Why Yes, I Am The Cheapest Gardener on Earth

by Katy on March 16, 2014 · 18 comments

I am not and never have been a fan of paying for something when I can figure out a free alternative. Yes, it’s usually easier to plop down the ol’ debit card and pay for convenience, but where’s the fun in that?

Remember how I was rooting rosemary from my neighbor’s cuttings? I was waiting to plant the rootings until Portland was past freezing temperatures, and I decided to gamble on March 16th.

I already had a free flower pot, (I nabbed it from my mother, as she wasn’t using it) and have been using it for oregano, but it died in the freeze and the soil level had gone down too low.

See?

Empty flower pot

Instead of buying potting soil, I went ahead and just dumped the soil from last year’s fuchsia baskets into the pot. (Our local Fred Meyer stores host an annual Fuchsia Day where fuchsia starts are 5/$3 and they fill your pots with free potting soil, which means I only bring empty pots!)

Here’s one of my thrifted hanging baskets filled with dried out and dead fuchsias:

Hanging basket

Unfortunately, the coconut mat had rotted away on the bottom. However, I know that people use paper coffee filters in the bottom of their flower pots, so I will borrow a few from work and see if I can get another year out of my basket liners. (Spoiler alert — I will!)

Peek-a-boo!

holly basket liner!

With two baskets emptied into the flower pot, I pulled my rooted rosemary from their opaque vase:

Rosemary starts

And planted them nice and deep:

Rosemary

Rosemary

This gardening project may seem like a lot of effort for a small payout, but by challenging myself to use a creative mindset I was able to figure out a free way to have an attractive (and edible) plant for my front porch.

Being on a limited budget is never a barrier to the good things in life. You just have to give it a little extra thought.Rosemary

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

rosarugosa March 17, 2014 at 1:52 am

Extra thought and I would also say a bit of extra effort, but with a very nice result!

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Diane March 17, 2014 at 4:02 am

Kudos!
I bought a Country Home magazine at Barnes and Noble with a gift card and tucked inside was a package of heirloom tomato seeds. I now have lots of little seedlings growing in pots on my windowsill and hopefully will get a few good sized plants. I’ll offer the rest on the free craigslist section.

Also my HEB has herbs for $1.25 a pot, so my herb garden has a full selection now of everything I need for flavor filled meals.

Happy growing!

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marie March 17, 2014 at 7:24 am

Last spring while helping my brother-in-law clear out his house, I dug up lots of daffodils that would have been bulldozed.
They are now happily blooming in my backyard.

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Frugal Nurse March 17, 2014 at 8:51 am

I cleaned up my strawberry beds a few weeks ago and gave away LOTS of plants (free!) on Craigslist. We arranged to meet at a mutually agreeable time and place, and I had the satisfaction of seeing all those baby plants get a good home, rather than tossing them into the recycle bin.

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Kathleen March 17, 2014 at 8:58 am

We collect change through the winter and then spend it at the garden center in the spring. Not exactly free, I know, but still thrifty.

This year I am going to try and save tomato seeds for next year. I’ve also learned how to root and divide many of my perennial herbs.

Last spring my neighbor showed me a pot on her deck. In the fall she had shoved a handful of rotting cherry tomatoes in the pot. They had sprouted and were turning into beautiful little seedlings. She gave me a couple to put in pots. They weren’t my most productive plants, but it was nice to pluck them off the vine as they ripened and eat them in the garden.

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Robin March 17, 2014 at 9:02 am

Stealing coffee filters from work = stealing. That’s not frugal, that’s unethical.

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Katy March 17, 2014 at 9:19 am

I will ask my supervisor if I can take home two filters. Worry not, I value my employment more than I value saving money.

Katy

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Cynthia March 17, 2014 at 9:36 am

Why not use used ones? If you are afraid they might have lost some strength, layer two or three. I use my used filters to cover the holes in the bottom of terra cotta pots to keep the soil in and it works fine.

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Katy March 17, 2014 at 10:07 am

We use gold-plated metal reusable filters, so we have no paper filters in the house. Otherwise that would be a great idea!

Katy

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Lisa B March 21, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Katy, if you use the “used filters” stick a used onion bag in the bottom to reinforce it a bit. My mom saves the produce bags that oranges/grapefruits/clementines come in and I’ve used those under a coffee filter before to do a little reinforcement in the same kind of situation.

RMR March 17, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Good idea! You can recycle the used ones at work.

I’m sorry but I just think it’s terrible to take any of your work’s resources, whether pens, paper whatever for non-work purposes.

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patti March 17, 2014 at 9:14 am

Great inspiration, Katy! I am going to try planting some herbs this year.
Another way to save money is to offer plants that you want dug up. We had a house renovation once where the contractor said, ” I need you to get rid of those azalea bushes immediately”. Rather than pay someone to do it, I advertised to all my friends (pre-freecycle days). My co-worker sent her high school age sons over and they quickly dug them up to take them to her house to put around her patio. She was planning her daughter’s wedding to be outside in their backyard and so she was happy with the exchange. Recently I did the same thing via freecycle and had someone clear out another section of my yard.

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Katy March 17, 2014 at 10:07 am

Love it, great way to not waste established plants!

Katy

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J. Pario March 17, 2014 at 11:28 am

We recently scored a huge pile of concrete blocks for a compost pile just like the ones at the local ag college. They were from a company that was redoing a basement. Of course, by the time we finish chipping of off the mortar we might not be so jazzed, but right now it’s at least $250 worth of free concrete block.

Good luck with your gardening!

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Mindy March 17, 2014 at 11:46 am

I’m in Portland and I never pull my fuchsia this early!!! You could have just dumped a perfectly good plant.

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Jenny N. March 17, 2014 at 6:19 pm

I don’t think this is “cheap” so much as resourceful. Waste not, want not, right? Good luck with your rosemary plants – I certainly hope they don’t take over your front porch!

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Rebecca R. March 18, 2014 at 5:28 am

Lord, have mercy. But that made me laugh! (The spoiler alert, for some reason, caused a laughing fit.) I told my husband, “Now this is my kind of woman.” What a hoot.

My employer throws out foil-wraps, like for fast-food sandwiches. I asked if I could have a few packages shortly before last Christmas. She let me dig them out of the garbage and I happily took them home. They were perfect wrapping papers for a white elephant type of gift exchange. No harm, no foul. Certainly not stealing, as you mention above, when you are asking your employer. Love it.

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jessica March 21, 2014 at 12:07 am

Hi Katy,
I used to do Fuschia Saturday every year too, but one year I missed it for some reason, and I just let my dead looking plants hang out until magically they started sprouting new leaves when the weather warmed up. I have done this every year since, I add some fresh soil and a bit of feed, they look great, and the hummingbirds approve 🙂

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