How to Save Major Money on Plants This Fall and Winter
By Danica Dodson, Arlington Parks & Recreation
Posted on November 16, 2020, November 16, 2020

Small plants on coin stacks

Every gardener has an idea in their head of how they envision their perfect yard. However, the price tag on that vision can be disheartening once costs are determined. Arlington Parks and Recreation Department is here to tell you that transforming your garden into a gorgeous, inspiring space doesn't have to break the bank! APRD's Urban Forestry Land Manager, Wendy Pappas, offers this advice on how to save big and still bring your garden goals to life without sacrificing aesthetic.

Plan, Plan, Plan!

Planning is a vital first step for any gardening project, regardless of budget. To garden on a budget, you first have to determine that budget. Setting up a solid plan in the beginning will help you stay on track and keep you from overspending. You'll want to set clear goals for which spaces you'd like to fill and which plants you aim to buy. Research each plant you're interested in and determine how it will work in your space. Will this plant grow healthy in your USDA Hardiness Zone? Does it like sun or shade? What type of soil does this plant require? If the plant requires full sun but your yard has mostly shade, you'll want to go with something different. Developing a plan beforehand will prevent you from wasting money on plants that are not suited for your specific garden space.

Buy Out of Season

You've probably noticed the crowds that flock to the garden centers every spring. If you've purchased plants during spring, you've probably also noticed how expensive plants can be around that time of year. Would you be surprised to hear that spring might not even be the optimal planting time for many of these plants that everyone is rushing to buy? For example, trees and shrubs should be planted in the fall or winter so they have time to establish strong roots before the hot summer. Many garden centers put their trees and shrubs on sale in the fall, which is the perfect time to buy and plant them in your garden. This means big savings for you, and also more opportunity for healthy growth for your plants!

Look for Clearance Sales

Many big box stores as well as smaller garden centers have a clearance section where they stock plants that have imperfections, or plants that simply look less ideal than the perfect plants they display front and center. These imperfect plants are not a lost cause and can be nurtured into some absolutely stunning pieces for your garden. For example, let's say you're on the hunt for lantanas in the spring, but someone forgot to water a few of them at the store and they're looking a little wilted. The store might stick these in the clearance section for a heavily discounted price, even though they can be brought back to life as good as new with a little love and water. Purchase your clearance finds and plant them as soon as you can, and pay special attention to the moisture in the soil, making sure they have plenty of water but are not standing in water. After a week or so, you could have a perfectly perked-up plant that you got for a fraction of the price! You never know what treasures you might come across in the clearance section.

Buy Smaller Plants

Everyone loves a full looking garden right off the bat, but you can save a lot of money if you sacrifice that instant gratification and purchase smaller plants that haven't yet reached their full potential in size. There are also many ways in which smaller plants can outperform larger plants. For example, smaller plants adapt to their environment and soil conditions faster than their larger counterparts. They will require less water and care, which means they can save you both money and time. For trees in particular, many gardeners like to purchase huge trees to provide instant shade in their yard. However, smaller trees will have a much easier time adapting to the new area and will catch up to the size of larger trees in just a few years. If you have patience with your smaller plants, you'll end up spending less money and maintenance on your garden in the long run.

Buy Seeds Instead of Plants

The final money-saving tip for the savvy gardener is purchasing plant seeds rather than sprouted plants in containers. This is especially true for vegetable and herb gardening as these plants grow quite easily from seeds, and you can plant seeds for many types of flowers as well and achieve great results. With certain flowers like zinnias, you can simply clip the tops off at the end of the season when the flowers have dried up and save them in a paper bag. The following spring, you can reseed and plant again for the same beautiful results and repeat this process year after year. This way, you only pay a few dollars one time for the seeds and you never have to buy the more expensive sprouted plant.

All it takes to save some money on your garden is a solid game plan, a keen eye, and a little patience! We hope these tips help you stay on budget as you bring your dream garden to life.

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