Starting and maintaining a garden doesn't have to cost a fortune. Swapping seeds and plants, making your own compost for fertilizing and collecting rainwater are among the many smart ways to get that bumper crop without going bankrupt. As a bonus, gardening is a great activity for keeping fit, enjoying the outdoors and meeting the neighbors. Here's a closer look at some of the best strategies for saving money in the garden.
See also: Money-saving uses of eggshells.
1. Swap 'til you drop
"One of the best ways to get plants for free is to exchange with your neighbors or friends," says Joanie Bolton, a 68-year-old blogger and self-described penny-pinching grandma in Gulf Breeze, Fla., who rarely pays for her plants. "I might be at someone's house and see a beautiful plant and ask them for a cutting."
If hitting up your neighbors for plants during a social visit isn't your thing, then keep an eye out for formal plant swaps. Many neighborhoods organize them in the spring. Check online community message boards and look for fliers posted at local libraries. Not only is a plant swap free, but it's also a way to forge relationships with neighbors you might not otherwise meet.
2. Sow your own seeds
Another option that involves less socializing is to buy seeds instead of plants. Seeds require more time and TLC, but they can save you a bundle. According to Susan Littlefield, horticultural editor for the National Gardening Association, a single young plant can cost about the same as an entire packet of seeds.
3. Skip the spring rush
Savvy shoppers who lack patience or a green thumb forgo seeds, opting instead to wait until after the growing season is under way before buying plants. Once the initial frenzy of planting has passed, nurseries are more likely to lower prices to move surplus inventories of plants, mulch and the like. Gardening tools can also be had on the cheap later in the season.