Penny-Pinching gardensby Helen Halpenny, Lanark County Master
Today I went to a nursery and saw a
herbaceous peony priced at $99. Yes, it was rather a rare plant.
That made me remember my visit to a
lovely garden a couple of years ago, whose owner told me she had a
$200 budget for the entire gardening year. At the time I was amazed
that her frugality could produce such a wonderful collection of
plants, and I asked her how she acquired such variety.
If you are beginning to garden and have
limited money, some of her ideas may be helpful.
- First of all, start a compost pile.
In the fall there are always lots of leaves and garden waste. You
don’t need any fancy equipment, just make a heap, and turn it to
speed the rotting process. Soon you won’t need to buy the store
bought products. Compost that is ready can be spread onto perennial
beds in the fall after cleanup and it will help the plants get
through winter, and will provide nutrients next spring.
- Save seeds. Both vegetable and flower
seeds can easily be saved, providing they are not hybrids. All open
pollinated varieties will come true. Let the seed pods ripen on the
plant and just before they split and spill their contents, collect
the seeds and store in paper sacks until you are ready to plant. Seed
collection is best done on the dry day. They should be stored in a
cool, dark location. If you are collecting from the wild, never take
more than 10% of the available seeds, thus making sure the species
will continue in that location.
- Trade plants with your neighbours and
friends. An established garden always has clumps that need dividing
and volunteer plants that pop up in unexpected places. Become a
member of the local horticultural society and you will have access to
plant sales, and group orders. And, you will meet other gardeners who
will give you cuttings and seeds when you admire their gardens.
- Start seedlings in early spring.
Bright window sills or grow lights will give the necessary light to
raise healthy plants. Annuals bring fast results, but perennials,
too, are well worth growing. Even trees can be grown from seed. They
just need a little more patience. For the price of a packet of seed
you can have dozens or maybe hundreds of plants. Furthermore,
nurturing the little plants will give you a great feeling of
- -Start small. As your clumps of
perennials get big enough to divide, your flower beds can expand to
accommodate the extras. By starting with a manageable area, you will
not get discouraged with the weeding and other maintenance. As you
get more proficient, you will enjoy a larger garden.
- Visit other gardens and use ideas
that you admire. Thoughtful design goes a long way in designing a
successful garden. Collect ideas from many sources and during the
long winter months do your planning. Some of the prettiest gardens
are full of common plants used in distinctive and creative settings.
A gardening friend says never to plant just one plant- always a
grouping of at least three. Five is better.
Of course everyone is tempted by the
glorious selection of plant material at nurseries, and we should
treat ourselves to special plants from time to time. But there is
real satisfaction from ‘gardening from scratch.’ By economizing
on some aspects of gardening we can save up for that coveted plant we
long for. Maybe I should go back and consider that peony again.