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Dirt Cheap Garden Ideas, Moneysaving Tips for Gardeners

Updated on March 15, 2017
Ilonagarden profile image

Ilona has gardened actively for most of her life, and been a writer and webmaster online since 1998. Homeschooled all 10 of her children.

Make a DIY Bath Tub Pond

Bath Tub Pond is one example of turning trash into treasure, or re-purposing.
Bath Tub Pond is one example of turning trash into treasure, or re-purposing.

Re-purpose for Inexpensive Garden Ornaments

Not everyone can afford a bath size water garden kit, but what about using an old tub that was cast off from a remodeling project? What about old teacups turned into bird feeders? Or signs made out of old lumber, or the newest trend... making stuff out of wooden pallets?

In the following sections: learn how to save money in the garden.

  1. Dividing your plants will make more, for free.
  2. Growing from seed and making your own pots.
  3. Making compost for healthy plants through scrap recycling.
  4. Measuring soil amendments correctly for no waste.
  5. Buying used: Re-purposing and how to shop Flea Markets
  6. Avoiding costly mistakes

Getting Plants Cheap

The art of knowing where and when to look
The art of knowing where and when to look

Making New Plants by Division

Lift older plants, cut them apart and plant each piece as a new plant. Many perennials are multiplied this way.
Lift older plants, cut them apart and plant each piece as a new plant. Many perennials are multiplied this way. | Source

Shrub Can Be Divided

Hydrangea shrubs are easy to divide.
Hydrangea shrubs are easy to divide. | Source

Divide Your Plants and Multiply!

An easy, cheap way to make the most of your purchases

Just take a sharp tool of the appropriate size for the plant and slice into it. Take part of the plant and a good bit of root and you are the new owner of a number of new plants.

Perennials

Perennials usually have to be divided at some point, although there are a few that you only divide when you want more plants, but did you think about the possibility of having many plants of one you just purchased? I did this with moss phlox, Phlox subulata, which I had planted on a hillside in my yard.

I took the plant out of its container and simply pulled it into a number of pieces with roots, then planted each piece. Keeping the new plants moist while they settled in was work that would have been done,regardless. For the money of one plant I had several that soon grew into larger sized plants that covered much more ground. There are plants such as moss phlox ( indeed all types of phlox) that like to be cultivated like that

Shrubs

People are afraid of dividing shrubs because they are woody, but many types of of shrubs are easy to multiply trough division. Simply divide off a small start from the side of a shrub such as a Weigela or a Spirea, and plant it just like any new little shrub.

Plants that have multiple stems and fibrous roots are most likely able to be divided into many new plants, those with tap roots and single trunk are least likely to be successfully divided.

Need help in figuring out "tap roots, stems, etc? Try some Plant Science for Laymen.

American Horticultural Society Plant Propagation: The Fully Illustrated Plant-by-Plant Manual of Practical Techniques
American Horticultural Society Plant Propagation: The Fully Illustrated Plant-by-Plant Manual of Practical Techniques

Whether you are a new gardener or an expert master gardener, it is always cheaper to grow your own plants if you need a number of them. This book is one of best to have on your gardening bookshelf for learning all about making more plants successfully.

Another way to garden cheaply is to know which books you really and which are less than you hoped. This is one of the few books which will be very useful over and over.

 

Easy Dividing and Garden Tips

Grow From Seed

One of the least expensive ways to fill your garden with flowers,vegetables, and plants is to grow them from seed.

Plant Propagation - Growing Plants from Seed is Frugal

Growing from seed can be the single most economical way to have lots of plants in a short time. They often are inexpensive, and the materials used to start them can be homemade ( pots or growing trays from household castoffs).

For many crops you don't even need to start the seeds inside. They can be directly sown into the garden. Carrots, lettuce, spinach and other food items are grown this way.


Besides dividing and growing from seeds, there are other means to propagate plants- even expensive ones like named rare evergreens.

Get a resource book that will guide you to expertise. Learn to multiply plants through softwood and hardwood cuttings, leaf cuttings, etc.

Cheap Ideas and Seed Starting Tips

Paper Pot Maker

Using a simple tool can turn old newspapers into seed starting pots.

