Save Money on Plants: A to Z
So I’m here to tell you today: Dream away! Winter is the time to start organizing your spring gardening and landscape design plans, and nurseries are already offering deep discounts for early planners.
There are a variety of ways you can save on your planting that go beyond timing plant orders just right. In fact, with a little foresight, you can propagate and save all year round with just a little knowledge and insightful planning.
Table of Contents
- Avoid Impulse Buys
- Buy Used When You Can
- Compost Uses
- Don’t Overplant
- Exchange Plants
- Fertilize Correctly
- Grow From Seed
- Healthy Soils
- Insect and Disease Control
- Juvenile Plantings
- Know Your Options
- Layer Mulch
- Manure Addition
- Native Plantings
- Out of Season Specials
- Propagate Perennials
- Queue Your Plants by Need
- Seed Collection and Reseeding
- Transplant Care
- Use Annuals
- Value Shopping
- Wholesale Nurseries
- Xeriscape Choices
- Yard Landscaping
- Zonal Planting
Money Saving Tips: A – Z
And this applies well beyond your outdoor plantings. Indoor houseplants and seasonal tropicals are just as popular to have around, maybe even more so due to their ability to cheer up a room and help freshen your stale winter indoor air!
Even though you may find yourself justifying a purchase that wasn’t originally on your plant shopping list, stop and ask yourself if you REALLY need it, and if it’s going to cost more than just the cost of a plant. Consider this especially if it is a tender plant, or houseplant that probably is not going to need both a pot, and potting soil to even make a home with you.
I have saved A LOT of money by taking in the cast offs from other gardeners through both online and local markets. Bulbs and other hardy perennial varieties (especially herbs) ship well and transplant easily.
How does this save you money? Simple- healthy plant produce more. More fruits and veggies, more flowers, more propagation are included in the list of more – all ways that help you save on produce, and future plantings. And if you are feeling up to it, you could even make a fast buck selling your own ‘extras’ as mentioned above.
It’s easy to want to fill up all your empty spaces, but be sure to space your plants according to their mature heights and widths to keep from overcrowding and the many problems this can bring: such as root crowding which causes plants to fight for available nutrients, and foliage overlapping that can harbor rots and mildews, and attract damaging insects. This can become costly to counter affect, and often results in digging up the overgrown area for a more simple landscaping design.
I have found this to be most useful concerning many herbs. They proliferate at a quick pace and love to send out runners into adjoining garden beds. Gently dig them up and trade them out for some of those daisies you’ve been eyeing in the neighbor’s yard!
Killing your plant is like flushing your money down the toilet. Especially if you are expecting a crop that will now no longer exist. Fertilizers can also adversely affect plants by making them too leggy or bushy, and keep them from producing the flowers or fruits you planted them for in the first place.
Seed exchanges are also popular amongst gardeners, so consider reaching out to friends and community members to see what everyone is planting in their garden this year! My extra watermelon and pumpkin were traded for sunflowers and four o’clocks this last season and provided a ton of colorful blooms all summer, and a new batch of seeds for next year!
Newly acquired plants will often also suffer slightly during transplant. This is normal, but making sure your soils are well prepared for the new addition will keep you from losing both the plant, and the money invested in it. Soils are one of the most important variables to your plant health, so consider taking the time to pay attention to them in order to keep your plant in overall good health.
Just because you have a mature plant doesn’t mean that it isn’t susceptible, or even strong enough to fend off an attack of some sort. I recently had an attack of spider mites on my 15 foot juniper tree, a $100 investment that has been going strong for over 5 years now. Luckily a $10 purchase applied over a few weeks took care of the issue and saved the entire structure of the tree, and my having to replace it for privacy purposes.
Consider spending a bit more up front for a more mature tree or shrub over a bare root, 12 inch sapling. Although it may be more expensive to purchase a tree or shrub that is already a few years old and have stored up nutrients in it’s root bulbs for a successful transplant. Your money is more than well spent due to the fact that it’s survivability is going to be that much higher, and you won’t waste time and money replacing failed attempts.
Also consider the time of year you purchase these types of woody plants. If they have been sitting in the nursery lot all summer, they are going to be more stressed than if you are catching them as they approach spring and the end of dormancy. The best time to plant your woody vegetation is spring since you will be contributing to the nutrient uptake upon transplantation, and are allowing the root system to grow the entire season before the next dormant period.
If you are putting in a new garden, first think about your basic special needs and then make your choices based on which plants will actually grow where you want them, and what size they will get. Stick to your plan since you can always add in more plants later down the road as they mature. Basically don’t just start to put plants in your ‘cart’ and push to checkout before considering what you were looking for in the first place. My suggestion? Make a list and don’t stray!
Not having a source of fresh animal waste (think farm yard, not dog) doesn’t need to be disappointing- you can purchase manure at garden centers to work into your soils as well. Manure provides a slow release of the nutrients plants love best, and help add in organic materials to keep moisture where you need it, and aeration near your roots. All things to help keep your plants happy and healthy – and producing!
