Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Plants on the cheap!

We haven't got room for a greenhouse in our garden and it's against allotment regulations to build one there, so all our vegetables have to be started off outside or squeezed onto window sills. Not using slug pellets, everything we grow ends up being shared very generously with our terrestrial mollusc friends. Ours is never the most abundant of allotments.  No surprise then that we're always eager to supplement our seedlings with whatever we can glean from elsewhere.

Our efforts have been extra keen this year, not only for the allotment but for the garden also. There has been a fence replacement and we've waved goodbye to the old Wendy house which moved over the road, section by section, to a new 2 year old owner occupier who can actually fit inside it (as opposed to my kids who have spent the last couple of summers jumping around on its roof). The new fence and the gap left by the Wendy house have involved drastically cutting back a climbing rose and many other flower bed tragedies, so we've been on the look out for plant replacements. On a low budget, of course. 

Growing your own from seed is always cheapest but if, like us, you need extra supplies, here's our 2014 guide to sourcing plants on a shoestring:

1.   Let it be known to all your green fingered friends (especially those with greenhouses) that you'll take any surplus off their hands. We swap plants for eggs with one especially green fingered buddy. And hint (subtly, obviously!) that you like receiving plants for birthday presents! (I got a Rosemary plant, some Lobelia and two tomato plants for mine in April).

2.   Look out for handwritten signs advertising plants outside people's houses. Travelling around by bike or on foot means you're more likely to spot them. The table below was tucked in the front of the garden of somebody rearranging their garden and selling the resulting plants in aid of a Kenyan charity. The advantage of cycling slowly behind the rest of the family meant that I spotted this table of leafy delights whilst they pedalled furiously ahead.



3.   Keep your eyes peeled for plant sales. My favourite is organised by our local gardening society; lots of variety from shrubs to salads, reasonably priced plants and staffed by really knowledgeable gardeners. Coming from gardens with the same Corsham conditions as mine, I know that the plants will do well in my own and, best of all, have been grown with enthusiasm and love. This year I unintentionally came away armed with almost more plants than I could carry as I arrived in the last 20 minutes of the sale when they were selling everything at half price. 

4.   Summer fetes and other local events will also often have plant stalls. We've got several coming up in our town in the next few weeks, including Nick Mason (the drummer from Pink Floyd) and his wife Annette's Open Garden in aid of the Wiltshire Bobby Van Trust, which, as well as miniature donkeys, Kune Kune piglets, a celebrity cake auction, stalls and demonstrations, promises...plants. (Curiously though, no music). Will the plant prices match those of the Corsham Gardening Society, or will there be a celebrity premium, I wonder!

5.   Check out your local greengrocer. Ours sells locally grown veg plants at this time of year.

6.   Many supermarkets sell bedding plants cheaply at this time of year. They are not always looked after with the care and attention of the Gardening Society so if you are going to buy any, make sure they are thriving. On our recent Morrison's visit we were impressed at the wide range of plants on offer outside, many of which were not too expensive. In-store we especially liked the wildflower plants on special offer at £1 each.

7. Cheapy shops. Some of the bargain stores like Poundland and B&M stock plants. For as long as I can remember for precisely a week each year in the spring when they look at their most beautiful, I have hankered after having a Magnolia tree in my garden. I finally gave in to the desire a month ago (undeterred by last year's tree buying experience - see point 10 below), when the B&M store near work was selling sticks labelled Magnolia for £1.49! And guess what, my stick has already grown two leaves. Give it another 15 years and I may have a Magnolia blooming in the garden.

7.   Car boot sales. We got some strawberry plants at the one boot sale we've been to this year.

8.   Give and Take events. Last year, I 'took' a leggy Hawthorn plant, which is now filling out satisfactorily in one of our garden boundaries.

9.   Freebies from your own garden. We sometimes seem to do better with plants that sow themselves than the ones we've sown ourselves. We've got a Cordyline type thing that multiplies prolifically, Love-in-a-Mist self-sows eagerly, and the Wendy house removal revealed two Damson saplings that have been repotted for transplanting elsewhere in one of our boundaries. I take a go-with-the-flow appoach to gardening!

