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Best Budget Garden Tips from Our Readers

By: Sherri RibbeySherri Ribbey
We asked our readers for their best budget tips for the garden, and they delivered!

Tips from our readers for gardening on a budget

If you’re trying to save money gardening, there are lots of things you can do. Composting, seed saving and dividing perennials are some great solutions. But what else can you do to pinch a few pennies? We asked our readers how they stretch their garden dollar and they had some great ideas! Take a look at their tips to see how to grow a beautiful garden without busting your budget.

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Seedlings in a plant tray: Get a group of friends to grow different types of plants and do a plant swap!

Host a seedling swap

Sharon and her friends pool their resources and coordinate who will start which vegetable seeds each year. One person might start all the beefsteak tomatoes and the eggplants, another might start the cherry tomatoes and cucumbers. In spring the friends meet up to distribute the seedlings, and everyone gets just what they need.

Tip submitted by Sharon Moore, IL

Divide plants: Use a soil knife to cut between the crowns and get more plants.

Cut the cost by dividing plants with friends

Debi and her friend look for large perennials with potential for division at the garden center. Then they split the cost and the plants! The perennial bachelor’s button (Centaurea montana) above has multiple crowns in one pot so it’s easy to pull or cut apart. But for a plant with a dense root ball and a single crown, you may need to use a soil knife to cut it into pieces and get the divisions you want.

Tip submitted by Debi Jones, TN

“I combine a broken floor lamp and a broken umbrella to make a ‘new baby plant shade structure’. After a couple of days, the plants can take our Southern sun.”

Tip submitted by Brenda Lantz, OK

Container with different types of plants: Houseplants make great container companions and it's easy to save them from year to year.

Grow your own container plants

Instead of buying “spillers” to put in her shade garden urns, Joy uses easy-to-propagate houseplants, such as philodendron (Philodendron cordatum), inch plant (Tradescantia zebrina) or variegated ivy (Hedera helix ‘Variegata’). When the season is winding down, she repots the smaller plants and takes cuttings from large ones, to grow in a vase of water over winter. In early spring she plants them up to get ready to go outdoors.

Tip submitted by Joy Haff, KS

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Make the most of volunteer tomatoes

During the harvest season, Jayme tosses cracked or damaged cherry tomatoes in a 2-foot-square area of the garden that she reserves for this purpose. Then in spring, instead of tilling she keeps an eye out for the volunteers to sprout. When the seedlings are 3 to 5 inches tall, she carefully digs them up and replants them where she usually grows tomatoes.

Tip submitted by Jayme Dare, TN

Floral Bucket: Drill a few holes in the bottom of the pots for drainage.

Floral bucket bargain

To save on the cost of containers, Martin checks with local florists to see if he can purchase a few of the buckets they use to store cut flowers. They’re usually quite willing to sell them for a small fee. He drills several holes in the bottom of each container to let water drain. Martin has used these long-lasting practical containers for growing peppers in the greenhouse, keeping mint contained, growing cuttings and for trees he’s started from seed.

Tip submitted by Martin Charlesworth, Shropshire, UK

Upcycle curtain sheers in the garden: Keep sheers in place in the garden
with a few stones.

Recycle old curtains in the garden

Retired sheer curtains get new life in Pat’s garden. She uses the panels to protect vegetables from pests, such as cabbage moth or deer, and to keep birds out of the fruit on her blueberries and pear and cherry trees. They’re lightweight and won’t crush foliage, but sun and water can still get through. She even sews scrap ribbons 2 to 3 feet apart around the edge of each shear so she can easily tie a few together on a long row of vegetables or secure one around a tree or shrub to protect the fruit.

Tip submitted by Pat Kerr, Ontario, Canada

Repurpose empty mulch bags

Katy has found that empty mulch and soil bags are convenient for collecting weeds and can be used as a kneeling pad either singly or by folding them into fours — the more you have, the cushier the kneeler. Need a waterproof seat cover or trunk liner? Mulch bags to the rescue. And when friends are sharing plants, it’s easy to slip a few divisions inside the bag for easy transport.

