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Gardening can get expensive. I think that the easiest way to garden on a budget is to first have patience.
Gain a collection of plants that are simple propagators; for example Sedum. You can break a piece of this off of the mother plant and just plunge it into the ground and it will stay green and thrive, and the following year will bring you a hardy new plant with multiple stalks to fill out more and more with each year.
I also like to buy hardy plants that can be safely split, like day-lilies already bloomed (these often get discounted after the flowers are gone so if you don't mind guessing the color) Take it home and slice it in half and plant it you will have two fuller plants the following year, and it may re-bloom late summer.
Forsythia will bud roots in water in a few weeks so take your neighbors clippings that they have to take off and sprout the roots and replant! Also if you take clippings in the house in winter you will force bloom them and they will be that beautiful spring yellow early. It brightens the wintry day.
Rose of Sharon produces tons of offshoots. Ask others for some and they will grow like crazy up to 6 feet in poor soil.
You can buy one marigold flower plant and as the heads die and dry pull them off, roll it in your hands these are the seeds and they are very hardy, spread them where you need low lying flowers they will sprout the same year and probably next year too, and since its seeds the color may be different and unpredictable, and dead heading the plant will help more flower heads to come.
If you have the patience, seed saving can be very fun. Seeing something come up that you dropped seeds for is amazingly gratifying. You could find info about where to find the seeds of a plant by googling "where are the seeds on (flower name)" some may not have viable seeds but if they do not, then you could propagate by clippings or by root cuttings.
Last but never least are bulbs; they are beautiful, they are typically cheap, you get multiple bulbs that will create multiple plants for a small price. There are bulbs for each season so you can plan out something new coming up all year long. If you wait until just before the season for planting (Spring and Fall) you can get these at a discount at the home stores. As long as they are not so dry they break in your hand, they are still good. They should also not have an odor, take these home and get them in the ground immediately and next year you will have new colorful flowers. Don't forget to look for the word perennial here so you do not have to buy every year.
Basically you can save a lot of money by asking for clippings, buds, or seeds from friends and family or by purchasing one plant and having some patience if possible.
By Gina from Collegeville PA
Hardiness Zone: 5b
Teacherandmom from Redmond, OR
For starting a perennial garden, your most economical option is to start from seed. Since you're a teacher, I would start by letting other faculty at your school know that you're looking for plants and shrubs to start a small garden. A lot of perennials get planted and divided this time of the year. Most gardeners would rather give away any extra seeds and plants they don't have room for, rather than see them go to waste. Since you're new to the area, this might be a good opportunity to meet some of your neighbors. Do you bake or make some kind of crafts? Maybe you could introduce yourself, offer a small gesture of good will (plate of cookies, bars, etc.) and mention how much you admire their garden. Before you go, make sure to let them know if they have extra plants or cuttings, you would be more than willing to spread the beauty of their garden into your yard.
Also make sure to take advantage of the free resources in your area. Oregon State University Extension Service, Deschutes County has a website with some good gardening resources for Central Oregon. The site also features a calendar, which might be helpful for upcoming gardening events, including plant sales. http://extension.oregonstate.edu/deschutes/Horticulture/index.php.
Another great listing is the garden events page of All-Oregon's website http://www.all-oregon.com/garden_events.htm. How about joining the Redmond Garden Club, or calling them to see if they have any upcoming plant sales? (425-881-5103). Like others on this site, I am also a big fan of Freecycle. There are amazing amounts of people out there who are eager to share their resources with others. Here is a Freecycle link for central Oregon where you may be able to get free plants, seeds, tools and raised bed materials and pass along some of your own used stuff for others http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Freecycle-OR-Bend/.
Finally, check out these books at your public library, "Dirt Cheap Gardening," by Rhonda Massingham Hart, and "The Budget Gardener," by Maureen Gilmer. Both of these books contain wonderful tips on how to save money on equipment, plants, etc. Happy gardening!