Recession Proof Gardening

Money and PlantsIn case you have been wandering the outer fringes of Antarctica lately, you know that we Americans may or may not be, but certainly soon will be, unless a stimulus package miracle of biblical proportions happens, otherwise, we really will find ourselves in the midst of a good old fashion recession. I live in Cleveland, OH though. We have been in a recession for the past decade so, really, so not too much has changed here.

But gas prices are up, food prices are up and it is spring and there are empty flower beds to be filled. While I don’t mind missing a few meals to cover the cost of new plants, my husband and children are not in agreement with me on this. (Sheesh, haven’t they ever heard the whole feed the soul saying…)

So, since skipping meals is out and siphoning gas is illegal, I will just have to take other measures to ensure I have a plant filled spring.

  • Plant Swaps – You probably have some extra plants in your yard (mostly uber-invasive ones if you are like me) that can be traded for something different. And, chances are, there is a plant swap in your area here soon. Check you local garden clubs, libraries and newspapers. Can’t find one? Organize one. Most local parks or libraries will happily let you hold them there for free and there are plenty of gardeners in need of new plants.
     
  • Check the internet – Places like Freecycle, Craig’s List and eBay are great places to score cheap or even free plants. Check them regularly for deals. Feel free to post a wanted ad as well. Also, keep your eyes open for compost, gardening tools and décor as well.
     
  • Become the local Trash Fairy – Trash picking is an ancient and well respected art (at least in some third world countries). You would be amazed at what people will throw away. Don’t be afraid to pick up what you see in the trash. If anyone asks, just tell them you are saving the planet. They don’t have to know that you are just trying to save money.
     
  • Buy wisely – Sometimes, especially when it comes to annuals, you just have to purchase. Do so wisely. Check the base of the plant before you buy. Is there one stem or more sticking out of the soil? Chances are at least a few pots will actually have more than plant in it, so you can get two plants for the prices of one.
     
  • Buy plants you can propagate – Some annuals, like impatiens, petunias and Coleus, are dead easy to propagate from cuttings. Buy the largest, leggiest plant you can and take cuttings from it. Stick the cuttings in water, and in a a week or two you will have a whole new mess of plants.
     
  • Grow from seed – I suck at this one (though I do still have 30 surviving nameless tomato plants with T-minus three weeks to planting), but some people are really good at it. Grow your own plants from seeds. Much cheaper.
     
  • Buy small – You know when you see the gallon plant and the quart plant sitting next to each other and one is marked $20 and the other is $5 and the gallon one just looks so damn pretty because it is huge and you think maybe it is worth the $15 extra… It’s not. That gallon plant is probably only 2 months older than the quart plant. Buy the smaller one and it will fill out before you know it.

So after you lose your job and they foreclose on your house and you can no longer drive your car because of rising gas prices and your children starve because eggs and milk now cost a $1 more than they did before, you at least know that you will still be able to get your hands on some plants to cheer you up.

Actually, gardeners in general tend to be a frugal and fiscally creative bunch anyway, and most of these tips are standard practice for me and other gardeners each year, regardless of recession fears. But blogging is now a form of accepted media and what kind of media would I be if I did not latch on to a potentially scary subject, blow it out of proportion and use it for my own ratings?

28 thoughts on “Recession Proof Gardening
  1. I scored some rhubarb on Freecycle after I left a note saying I was on the lookout for some. I was pleasantly surprised!

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  2. Also, planting plants that make food can help. I don’t know if it always ends up being cheaper than buying the produce, but if you’re going to buy some kind of plant and buy water for it, it’s nice if it gives you some food back. Then maybe you won’t have to go without meals to buy some more plants. Tomatoes and herbs seem to me to be especially good for saving money, since good, vine-ripened tomatoes aren’t cheap.

    I do have plenty of ornamental plants myself too, besides food plants, but I buy almost all perennials, so at least I don’t have to buy them year after year.

    Pulling weeds rather than buying herbicides saves a few bucks.

