Save Your Green With Frugal Gardening Tips

Does Gayla Trail know how to get a bargain? Heck, yeah!
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Nasturtium Seeds Ready to Be Planted

Nasturtium Seeds Ready to Be Planted

Frugal gardeners grow from seeds.

Photo by: DK - Ready Set Grow! © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Ready Set Grow! , 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Frugal gardeners grow from seeds.

Q: I just moved into a house with a yard that is basically a blank slate. The quantity of plants needed to fill up the garden is breaking the bank! Any tips for how to find a bargain?


Friend, you have come to the right person for advice. I am a plantaholic without the means to feed my addiction. Do I know how to get a bargain? Heck, yeah! The following are just a few strategies I have put to use to extend my gardening budget well beyond its limit.

Start from Seed: When possible, start your plants from seed. To stretch your dollar even further, buy one pack of seeds, sow the few that you need (who needs an entire packet of marigolds or tomatoes?), and trade the rest off for small quantities of other plants that you want to grow. There are lots of websites and forums online that specialize in trading. Seed Chat, a weekly Twitter discussion for avid seed starters is a good place to begin. I highly suggest checking out ethnic food markets for bargain seeds. Italian seed companies are especially generous when it comes to quantity. And as an added bonus; they are typically not your run-of-the-mill varieties. Save seeds from your own plants at the end of the season. Set aside a few to grow next year and trade away the rest. It’s an endless loop of frugal!

Fundraising Sales: Botanical gardens, churches, schools, and horticultural societies host seasonal plant fairs, selling off divisions dug up from their own or members’ gardens that are often larger, better cared for, and cheaper than big box store plants. I’ve found that these sales can be the best way to get specialized goodies at affordable prices.

Seasonal Discounts: Most garden shops have a markdown section full of off-season plants that have passed their prime. The trick here is to stick to perennials that are worse for the wear but not dead. Skip the annuals; they’re done-for. With just a little TLC these bargain plants will be in full form next spring.

Host a Transplant Trading Party: I always start more plants from seed each year than I can possibly grow in my garden. And so do my gardening friends. Every May we get together to trade off duplicate tomatoes, flowers, herbs and other goodies that we have in excess. A potluck lunch with garden-inspired refreshments makes it a good excuse to get together.

Clone Your Own: Of course, no markdown or bargain can beat free. The truth is that many fancy, premium-priced plants can be reproduced easily through stem cuttings and root divisions. Others produce seed or baby bulbs prolifically at the end of their first year. Midway into the season, once your plants have grown, take cuttings and root them in water or soil. I do this every June to quickly (and cheaply) double my crop of basil, coleus, nasturtium, mint, lavender, rosemary, and tender sages. Catmint, fuchsia, hydrangea, helichrysum, scented geraniums (Pelargonium) and countless more are good options for this method, too. Most succulents and cacti can be reproduced from a single leaf. Root up extras to trade with gardening friends for their excess. Split the cost of a special plant with a friend and make cuttings that you can both share.

Most gardeners are happy, if not downright pushy about passing on their favorite plants. Get to know your gardening neighbors, ask before taking cuttings from their gardens, and share your surplus generously. That good gardening karma will come back to you, and then some.

Garden authority Gayla Trail is the creator of

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