I know exactly how tempting it is to try and grow a plant that is not typically seen where you live, and in some cases you can be successful with careful consideration of plant needs and a lot of ‘babying’ until it has become established- but in most situations plants that are being grow too far out of their natural environment don’t fair well and eventually die off. Having to replace a plant that you have poured effort into is frustrating for both your emotional state, and your pocketbook.
Plants that have lasted on the ‘shelf’ because they are not as pretty as their flatmates often get moved to a clearance rack to be salvaged by people like us, or thrown away. Furthermore healthy plants are also moved due to new stock coming in, the planting season coming to a close, or because the plant has passed it’s bloom time and is no longer aesthetically pleasing to customers.
This is when you should swoop in like a vulture and get what you can. These drastically discounted plants are a nuisance and eyesore to the rest of the garden display, and are headed for a dumpster. Perennials especially can take root and thrive quickly, and are not picky about when they have been planted. Who cares if they were beat up and not looking so great? The minute their roots take hold they will make up for it.
This is especially handy if you have friends willing to swap plants too, or a local plant trade as well. You can also sell your ‘babies’ for a little extra cash to put towards a few new species if you are so inclined. Basically with a little bit of communication and research, you can landscape your yard for next to nothing.
This also applies to your houseplants. Research about your species and its needs, and when the time comes to repot, take a little of the plant and let it take off on it’s own. Many house plants can root from cuttings as well and after a period of water immersion, will begin to root and be ready for transplant. So if you’ve been coveting a friend’s gorgeous kitchen vegetation, ask if they would be willing to part with a piece of it for you to grow!
Have a shady area and need some ground cover and flowering height? Look over your options and make a decision before adding which plants you are going to look well together. The same applies in your vegetable garden. Do you really need 5 different tomato varieties? Especially if you only have room for 5 plants but also want a zucchini and pepper to plant?
Considering the best choices for your planting spots, whether it be indoor or out, saves you the hassle of problem solving down the road to try and rescue ailing vegetation, or coming to the realization you made a poor purchase. List only those plants you know can survive in your climate, or that you have the time to care for when considering initial purchases.
Many annual flowers do the same, and the initial cost of a flat of flowers one year may become a decade’s investment with the proper care. Certain annuals may also pop back the following spring from dropped seeds as well, so do your research in advance if you would like to see this happen, and consider your placement of them since they will become an annual occurrence.
Hopefully you already know where you are placing your plants (see the need for a plan?) so you can get them into the ground as soon as possible. Waiting until evening when the intensity of the sun, and it’s drying properties have passed, is often your best transplant time for success- but there are a few other tips to make sure you have a successful swap you can take into consideration.
Have your plant spacing in place, and your holes dug in advance (make these approximately TWICE as wide and deep as the root ball)
Once your seedlings are in, water thoroughly, and let them rest through the night. More than likely they will be on their way to establishment the following morning, even if they do get a little droopy over the next few days as they acclimate.
Ground sedums can also be a great filler, as they propagate and spread quickly. Despite being an annual in more northern climates, their roots often shelter well against other plants and will quickly proliferate the next growing season (in fact, I treat mine as weeds and regularly thin them, but leave a few back to cover my bare spots). I think I originally spent $3 on 10 small cuttings and now have an entire garden bed carpeted in small yellow flowers each spring.
Even if you are on the fence concerning this, this is where doing your research in advance can really pay off. Don’t think minimum purchases have to number in the hundreds of plants. Many time you might simply be looking at an even dozen: or better yet, you can order any number of plants you want as long as you spend a certain amount.
These types of plants (which include many lilies, iris, sedums, sages, etc…) require very little care overall, and can add a touch of organization to an otherwise unruly corner of your property. Plant, establish, and ignore. And reap the benefits of knowing your space is considered ‘landscaped’.
Even if you have an excellent watering system, don’t count out traditional xeriscape plantings. Just because these plants tolerate drought conditions, doesn’t mean they will die with regular waterings, so they are often an excellent choice in almost any local
Saving with plants go well beyond the cost of the plant itself, and your overall investment results should always be taken into account when brainstorming your most recent gardening plans. Landscaping, as described in all my fabulous tips, doesn’t have to be an expensive expenditure with a little bit of patience and planning. Keep in mind HOW to save, and apply these practices when approaching your property design.
Image from United Stated Department of Agriculture
On that note: keep in mind your local weather as well. Your own property will have a changing pattern of temperature highs and lows due to shade, Southern exposures, and wind (called a microclimate). Certain plants may not grow as well in a garden that receives a reflection of light and sun off a wall, but may do well in full sun elsewhere. This is where advanced planning becomes important to avoid unnecessary plant mortality.
Rules for Budgeting Success
Keep in mind the above tips to stretch your plant budget, and create the best landscape design you can imagine. There is no need to give up your ideas due to finances if you can save and plan, and apply a little patience to your dreams. Remember, start with a plan, and create your list of needs before getting started to consider all your options to reach your design goals. Look into community resources as well, and talk with your gardening neighbors and friends to see what ideas and materials they may be willing to share or trade with you. Gardening enthusiast love to ‘talk shop’ and you may be surprised to find how many people show interest in your hobby!
Have any tips you’d like to share? Or questions concerning where to get started? Please comment below!