Toilet Roll Pots

Toilet Roll Pots
Toilet Roll Pots

Inexpensive Means to a Luxurious Garden

Everyone wants to save a little cash, don't they? well, more than that we are all getting much more aware of being environmentally responsible. It is time for frugal gardening tips!

Recycling, Being Green, and Smart Budgeting

We have entered an economic new era, one in which frugality plays a major role. The garden is one place where we can have the luxury of a beautiful surrounding with lush plantings for a limited budget, if need be.

Besides the beauty of a garden, it is one place where you can do something about that high food bill and actually have more gourmet quality food! It all depends on the effort you want to put into garnering the skills, creating the long term environment for a fertile growing place, and learning a few tricks of the trade.

Cheap gardening is chic

I suppose besides that, you might have that frugal gene that gets unexplainable glee at being as cheap as possible on what can be the extreme challenge of a trip to the plant store. Once you've caught the gardening bug, you may find it takes your wit and will to outsmart the wily, winsome plants displayed.It is a huge act of willpower to not bust the budget with impulse purchases.

But thankfully, plants like to reproduce readily for the most part. That can make them inexpensive, when you learn how to propagate them and find the best deals for new ones.

Of course there are some caveats along the way- that is what challenges your wits and makes it more fun.

Gardening Tips For Saving Money

How and when to get supplies takes a small bit of effort for better gardens.

  • Making good compost for healthy vegetables.
  • Near a quarry? See if you can get some rockdust. Might be cheap, might be free.
  • Need to buy fertilizer or conditioners? The end of season (fall time) stores usually discount their lawn and garden supplies.
  • Green manure is the use of plants that can be turned under to add nitrogen to the soil, almost as good as the brown stuff.

Start Off With Your Soil

Compost is pure gold for a gardener. Make your own and add to the flower beds and veggie patch.
Compost is pure gold for a gardener. Make your own and add to the flower beds and veggie patch.

Turn Garbage into Gold


Collect Kitchen Scraps

Thought the first tip would be about which plants to buy? No plant is a bargain when the soil is so poor it doesn't grow well or -horrors- quickly dies. Your soil can be improved and there are cheap ways to do that.

Top #1 Frugal Garden Tip

Make your own compost pile. Your own bin or one that is purchased will collect all your green waste, vegetable peelings from the kitchen, coffee grounds, tea leaves, etc. And it should reduce your garbage that would need to be collected to some degree, too!

I used to hear stories about gardeners who would not find it beneath them to follow the horse trail to gather good horse manure. If you have a source of manure from a horse, cow, or chickens, that is ideal to age for some months and then fertilize your soils. Forget about waste that comes from you, your cats, or your dogs, which aren't healthy wastes to use.

All those leaves you either have hauled away or burn? Save them! Compost them! Create leaf mould which is one of the best soil conditioners- and they are free!

Compost Those Leaves

They turn into black gold for your soil.

Compost Sacks

Bag up leaves to decompose over winter.
Bag up leaves to decompose over winter.

What You Can Use - and NOT Use in a Compost Pile

To some, compost making is a high art form. I take the lazy way and just pile and leave it to decay, but it is still important to know what to use (or not) to make the compost a healthy addition to the soil and for your property. You do not want to attract pests, or spread plant disease, which is why some materials are not added.

You wouldn't believe all the things that can be recycled into the earth.

If you make, or buy, a compost bin it won't take long before you have rich brown crumbly humus to add to your own pots and garden beds.

Counter Convenience

Top Rated Epica Stainless Steel Compost Bin 1.3 Gallon-Includes Charcoal Filter
Top Rated Epica Stainless Steel Compost Bin 1.3 Gallon-Includes Charcoal Filter

Convenience and charcoal liner make this one gallon compost container a simple, attractive way to recycle your kitchen scraps.

 

List of Additions for Composting (and 3 No-No's)

  • Grass Clipping +
  • Mulched leaves +
  • Vegetable peels, old fruit, rotten vegetables +
  • Coffee grounds and tea leaves +
  • Chicken, cow, or horse manure +
  • Lint and household dust +
  • Hair from you and your pets +
  • toilet paper rolls and used napkins +
  • 163 things you can add to your compost pile

What are the "No-No's"?

