Gardening can be a pricey hobby, but it doesn’t have to be. Savvy gardeners have ways of increasing their collections without emptying their bank accounts. Let’s look at six economical ways to get more seeds and plants for your garden.
1. Propagate Your Own Garden Plants
If you have time and patience, propagating your own plants is the best way to get exactly what you want at a fraction of the cost of a full-grown plant. For home gardeners propagating includes growing plants from seeds, cuttings, or divisions.
Annual flowers and vegetables are easy to grow from seed at a fraction of the cost of buying starter plants. In fact, many do better when started from seed sown right in the ground. Taking cuttings involves cutting a piece of stem, putting it in a pot with a light soil or soilless mix, and keeping it moist until it grows roots.
You can divide most perennials and many shrubs by separating sections of roots and stems and planting these divisions in the ground.
2. Save Your Seeds
Seed saving is the traditional way to pass seeds from one generation to another. Besides being fun and economical, seed saving helps to keep heirloom varieties alive and makes you more self-sufficient. Seeds of annual and perennial flowers and vegetables are the most commonly saved. Seed exchanges give gardeners a forum for swapping the seeds they collect.
3. Swap Plants and Seeds With Other Gardeners
Organized plants swaps are gaining popularity as gardeners seek new varieties. Plant swaps happen at schools, places of work, neighborhoods, and civic organizations. Folks get together and exchange plants. It’s a simple as that!
4. Save Plants From Construction Sites
Construction projects destroy any plants that are in the way of the bulldozer. Many a gardener has rescued plants from building sites, transplanting them to their own gardens. It’s a good idea to ask permission to remove plants, otherwise you could be accused of trespassing and robbery.
5. Buy At Plant Sales
Okay, so this one isn’t totally free. But still. Many religious and civic organizations, charities, and plant societies hold spring plant sales. Gardeners contribute plants, which are typically sold at very reasonable prices. It’s a great way to get varieties that you can’t usually find in a garden center.
6. Trade Labor For Plants or Seeds
Perennials need to be divided every few years; after a while gardeners run out of people to give the divisions to and start sending them to the compost pile. If you know of a garden with plants you admire, offer to help with gardening chores in exchanges for seeds or pieces of plants. You stand to gain gardening tips, make new friends, and add to your collection.
Just one warning: If you’re not certain of exactly where your new plants came from, consider isolating them for a few weeks to make sure they are healthy and weed free. You don’t want to take the chance of introducing pests into your own gardens.
And one important note: Many of our native plants are threatened as a result of development or over-collecting. You can contribute to preserving our remaining wild shrubs, trees, and flowers by not collecting from wild places.
Want to learn more on how to get free plants or free seeds?
Check out the following websites for ideas about plant propagation, seed saving, and plant swaps:
Ohio State University Extension’s Master Gardener website has detailed information on plant propagation for the home gardener.
Plant Swap Forum is an online community where gardeners meet to swap plants and advice on plant swaps.
Fedco Seeds has a lovely activity guidebook on seed saving.
Lynne Lamstein gardens in Maine and Florida and is currently working on a sustainable landscape. She has a degree in ornamental horticulture from Temple University.