Because plants are often an impulse type of
buy, nurseries accentuate the ones that are blooming, and it is sometimes
difficult to get other things, so, check back every couple of weeks or so.

Make a list of the ones you like, and figure out their adult dimensions.
What you are going to do is create the vegetative equivalent of a "Family
Portrait", and you don't want cute little Aunt Minnie blocked from view by
tall, gangly Cousin Fred. So, you have to know how big everything will be
when full sized.

Use index cards or similar pieces of paper for
convenience, and get this info for the plants you like:

a. Name, and botanical name. (Good for future talks with nurseries. There
are often lots of plants with the same common names.)

b. Size: Height by spread

c. Shape: Tall and skinny, short, cushion, mound, bushy, whatever will help
you remember. Make a sketch if you want to, or can.

d. Annual or Perennial: This is the secret to a cheap project: Get mostly
perennials that grow from seeds where you live. More on this later! Those
that grow from cuttings should also be noted, and you can try your hand at
that. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

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e. Check your friend's yards for things you like or want, and get this info
for those plants. If you're lucky, they'll be seed propagated perennials,
and you'll be set!

Watch for Free Plant Opportunities!

Learn to keep your eyes open as you
drive. Around here, there are opportunities by the bushel in abandoned lots
where there used to be houses, in landscape areas along roads, and in
commercial settings like gas stations, etc. Many times you can collect
plants from a site just before a bull dozer comes along and scrapes
everything into a pile for the landfill. Watch for yards being renovated
that have things you want. If they are taking it out, most times you can
have it for the effort of taking it home and plopping it in the ground.

Collecting seeds is almost always OK, just be sure to ask first before you
do anything on someone else's land. Remember that thing called trespassing?
Let's not go there, OK? You can also sometimes collect seeds in parks, if
they have the plants you want, ask the groundskeeper or ranger.

Also, if
there is a botanical garden in your area, they will probably have seeds for
sale in the gift shop. A WORD OF CAUTION!!! Please never pick anything in a
botanical garden! It may be the one chance the staff will have to propagate
a rare or endangered plant. Also, it is a violation of the Endangered
Species Act to take any part of an endangered or threatened plant. ASK
FIRST!!! Free seeds aren't worth a felony, after all...

A lot of annual flowers will re-seed themselves, so you can have things
like zinnias and hollyhocks for years after the initial investment.
Another thing to think about when getting free plants is: divide and
conquer. A lot of plants grow by producing more sprouts around the parent
plant. Taking one of these and planting it results in a new plant. In a
year or two, its the same size as the parent plant. Agapanthus, iris, and
lots and lots of ground covers do this. Things like Baby's Tears
(Soleirolia) and Creeping Thyme are like this. I have a friend who has
given me a blanket invitation to take baby's tears from her yard whenever I
want to.

Tell your friends about your project. Many times they will have divisions,
seeds or cuttings to donate to the cause.

Go talk to the person with the garden that you most admire. While you might
be rebuffed, you also might make a great new friend who loves to garden,
and will give you all kinds of "starts." Starts are little pieces of a
given plant that, handled correctly, will grow into a new plant.

Watch for plant sales put on by garden clubs. I've gotten some fantastic
plants, many times rare ones there. And they are usually just dollar,
sometimes less. Watch in the paper for announcements in the garden section.

If there is a certain kind of flower you are interested in, like fuchsias
or chrysanthemums, try to find out of your town has a club for them. That
is a way to get great varieties really cheap, at the cutting sale, where
members have taken pieces of the plants and rooted them to make new, baby
plants. Also, many times there are older members of the club who are
fantastically knowledgeable, and love to help beginners.

We plant people
just love new recruits.
End of Season sales. Many nurseries, especially at discount stores, sell
their container stock cheap to get ready for the next season's plants.

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Right now the Kmart by my house has one gallon plants on sale for $2.49.

That means for a very small investment, you could have the large shrubs for
the backbone of your garden. Agapanthus, Bridal Veil Spirea, junipers,
Photinia fraseri (that tall shrub with the red new growth) lots of stuff.

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As far as soil amendments go, our local utility has to prune trees
constantly to keep them away from the electrical lines, and they will give
you a huge dump truck load of wood chips free, just for the asking. If you
can't use them all, get the neighbors involved so they can share it. Most
municipalities have waste reduction laws they are working under, that
involve diverting a certain percentage of the waste stream out of the
landfills, and into recycling, or COMPOSTING.

Right on, free compost

Where I live
they give it out in spring and summer, bring your own container, truck, etc.
Fertilizer: While I am not a proponent of chemical fertilizer, it is
sometimes desired. At our refuse transfer station, the country collects all
the stuff people turn in, and they will give it to you if you want to use
it. Old paint, garden chemicals, etc. Also, home and garden shows often
have manufacturers who are handing out samples. They work just fine. Also,
if you want to use the water soluble spray on fertilizer said to produce
miraculous results, there is a store brand of it at Kmart, and maybe at
other stores of that type, too.

As far as natural fertilizer, you can do what we do: save all the food
scraps except fatty, greasy or bony things, and bury them in the garden.
Coffee grounds, eggshells, peels, bread crusts, all of it. Just out side
the drip line of the plant is perfect. That way, by the time it has broken
down the plant will be growing into that spot. (The drip line is the outside
edge of a plant, looking down on it.)

End of Season Sales

Many nurseries, especially at discount stores, sell
their container stock cheap to get ready for the next season's plants.
Right now the Kmart by my house has one gallon plants on sale for $2.49.
That means for a very small investment, you could have the large
shrubs for the backbone of your garden. Agapanthus, Bridal Veil Spirea, junipers,
Photinia fraseri (that tall shrub with the red new growth) lots of
stuff.

Also, you can buy seeds at the end of the season sale to be
ready for the next season. This is especially good for flowers and
vegetables. Many seeds retain their ability to germinate for years and
years.

About The Author: Copyright 2000 Patti Edson - Patti Edson is a Landscape Designer and comes from a long line of
do-it-yourselfers and plant people. Her great grandfather had plants named
after him, and her truly thrifty stepfather would crow with delight upon
finding that the seed catalog had sent him a plant with an extra growable
division on it. Patti lets her driving time double as scouting time; she
looks for fruit trees as she drives, and notes them for the proper season.
She lives in Sacramento, California. To email her Click Here

Answers:

Frugal Gardening Tips

I love the index card idea, I am always dragging out my gardening book when I have a question about one of my plants. (05/19/2009)

By Anonymous

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