Diggin' it: Gardening on a shoestring budget

A leaky concrete fountain found free on the roadside has been repurposed as a lovely planter.

As much as I love gardening and all it entails, it can be expensive. If I’m not careful I can spend my entire month’s salary on things for the garden.

There’s always something vying for my dollars and it’s not just plants. There are the pots to grow them in, the pot-ting soil to plant them in, the water and the fertilizer to keep them alive. It can really take a bite out of the budget. What’s a gardener to do?

Over the years, I’ve come up with some cost-cutting tips for the garden. I thought I’d share them with you here.

First and foremost, the plants: I usually buy smaller plants that are growing in the four-inch pots instead of the more expensive gallon-sized ones. This can save me several dollars per plant.

Of course, smaller plants require a bit of patience but I’ve found that most will grow quickly in our climate and before long they’ll look as good, or even better than the bigger ones at the nursery.

I’m always on the lookout for a plant sale. During September and October, fall plant sales will be popping up again and it’s a great time to find gems at ridiculously cheap prices.

I also check the bargain area at nurseries, variety stores and big box stores where I can “rescue” a sad, neglected or spent plant.

I admit, this requires me to be very selective. Often the plants are not worth the effort and time it would take to bring them back to their former glory. However, sometimes I can find a real treasure.

For example, recently I spied a shelf of Dianthus (Pinks) that looked fine other than having spent blooms. I purchased two, brought them home, deadheaded them and they look great.

Of course, sharing/swapping plants with fellow gardeners is the best way to get more plants. You can learn first-hand how the plant grows and what its needs are.

I purchase just about all my pots at thrift stores, the Habitat ReStore and garage sales. But even if you prefer expensive ceramic pots, you can find special deals in the fall when stores want to get rid of their stock before winter.

Garden art doesn’t have to be expensive. I’m always on the lookout for a cool rock or unique piece of driftwood that needs “rescuing.”

Of course I only take things where it’s appropriate to do so, never veering into private property. The beach and river-sides are great places to find something special that may have washed up.

Finally, I’m never too proud to accept a roadside freebie. I admit, usually I drive right past those “free” signs. Last year, however, I scored big time when I stopped for a free, four-tiered cement fountain. You should have seen me struggling to get each heavy piece, including the pedestal, into the car. But I wasn’t about to turn down such a treasure.

When I got it home, I dis-covered that the bottom bowl had sprung a leak, which is, I assume, why they were getting rid of it. But a leaky cement bowl is perfect for growing plants. I set it on its pedestal, filled it with potting soil and plant-ed a small groundcover and ferns. The middle bowl and top of the fountain are repurposed in other areas of the garden. I’ll always be grateful to the generous former owners who knew someone would gladly accept their cast-off.

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