10.   Online. I can only report mixed success with online cheap plant purchasing but I'm prepared to be won over if anyone has had better luck. Last year, as part of the new fence = empty flower bed situation, we bought 'four for £20' fruit trees online which Husband planned to espalier along the fence. Only two have survived, despite lots of nurturing, encouragement and comments such as "I expect they're just dormant", from Husband. The dead pear tree sprouted a watershoot this spring (according to my botanist Uncle), from the plant that the dead pear would have been grafted onto. This is unlikely to bear fruit (says botanist Uncle) but in the interests of point 7. above, and recouping some of the cost, we're letting it grow. I'd think twice before I fell for any online 'bargains' again.

So there we have it, plenty of frugal plant buying opportunities, without even having to get in a car, or fight through the crowds at a garden centre.

How do you manage without a greenhouse/find bargain plants/deter slugs (delete as applicable)? And have I missed any other bargain plant hunting tricks?! 

14 comments:

  1. I do like a good free plant give-away or at least, a cheap plant give-away. The owners of the allotments near me set up a little stall with plants and veg for sale with a little honesty box. You can pay what you want and the proceeds go on the upkeep of the communal areas.

    I have just sown some salad seeds in my tubs outside in my back garden but not too sure if anything will happen as I think the pesky squirrels have been up to their old digging tricks again!

    All the best MFF

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    1. I like the idea of the allotment holders' stall. Good luck with your salad!

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  2. What a delightful little plant stall! I have just been given too many cabbage and cauliflower plants, and feel the need to try and find a spot for them all. Shame you aren't nearer or you could have some.

    Aghhh slugs! You have my sympathy there. I go to all the effort of netting out the pigeons and then the slugs demolish the plants anyway :( I am back to trying the crushed eggshells, but this time using a tip from my friend. Once you switch your oven off after baking, pop the eggshells in and they become drier and can be crushed finer. A fine line of white crushed eggshells looks quite artistic round my plants, but seems only mildly successful and washes away in the rain. I will set some beer traps, but it is so tempting to put pellets down when you see how beautiful the veg on the plot nextdoor look!

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    1. Thanks for the egg shell baking tip - I'll give that a go! We're never short of eggs here.

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  3. Our local Home Depot (warehouse-style home improvement store) has a clearance rack in their garden center. Most people don't even know this exists, and walk right on past. In late April I picked up 48 potted pansies and violas for 19 cents per plant. That's a lot of color for the front porch and back deck.

    For vegetables, our dollar stores carry packets of seeds for 25 cents. The varieties are limited, but if you're not picky, you can buy a lot of pea or green bean seeds for 25 cents.

    Happy gardening, Sarah!

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    1. Ah yes, I forgot about the cut price plants. we have a lovely Acer tree that started life as a poorly cut price specimen at the green grocers.

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  4. I have organized plant exchanges among the people I work with. Most of these have been perennial flowers. We have had them both in the fall and spring when people are dividing their flowers. Otherwise, you give a lot of good ways to get plants, but I think the best is just putting the word out that you will take any extras. My father-in-law gave away over 100 extra tomato plants this way.

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    1. Great idea. You must work with a lot of keen gardeners.

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  5. Hint, snails cant swim so pop your plants into a tray and keep a small amount of water in it. If that doesnt work then mulch with coffee grounds and or crushed egg shells.

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    1. I've tried both the coffee grounds and egg shells before. Am going to try the baked egg shell idea as above.

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  6. I like cheap plants, some of the jumbles have them. The last jumbles were selling packs of bamboo canes for 50p, bargain x

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    1. We don't seem to have many jumble sales around here :-(

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  7. Hello from a fellow Wiltshire tightwad ;) Good and reasonably priced plants from your local Country Markets - used to be WI Markets - I sell at the one in Pewsey, but there are lot around Wiltshire. Always a good place to pick up a bargain, and also a good place to make a few pennies, if you have some surplus to sell.

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    1. Special hello to a fellow Wiltshire dweller! Yes, we do have a Country Market in Corsham, but it's on a Friday when I'm at work :-(

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