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  3. Great tips! I wish we had a plant swap in my town!
    I’ve just planted out nine Rhoeo ‘Moses in the basket’ plants. They were grown from cuttings from a friends garden, so they cost me nothing but some potting mix. So easy to grow, just plant them in a pot and water… Their bright green and brilliant purple are a great combination.

    Vicky – Tomatoes are great fun, my finance doesn’t eat them, but my friends at work love eating my excess crops!

    Another great money saving tip is to find a person in your town who owns a horse, offer to take some of their horse manure off their hands. I’ve never met a horse owner who wasn’t relieved to see the stuff out of their paddock!

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  4. With the title of this article, I was expecting a move to edibles in the landscape, because what is more recession proof than growing your own food? Thanks so much for ideas I hadn’t thought of.

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  5. Nothing takes the pressure off like free plants! I got some oregano last year from freecycle and there’s always dig-your-own lilies a few times a year from someone.

    I also recommend recycling large yogurt containers (dishwasher clean first or rinsed in a sink with a bit of bleach added) for pots (cheaper than peat) and milk and 2 liter jugs for wintersowing (www.wintersown.org).

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  6. Some great suggestions.

    My family and friends shake their heads, but I have always been willing – and eager – to spend my last dollar on flowers, when what I really need is bread. So much more satisfying. And my husband was always a trash-picker. He created many wonderful things from what he salvaged.

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  7. gus on

    Thanks for the scare!! I am planning to move 9 daylily plants so I can plant some veggies this year. After last year’s move I skipped on my two tomatoes and six sweet peppers. Not so this year. I will have , once again, an intensive bed of salad veggies. I may also find some room for some melons, YUM!! Viva la recession!!

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  8. Syreena on

    I loved your comment about the thirty surviving tomato seedlings,…I currently have about 200- down from 400. I am anticipating a healthy recession no matter what the outcome of our next election may be. If I don’t lose any more plants I will be able to provide food to friends/ neighbors. My boyfriend planted a garden that includes a HUGE variety of veggies. The tomatoes are my learning experience and also my relaxation time every day. heck, even if i do lose more plants I will still be able help– I might just have to give some away to adoptive homes… :)

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  9. Those are some good tips even without a recession. I do alot of propagating around our house. Mostly the salvias, mums, Russian sage, and red twig dogwoods. Those are 4 easy to propagate shrubs/perennials that are popular.

    One other tip when buying plants: Look for pots that have multiple plants in them! Often nurseries will seed pots with several seeds and thin them out later or leave them so they look larger. Good post!

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  10. peggy on

    Great post and some great ideas! I have to confess that I specifically bought radiccio seeds this year after watching the price of tiny and mottled heads of radiccio go up to $3.99 this year. The seeds were $1.99. I have a dozen radiccio seedling now and left over seeds. Any one have any good recipees for radiccio?

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  11. Holly on

    My seedlings are happily basking away in their grow rack (bought last year), under the two-bulb, full-spectrum light I invested in this year. I added compost and turned over the soil in my square foot gardens (built last year) yesterday, planted some salad seeds, and then added phlox plants to my front bed, giving them room to spread. I may cutting back on driving this summer and buying gourmet spreads and such, but I will have a tasty garden and a perennial flower bed to enjoy on the cheaper side.

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  12. I have a hard and fast rule: if I can’t eat it, I don’t plant it.

    Ok, so I lie just a little bit– I adore Cramer’s celosia and always grow some from seed. But there are plenty-o edible flowers that drive away pests and/or encourage beneficials, make great companion plants for vegetables, and are still great in salads.

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  13. Great ideas! I do a lot of it anyway, but never thought to clip-start annuals. Since I live in Maine, I still have plenty of time to root plants.

    I love starting seeds, and do okay at it. Right now, I have parsely, bush basil, tomatoes, and lots of perennials on the windowsills. Don’t have a fancy light set up, just regular daylight.