    • NO dog or cat waste -
    • NO meat leftovers or products -
    • NO diseased plant matter -

Create your own Organic Garden

It isn't difficult or complicated to learn to garden organically- just change some of your methods and lifestyle to become greener and you might love learning to take care of your world.

Products to help jump-start the garden might seem like frills until you realize that when growing food, the earlier you harvest, the earlier you save on the groceries.

Growing organically may not be as simple, there are things to learn and time needed to build up the soils. In the long run, it is more frugal. It is also healthier.

Soil amendments are the number one way to create better soil. The video on how to measure them saves waste.

Compute just the right amounts

How Much Soil Amendment? -Compute the Amount Needed

One way to save money is to buy just the amount of something that you need. Use this formula in the video above to compute your garden math.

Remember

To save money sometimes you have to spend some of it. To save time, sometimes you have to put a little effort in at the beginning. To reap, you have to sow.

Another Way to Save Money - Books from moneysaving experts

It is so popular to save money rather than make money that people write books about it.

The Frugal Gardener
The Frugal Gardener

This book is for you to keep the gardening budget trim and have fun doing it. Ideas for choosing amendments, making more plants, making garden structures for less cost. More detail on many of the topics brought up in my article.

 

...Where and When to Buy Garden Supplies

Cheapest time to buy

Like everything else garden plants and supplies have an off season.

This usually falls in July if you live in the USA. Many garden centers hold sales in July, but the problem with buying their bargains is that this is the hardest time to keep new plantings alive. The hot dry weather of continental USA is taxing for plants. Drought can mean death to new trees and shrubs even if they are planted in the spring. So weigh your choices, and if you can give your plants attention and enough water, by all means buy the bargains.

Supplies suffer no such problems -so stock up on pots, tools, hoses, or whatever you find on sale.

Autumn is an excellent time to buy sale plants for a cheap price, and as long as the ground is not frozen you can plant them. Cover them with some mulch and they should be an excellent investment. I guarantee nothing- but have had GREAT results from autumn planted bargains.

Buy Used

Buy used tools either through auctions or at tag sales. There are some very good tools at garage sales!

Flea Market Gardening

An old idea with a fresh face.
An old idea with a fresh face. | Source

Old Window Coldframe

Old windows top a simple raised bed for an instant coldframe
Old windows top a simple raised bed for an instant coldframe | Source

Reuse, Repurpose

My favorite way to save money in the garden

  • Old shoes or old chairs? New pots and new potstands.
  • Old fence boards? New raised bed frames.
  • Old windows? New coldframe.


There are all sort of ways to make a new part of the garden from old sources of materials.

The main thing you need is ingenuity, so put on your thinking cap.

Find Something Decorative - Ways to Save Money

Reusing material to make a cottage garden hideaway.

People are looking to flea markets, tag sales, and good old garage sales to re use and repurpose things for their garden. Some great finds are available, and it is a way to find statues and other types of garden ornaments, or cobbling together various architectural elements to create a little Victorian garden shed like this one, pictured above.

Garden Finds

Garden Finds
Garden Finds

Flea Marketing

In the spirit of repurposing comes the marriage of flea market visits and gardening, with its own site and magazine to promote the concept. Tips like these from Anna Looper:

"[She] has her own essentials list. She says, "When I go junking-I take a hat, gloves, water, apron with the pockets stuffed with little scissors, tissues, chapstick, permanent Marker and string. Also in my car are plastic bags and bungi cords. Handi-wipes and sanitizers are must. I bring a cooler full of drinks, fruit, and cheeses for snacks."

More tips

Arrive as early as possible and get the best merchandise at a premium price, or arrive late and get good merchandise at clearance prices but fewer choices."

The Flea Marketer's List

take along...

  1. hat
  2. gloves
  3. water
  4. apron with the pockets
  5. little scissors
  6. tissues
  7. chapstick
  8. permanent marker
  9. string
  10. plastic bags
  11. bungi cords
  12. Handi-wipes
  13. sanitizers

That's a serious shopper!

