Today, I’m going to share one of my best kept money saving gardening secrets.
A few years ago, I suddenly found myself unemployed. I decided to start gardening to enjoy the fresh air and get my thoughts together on my future. But, after visiting my local home and garden centers, I realized that buying potted perennials can be quite expensive. My parents dug up a lilac bush from their garden and “donated” it to my cause. Seeds are pretty economically friendly, but take most of the summer to grow and flower.
Luckily, I eventually stumbled upon some local websites for plant exchanges and I was hopeful once again that I could grow a beautiful garden without going broke. I’ve found that most gardeners are very generous and will share cuttings or divide their plants with anyone willing to take them. I’ve even found a few local websites on Yahoo! that list private postings of plants being offered for free. Sometimes gardeners will dig up their extras and put it in an old pot or plastic bag and just leave them on their porch. They post their address and you just need to drive by their home and pick up your new addition to your garden. I’ve met so many nice garden ladies that will even dig up more plants once you arrive to pick up what was offered. Gardeners love to show off their gardens and sometimes they will give you the grand tour of their handy work. On one such occasion, I had a very generous lady gardener who loaded up my trunk with several varieties of hybrid hostas and lilies. She was so knowledgeable and really inspiring to a newbie gardener such as myself. We sent e-mails back and forth. I kept her updated on the progress of my new plants and I even sent her a few photos of her babies that she shared with me.
Now, comes the good part…my own garden secret to saving money. I’ve been gardening for about 6 years now, and I can recognize basic leaf forms and can identify what plants they are. During the summer, I started noticing in my neighborhood, on garbage day, that people would throw away extra plants from their gardens. I would recognize day-lily plants, yucca plants, garden mums, Easter lilies, etc. I thought to myself…wow, those are plants that I can use. They were in the garbage…they aren’t wanted…so why not take them home and see if they will take.
At first, I was a little embarrassed to take plants from someone’s garbage. But I don’t know them and they don’t know me. What’s to be embarrassed about? The people who throw away perfectly good plants probably aren’t aware that they can post them for free on the internet or don’t want to take the time to advertise them.
So, during the summer I have my favorite local neighborhoods to drive around on garbage day to scope out new plants to add to my garden. Honestly, most of my garden didn’t cost me anything at all…other than some gas in my truck to cruise a few neighborhoods. I’ve been so lucky and found an abundance of rainbow colored lilies thanks to my crafty garden garbage picking. And another secret…a few weeks after Easter, you can find nice Easter lilies, tulips and hyacinths that people have received as gifts. Once they have dried up, most people just toss them into the garbage. They must not realize that they can be planted and like magic…they will come back next year!
Another great time to find discarded potted garden plants is a few weeks after Halloween. I find a ton of potted garden mums that don’t get transplanted by their owners. They just toss those mums…pot and all…right into the garden waste trash. So, I have lovely yellow, white, pink, purple and burgundy mums that bloom every fall.
Besides being a huge money saver, finding new plants from the trash is pretty fun because it’s a mystery what color the plant will be. Every year, when they bloom for the first time, I get excited to see what I found. Obviously my garden is very colorful and quite random. I enjoy the gardens that aren’t meticulously planned out. I feel that nature is the best gardener and it shouldn’t be too organized.
Now, I will be honest. Some plants that I transplant don’t make it the next year. Maybe their roots were too dry or they were frozen before I could get them into the ground. I’ve learned to give the plants a good soak in a bucket of water over night to help the roots take better. The majority of what I have transplanted from the trash…always blooms again year after year.
So…my fellow gardeners…go forth and pick those plants from the trash! Let your knowledge be your guide. Don’t be embarrassed! It’s a shame to let the plants die and not give them a new home. Most people recycle plastic, paper and metal so I’ve just taken recycling to a new level… that’s all. Or is that upcycling?
And the very best part of all….it cost me next to nothing!