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  14. Great post. I am always on the look out for a garden bargain. I salvage a lot more than compost from the local compost site. I made an alley screen with some large branches that were to go through the chipper. Now my garden is screened from the alley at just about $2. I used gravel a friend gave me to anchor the posts, but did have to buy a bag to finish off the job.
    I also salvage plants from the compost site. I have gotten dozens of perfectly fine tulips that way.

    I don’t have much luck swapping plants with people as I am far more adventurous with plants than most (to many people with day lilies, Autumn Joy sedum and run-of-the-mill hostas to offer). I do however get a lot of orphans dropped off at my door. People who are moving and want to give their prized plants a good home. I have gotten some really nice plants that way, such as fern peony, dwarf irises, and Queen-of-the-Prairie.

    I love being a frugal gardener as it allows me to put more into my garden whatever economy is doing!

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  15. I really liked the idea of planting from seeds and starting small with plants. During recession times, hundreds of dollars can be saved from gardening this way.

    Another thing I like to do is plant tomato plants around the house in large pots. This protects small tomato plants from wind and weather extremes, and also adds beauty and natural color later in the summer. My family loves watchng the tomatoes grow.

    Great Ideas! Thanks!!

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  16. I just mention casually to my parents that I am looking for rhubarb, etc. and the next thing I know, they’ve arrived with some of what I’m looking for. (That means there’s something they are wanting from my garden – we’ve worked out a good system over the years).

    The really weird thing is that my province is booming – one of the few places in N. America to see much growth. (all because of the natural gas and oil industry).

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  17. A message for Kate and all….. awesome that your parents picked up on the rhubarb hint! Try putting little violas under the large rhubarb leaves. Although not edible, they make a snappy little ground cover when you harvest the rhubarb and the area is bare! Have fun sharing and continuring to make gardenging a #1 hobby! Don’t forget to check out the website for more helpful hints!

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  18. I had the mini debate with myself whether to buy the $30 “Double Knockout Roses” bucket that looked to delightful or to opt for it’s cheaper little sister right down the row. I chose cheap, and got two instead! I like to check out local wildflowers and have decided that if a wildflower is growing somewhere where a mower is just about to end its stay with us, that surely I can grab a few seeds, or even a cutting! Don’t know what the municipal authorities would think of this.

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  19. Nearly missed your fear-mongering, media-savvy post, Hanna – once again it didn’t show up on Bloglines. The suggestions are good ones for naturally frugal gardeners no matter what happens!

    Like Dave, I poke through the nursery pots looking for the one with two plants that can be separated. My loquat tree started out as a seedling and it’s surprising how fast small one-gallon shrubs can turn into garden assets. Being in a garden club or group is a nice way to meet other gardeners who enjoy swapping, too.

    In Austin, vegetable gardening seems more like a hobby than a way to save money – if the weather doesn’t wreck the garden the squirrels and critters get most of the crop.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

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  20. I love your blog. I’m a plant whore and love to get perennials at yard sales. There are a million around me every Saturday and many of the sales have plants for less than $2.00.
    Thanks for the tip on propagating. I’ll have to try it!

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  21. All good ideas, but I like the free ones the best and cant say enough about making good uses out of other peoples waste. I make all my mulch for my 400 square ft of garden by collecting and shredding my neighbor’s leaves.

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  22. The use of a rainbarrel is also a great way to save money during a recession: you can cut down on the cost of water. A rainbarrel = a free source of water!

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  23. Hanna: Just wondering – what is your user name on the Plant Swap site? It’s asking who referred me to the site. :) Also, if you live in Rhode Island and want to swap, let me know! vermont22us (at) gmail (dot) com

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  24. I love frugal tips. My husband admired a neighbors canna lilies, and the guy promised to share some when he divided them. So now we have about 30 canna lilies in a line along the alley. Sharing is so good.
    I gave my friend some mint cuttings, including apple mint and chocolate mint and she is happy too.

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