Gardening can be a drain on your budget. Browse a couple of aisles at your local nursery and you might walk out with a bad case of sticker shock. You come home, ponder your empty flower beds and pitifully bare flower pots, and think maybe you'll just bury your head in the sand... or the potting soil. Take hope: gardening doesn't have to be an expensive hobby. Smart gardeners learn how to economize and you can too. Now pull your head out of that potting soil and get to reading. The garden is waiting for you.
Not So Annual
Self-seeding annuals are as good as any perennial you'll find, and annuals can cost 50 percent less than comparable perennials. Don't count out annuals because you think you're just throwing away your money every year when they die back. Instead, choose annuals that are happy to self-seed and you'll have plants that will reappear and spread with each successive year. These self-seeding annuals prefer sun: cosmos, chrysanthemum, larkspur, poppies.
Start from Scratch
Perennials are a good investment because they keep returning and growing year after year; however, paying premium prices on large plant can set your garden budget back. The most frugal way to get perennials is to choose some that you can easily start from seed yourself. Pay about $1 for a package of seeds or pay a lot more for a plant someone has already grown from seed. These perennials are easy to start from seed yourself: blanketflower, Tritoma torch lily, Pyrethrum painted daisies, and shasta daisy.
Divide and Conquer
The ultimate in gardening economy: plants that spread and need to be dug up and divided and planted in new spaces. These plants grow so prolifically, producing new bulbs or shoots or runners, that if you don't spread them out a bit it can hurt their future growth and their bloom production. You can purchase your initial set from any nursery or mail-order plant company, but to save even more money, start asking friends and neighbors. Folks with established gardens almost aways have plants that need to be divided and they're often happy to share the wealth with you. Ask about these spreading and dividing plants: iris, lily, daffodil, hosta, clumping ornamental grasses, peonies.