Reuse Old Stuff in the Garden

Repurpose and Keep Green - Ingenious ideas for everyone to try

Handmade Home: Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures
Handmade Home: Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures

Sometimes we wish we could be more frugal, more green, and ingeniously repurpose, but we need a little help. A book with great ideas and the how-to comes to the rescue!

 

Money Saving Garden Tips Redux

The lowdown on frugal garden tips:

  1. Reuse plastic or clay pots from nursery plants
  2. Repurpose old household things in the garden
  3. OLD PLASTIC MILK JUGS OR LITER SODA BOTTLES AS WINTER CLOCHE FOR NEW PLANTS
  4. Make your own compost
  5. Buy used tools
  6. Make seed pots from toilet rolls or newspaper
  7. LEARN TO PROPAGATE YOUR OWN PLANTS

Make A Plan

One of the easiest ways to control costs is to stick with a garden plan.

"Passalong" Plants

The cheapest way to save money is to get something free.

Passalong plants are what some call them, friendship plants by others, but they are the plants that other gardeners wish to bless you with. While it is good to not kick a gift horse in the mouth, you still need to know how to avoid problems from this act of kindness.

Some plants are invasive and you will hate yourself for planting them. They are sometimes something you bought unaware of its thuggery, but often they just grow SO well that others have lots to share with you. Understand the nature of the gift plant before you make it comfortable in your garden. Other than that, if you are given a nice healthy plant that is loved by others... it will be a great addition for your garden and you can start the next prime way to gain many inexpensive plants.

No plant is a good deal if it takes over the garden and creates endless hours of weeding

Buying from Yard sales and benefit sales, buying at the end of the season- these are all ways to save money on your plant purchases.

Thuggery List - Plants to Avoid

Some plants act badly in the garden, they don't make good neighbors. You can help them move in, but you may regret it in the future. This list is to help you decide whether you want to do that. Remember that dandelions were once someone's favorite salad vegetable.

If your free plants crowd out more valuable plantings, if they require lots of work to control, if they are detrimental to the environment (compete with native plants, poor nutrition for wildlife), then they are no longer a bargain.


Garden Thugs

Waste Not, Want Not

Time to recall that famous adage.

I would love to hear how you save money in your gardens. Or how your gardens save money for you.

Are You Cheap? At Least, Frugal? - Have any tips for us?

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    • profile image

      Spikey64 3 years ago

      Great lens packed with great money saving tips.

      Even if you have a lot of money seeing something you have made yourself from recycled materials full of thriving plants gives you a great feeling of satisfaction.

    • gardendoll426 profile image

      gardendoll426 5 years ago

      Unneeded canvas bags can make great hanging planters. Liked the lens a lot!

    • Ilonagarden profile image
      Author

      Ilona E 5 years ago from Ohio

      @Squiznik: Ajuga are a wonderful groundcover- your experience with them proves their worth.

    • profile image

      GottaGreenBuzz 5 years ago

      I have only begun my green journey...NEVER had any interest in gardening, and I feel like I've ignored a HUGE blessing that is all around us. Thank you for this lens, I hope to explore and try gardening next Spring! Of course, I'll be sharing those adventures (and mishaps!) and hopefully I will be able to use some of your tips! Thanks for a great lens!

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 6 years ago from Connecticut

      Great tips for an economical yet beautiful garden. Many of the plants in our yard are shoots and divisions that were gifted by friends and family members, and provide a constant reminder of them.

    • Ilonagarden profile image
      Author

      Ilona E 6 years ago from Ohio

      @anonymous: gardeners are generous people and you prove the rule:)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I give my friends plant cuttings and they return the favor. Nice lens, 5*

    • Ilonagarden profile image
      Author

      Ilona E 6 years ago from Ohio

      @Squiznik: there is an analogy somewhere in that ajuga groundcover success :). Thank *you* for returning my visit and the likes !

    • Ilonagarden profile image
      Author

      Ilona E 6 years ago from Ohio

      @LensSeller: I'm so happy you liked it- and hope many decide to compost for a great alternative to expensive fertilizer and amendments.

    • profile image

      LensSeller 6 years ago

      Some excellent tips for making a beautiful garden without having to sell a limb to do it.

      As a recycler and composter I loved your number 1 tip for improving the soil in a garden.