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Rich garden on a tight budget

Sun., April 17, 2011

Making plant pots out of rolled newspaper is a great way to save money. Plant roots easily grow through them and the paper quickly biodegrades in the soil. (Susan Mulvihill)
Making plant pots out of rolled newspaper is a great way to save money. Plant roots easily grow through them and the paper quickly biodegrades in the soil. (Susan Mulvihill)

Today’s topic is gardening on the cheap. Budgets are tight these days so I thought it would be helpful to brainstorm how we can enjoy our favorite pastime without breaking the bank.

One of the ways I do that is starting my own flowers and veggies from seed so I can grow unusual varieties at a fraction of the cost.

When I’m doing my early season pruning, I set aside straight branches to be used as plant stakes later on. I also recycle plant markers and use popsicle sticks, plastic knives or the slats from old window blinds for this purpose as well.

I recently consulted with several of my Master Gardener colleagues to learn what they do to save money. Here’s what they shared:

• “When I first moved into my house, I wanted to spruce up the place quickly but also on the cheap,” said Jennifer Tiegs.

I found that asking friends and family if they had any plants that needed to be divided was a great way to get plantings for free … and I was able to obtain plants that were proven to do well in our zone.”

• “I take cuttings of annuals in early fall (before a frost), root them, pot them up, and put them in a sunny window until planting time the following spring,” Martha Kenney said. “Some plants that work really well are coleus, sweet potato vine and perilla.

“Also, when I’m looking for plants in the nursery, I try to find something I can divide right away, or something that will grow quickly enough that I could divide it the following year.

“Most sedums (both tall and ground covers) can be divided right away: just pinch a couple of inches off the top, stick it into soil and voila! you have a new plant.”

• Rose Jacobus likes to use the layering technique of propagation to create new plants.

“Anytime I want to start climbing roses, honeysuckle or many other vines, I just bury part of the vine or cane in the dirt and pin it down,” she said. “I propagated 14 roses from three by doing this.”

Jacobus also likes to propagate fuchsias.

“I buy one of each kind when they are on sale,” she said. “I pinch out the tops and plant them in florist’s oasis to keep them moist. Once I see roots coming out the sides, I pot them up. I can usually get three to four new starts per plant.”

• Sue Malm likes to make her own compost using leaves, grass clippings, garden debris and kitchen scraps.

“This saves the cost of disposing of leaves and grass clippings and cuts down on the amount of garbage generated,” she said. “In addition to reducing your refuse bill, it reduces the need to buy commercial fertilizers and soil amendments.”

Malm also recommends recycling the plastic bags that potting soil comes in for other uses and advocates using rocks for edging beds rather than buying new materials.

“They look more natural anyway,” she says.

• Cathi Lamoreux had several fun tips.

“I use an assortment of old pots and pans for plant containers,” she said. “For example, I have succulents growing in an old graniteware roaster. We sank an old metal pot about 24 inches in diameter into the ground and put in a pump for a little water feature beside the deck.

“I also like to buy old wooden ladders at garage sales and use them for trellises.”

I’m certain all of these ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. Do you have money-saving tips? Send me a note and I’ll share them on my blog at

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via email at

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