Friday, February 15, 2013

Planting on a budget

It is a gorgeous day today in Philadelphia, sunny and mid-50s. Tonight it will start to rain, then snow, and even more snow tomorrow. Oh Mother Nature, you're such a tease.

One thing keeping me going through a winter where it snows every freaking weekend (besides my trusty light box, of course) is planning what I will buy and where I will put my new purchases once spring officially arrives. Of course, it has to be economical for obvious reasons, not the least of which is we are getting a new roof this year (ouch!). I decided to put together a list of budget planting tips, none which are rocket science, but there might be one or two you haven't thought of before.

1. Start seeds: I mentioned a a couple of weeks ago that I was ready to start growing seeds indoors. Well, the snapdragons were started last week (have you ever seen their seeds? They're about half the size of a pinhead. I had to use tweezers to plant them, but I digress...). Broccoli starts this week, and then other annuals and veggies will follow according to the spreadsheet I made. And because my neighbor and I share a veggie plot in our community garden, she bought the seeds and I'll just grow them. So I'll have a summer bounty of food and a lot of annuals (I hope) for about ten bucks.

2. Buy with friends: A neighbor has an account with a wholesale flower seller. Now, I know this is not easy to come by for many people, but if you have the chance to buy flowers this way, do it! Last year we split three flats between neighbors. They were all tiny plugs and I was initially disappointed in their size, but over the course of one summer they grew incredibly well. I was able to get about forty plants for $40. This year I'll be getting about forty plants for $60 (we ordered some more expensive ones). The only downside to this is that I don't know where on earth I'm going to put them all. Tough problem to have, I know.

3. Share with friends: My neighbor, M, has a beautiful perennial garden. She and I share our plants a lot. If she sees something she likes in my garden, she'll ask for some, and vice versa. This goes on all year, every year between us. Dividing perennials is easy and a fantastic way to diversify your personal plant catalog. The best part? It's free.

4. Throw a plant party: Neighbor M hosts a party in May every year called "The Perennial Divide". Each person who comes divides plants from her own garden and brings them to the party. After a few cocktails, we gather round a Master Gardener neighbor who acts as the auctioneer and raise our hands if we want the plant. At the end of the evening, you leave with a bunch of new plants and a nice buzz from the martinis.

5. Buy at the end of the season: My favorite local nursery usually starts reducing the prices on their perennials at the end of July. It might start with 25% off, then move to 50% off in August, then in September, buy 1 get 2 free. If you have the foresight to look past what looks dead and think of how it will look the following year, you can usually get a great bargain. Unfortunately, sometimes the plants really are dead, but I think it's a worthwhile risk to take.

What about you? Do you have any other budget-friendly tips to share?

A pretty, but irrelevant, photo

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