Gardening on a Budget

By Melinda Myers - horticulturist and gardening expert
February 1, 2020

Most of us have bigger plans than our budget. We dream of beautiful landscapes filled with attractive patios or decks, garden art, fountains, plants and more. We may not be able to have it all, but we can stretch our budget to create and enjoy a beautiful landscape now and for years to come. Here are just a few ways to maximize your budget in your garden and landscape:

Buy quality plants. Poor quality plants detract from the beauty of our landscape for years as they struggle to recover. And often times they die. You not only lost the initial cash investment but also time needed to grow a beautiful tree or shrub.

Look for the most pest resistant low maintenance varieties suited to your growing conditions and garden design. You’ll save time and money needed to manage pests, staking floppy plants and deadheading faded flowers.

Select plants with multiple seasons of interest to save money. This includes trees, shrubs and perennials. You’ll need fewer plants to provide year round beauty.  Look for those with flowers, edible and ornamental fruit, fall color and winter interest. Add a few plants for you and the pollinators to enjoy. Birds and butterflies provide motion and color to the garden. Bees visiting individual flowers help us slow down and enjoy the outdoors.

Start with smaller size trees and shrubs.  These adjust more quickly to their new home and cost less than their larger counterparts. Plus much of the fun is watching that small plant grow into its mature size.

Plant trees and shrubs at the recommended spacing. This ensures sufficient room for them to reach their mature size. Fill the voids with annuals and perennials. Each year you’ll need fewer annuals and those perennials can easily be moved to a new garden.

Always call 811 before digging in. This free utility locating service marks underground utilities. It helps you avoid damage that can be costly and deadly.

small tree sapling

Encourage growth and longevity with proper care. Water plants thoroughly and as needed. Mulch to conserve moisture, suppress weeds and improve the soil. Fertilize with low nitrogen slow release Milorganite. It encourages balanced above- and below- ground growth. Plus it contains 85% organic matter that helps feed and improve the soil as well as the plants.

Purchase healthy plants and garden supplies at the end of the season. These are often discounted helping to stretch your garden budget.

Convert thrift store and yard sale finds into creative containers, trellises and garden art.  And use fast food containers, yogurt cups and other recycled items to start plants from seeds. Or make your own biodegradable pots from newspaper.

bird cage as a plant holder

Use the available resources like shredded fall leaves and evergreen needles to save money on mulch. Spread them over the soil surface around your plants. Or bag and save them for next year's garden. Convert tree and shrub trimmings into wattle fences, arbors and trellises.

Capture rainwater in rain barrels to use for ornamental plantings and containers. Check with your municipality first. A few areas prohibit rain harvesting but many offer rebates or other incentives for those that prevent rain water from running into the storm sewer.

Splurge on a few “must have” plants. Then fill in the garden or container with old time favorites that tend to be cheaper. You’ll add a bit of pizzazz to the garden or container while testing just a few new plants before making a major investment.

Team up with gardening friends. To save money on seeds, soil and other items, buy them in bulk. Have a seed swap. Share extra seeds or those saved from your heirloom and native plants. It’s a great way to save money and share memories.marigolds in the garden

Start plants like marigolds and zinnias from seeds right in the garden. Then allow self- seeding annuals like alyssum, nicotiana, calendulas and cosmos to return each year. Just delay spring cleanup until these have a chance to sprout.  Move surplus seedlings to other gardens as needed.

Continue to gather ideas all season long. Garden tours are a great way to gather new ideas and meet nice people. Plus, most tours are organized by non-profit groups raising money for good causes.  You’ll have fun while doing something good.

So check your budget and get busy planning for the best, most productive and beautiful garden; no matter the size of your budget.