Easy and almost free – 10 frugal tips for great gardens

May 10th, 2015
Posted In: Gardening on a budget

As I took photographs round the garden early one May morning, I realised that many of the plants and flowers I love most have also been the cheapest – or even free. So this round-up of what’s in the garden in mid-May is also a ’10 frugal tips for a beautiful garden’ post.

1) Get your bulbs late – in the sales

Plant tulips late

You can plant them in December.

buy tulips late

I bought these tulips very cheaply – but from a reputable bulb specialist, not from a supermarket

2) Self-seeding annuals fill gaps for free

self-seeded parsley

Self-seeded parsley and fenel has filled the gaps in this border – while I spent my time and money elsewhere in the garden

3) Split plants up

Geranium macrorrhizum

A rather unhappy Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Spessart’ given to me free by a nursery.

Snip the plant up. I've used some Plant Magic, a mix of mycorrhiza and other micro-organisms that help plant growth, sent to me for review by Plant Magic. Sprinkle on the earth where the roots will touch.

Snip the plant up. I’ve used some Plant Magic, a mix of mycorrhiza and other micro-organisms that help plant growth, sent to me for review by Plant Magic. Sprinkle on the earth where the roots will touch.

Dividing geraniums

I left these in a pot for about 2 months, then planted them out. I have 7 very healthy plants.

4) Hold back on the clearing up…

We have done a lot of clearing up this winter, but the birds need some wilder tangles of hedge and bush in which to nest, so we’ve saved one day’s labour by keeping this pergola nicely overgrown.

Akebia climber

This tangle of akebia smells delicious and is intertwined with rose and clematis, providing lots of cover for birds’ nests.

Nesting places

The rose and clematis mound looks gorgeous, and we won’t prune it until we know the baby birds have all left for their gap years.

5) But if you do clear up, you don’t have to rush to re-plant


There was a large viburnum in this bed. I didn’t replant immediately after it died, and this peony, planted around 15 years ago by my predecessor, popped up.

6) Concentrate the time and money where you will see it

View from the kitchen window

This bed is our biggest, and is directly in front of the kitchen window. If I do buy plants, it’s usually for here, because I can see it every time I look out of any of the back windows of the house.

7) Save branches to use as bean supports

Salvaged branches used as bean supports

These branches came partly from a friend’s field (always ask!) and partly from our winter clearout. I’m trying out the new X shape this year, as I find the upturned V gets very cramped.

8) Don’t always throw house plants away

Miniature roses

Here are three miniature roses that we bought as table arrangements in August. We left them outside and they haven’t died. Now we’ve re-potted them and they are budding again.

9) Exchange with friends…

Self-seeded angelica

I’ve given some angelica seedlings to Posy Gentles (the angelica is an abundant self-seeder). She’s given me a topiary box she no longer wants.

10) Growing from seed is cheaper than buying plants


If you want a large clump of anything, growing it from seed is much cheaper. If you have a middle-sized potting shed, however, you won’t have room to grow everything from seed, so keep this for unusual varieties that are harder to find in nurseries.

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3 comments on "Easy and almost free – 10 frugal tips for great gardens"

  1. JEANIE says:

    I too like to nuture distressed plants back to health. Enjoyed your story on dividing geraniums

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