This long weekend, use these 7 timeless tips for creating a beautiful country garden on a budget.
1. "Cheap" is not a bargain.
Save up for important things - tools, fences, furnishings, containers, paving - and buy or build long-lasting items. Investing in quality can help you avoid the labor of having to replace items all too soon. If you're the handy type, you can save bundles by crafting and installing elements yourself.
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2. Buy smaller plants
Nursey-grown plants can be pricey, and there are good reasons why: A gallon- or quart-size perennial usually represents at least two years' work by the nursery staff. Forgoing the gallons, concentrate on economical three-inch and 2 1/4-inch containers. But note, some plants aren't available in these smaller sizes because of their extensive root systems.
3. Shop end-of-season sales.
Take advantage of the green industry's equivalent of the department-store bargain basement: Your nursery would really like you to take their odd lots home so they don't have to deal with them over the winter. Shoppers can often save up to 50 percent. Perennials are the best bet. Don't be deterred by a few yellowing or even brown leaves. These plants will die to the ground come cold weather and should emerge next spring in good shape.
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4. Start from seed.
Seeds, of course, provide the least expensive way to grow a garden, usually at a fraction of the cost of nursery-grown plants. You supply the labor overhead. It takes a few seasons to get the hang of growing from seed, both indoors and out, but eventually you'll start to "think like a seed," gaining an intuitive sense of when and where to plant. Collecting seeds from your own garden and from friends' saves further.
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5. Accept gifts graciously.
Gardeners are usually happy to share divisions of daylilies, yarrow, and iris. Just beware of any plant they're too happy to be rid of - it could be some invasive grower intent on taking over your garden. Shopping with bargain-conscious friends can also save bucks; buy only one of a plant you both like, with the agreement to divide or take cuttings the next season.
6. Waste nothing.
Pots and six-packs are good for at least several seasons, although the plastic eventually becomes brittle. (Never use dirty containers. Rinse and run them through the dishwasher before planting seeds in them.) Composting garden debris and plant scraps creates yummy organic matter for beds and pots.
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tk7. Treasure your volunteers.
Grow what wants to grow for you. Even if you wish you had more diversity in a rocky area of your garden, think of the extra water and fertilizer you will save trying to get other, higher-maintenance flowers to grow.
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.