Tip submitted by Katy Sullivan, NY

DIY Garden Arbor: Grow an ornamental vine, such as morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea) or a favorite vegetable, such as cucumber on this DIY arbor.

DIY Garden arbor

Garden arbors can be expensive, so Christine makes her own with a few sturdy 5- to 6-foot-tall trellises from a discount store, some rebar and a couple of metal arches from an old row cover set. To keep the trellises stable in her windy area, Christine pounds a couple of 2- or 4-foot-long rebar stakes into the ground where the trellis feet will go and secures each trellis to them with cable ties. The metal arches go on top and are secured in place with several cable ties. One of Christine’s arbors arches over the path in her raised vegetable beds and it’s carried the weight of the cucumber vines with no problem.

Tip submitted by Christine Cox, MA

Birdfeed with sunflower seeds: Sunflower seeds are popular with birds, such as cardinals, finches and nuthatches.

Self-sown bird feeder

Sheryl likes to fill her bird feeder with black sunflower (Helianthus annuus) seeds and strategically hangs it an area of the garden she calls the “wildflower area.” It’s inevitable that some of the seeds fall to the ground and sprout. By letting them grow to maturity, Sheryl’s winged visitors can take advantage of the extra seeds from the flowers, and the plants fit right in with her casual border.

Tip submitted by Sheryl Clifton, VA

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Make your own compost blend

For a quick and easy compost, Jeanne runs all of her fruit and vegetable scraps through the blender, then pours the nutrient-packed liquid in different areas of the garden to help feed her plants and the soil.

Tip submitted by Jeanne Pavero, DE

Trash can planter cutaway illustration: Push an old cracked trash can into the soil to turn it into a container and a composter.

Repurpose a damaged trash can into a planter

Vieve makes good use of an old cracked trash can: She cuts out the bottom and places the cut end in the soil 4 inches deep. During winter, she tosses kitchen scraps (no meat or oils, as these attract animals) in the can until it’s half full, then in spring fills the rest of the can with soil. Vieve plants her favorite tomato, ‘Juliet’, in her clever compost container, but any plant will work. The kitchen scraps at the bottom break down and feed the plant throughout the season. In fall, she empties the container into the garden to help build the soil and starts the process over again.

Tip submitted by Vieve Voss, IA

Upcycled bottle vase for flowers: Paint a glass drink bottle to create a simple vase for a bouquet.

Upcycle a glass bottle into a vase

If you’d like to take an arrangement as a hostess gift or give a get-well pick-me-up, Marylou has a great solution. To upcycle them, she cleans out glass bottles from soda, iced coffee or kombucha, and spray paints them matte white or pale gray to create a simple vase. Then she fills them with flowers and foliage plants from her garden, and the hand-picked bouquets are always a hit.

Tip submitted by Marylou Schoep, KS

Save water with a moisture gauge

Instead of wondering when to water, Ellen purchased a Soil Master™ moisture and pH gauge. Just insert the prongs into the garden soil or potting mix, and the dial lets you know for sure when it’s time for a visit with the hose. A flip of the switch and it provides pH levels, so you’ll know if any amendments are needed. Ellen says that this tool has definitely saved her time and water.

Tip submitted by Ellen Hull, IA

“I cut a worn outdoor carpet into strips the width of the vegetable garden paths. They allow water to pass through, keep weeds down and last a long time.”

Tip submited by Karen Weir, TX

Coir basket liner as mulch: A mulch layer of coir from an old hanging basket liner can help conserve water.

Get more from your hanging basket liners

Coir hanging basket liners can last for several years, but once they start looking thin and shaggy, Melissa repurposes the liners as mulch in her containers and around strawberry plants.

Tip submitted by Melissa Kitchens, MS

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Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work in the garden. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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budget friendly garden design issue 174 november december 2023 reader tip

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