No Budget Gardening

by Katy on May 2, 2024 · 26 comments

I love that however long I’ve been on my journey of extreme frugality, there’s always another trick around the corner. Remember these curb picked ceramic planters? It didn’t take me long to figure out a use for them.

I had this somewhat underutilized corner of the living room that put the whole space off balance. I’ve had a Big Plant™ there in the past, but had to move it for whatever reason. This eleven-inch tall pot was the perfect solution. Good timing too, as my son recently brought over this ponytail palm over from his apartment, as his kitten had zero chill when it came to leaving it alone. (Can you blame her though? It looks like it was created in mind to be a cat toy!) The palm is substantial enough to warrant a big planter and this corner of the room is once again anchored.

Zero dollars spent.

So what to do with the pretty faceted flowerpot? I rooted this purple heart from my sister’s plant in New York last year. It was in a small drab planter, so this was a just right upgrade. I did accidentally break off a couple branches while transplanting it, but I’ve set them in water and know this mistake will actually garner me two new plants!

Zero dollars spent!

And then yesterday I passed by this sad specimen while out for a walk and brought it home as A) It wasn’t actually dead and B) If nothing else, it’s free potting soil.

I think it might be that “lucky” bamboo, but some people on my Instagram feed thought it could be a monstera.

Either way, it has new growth and will reveal itself in due time.

Zero dollars spent.



Whether it’s scoring free barrel planters through my Buy Nothing Group or free potting soil through Fred Meyer’s annual Fuchsia Saturday promotion, I’m able to have a verdant and satisfying garden without spending any money.

For those wondering about that chicken planter? That’ll serve as a Mother’s Day gift in a couple of weeks. Now, to figure out what to plant in it . . . .

P.S. What do you think the mystery plant is?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Christine May 2, 2024 at 1:34 pm

If you have any Spider Plant babies, one of them might look nice growing out of the chicken.
And yes, the plant your son gave you definitely looks like a cat toy. My cats would have a field day with it.
All of the free pots look very nice with the various plants growing in them.


Katy May 2, 2024 at 2:47 pm

I do have spider plant babies, thanks for the idea!


karen May 2, 2024 at 1:54 pm

I think you’re correct about the “bamboo,” which is really dracaena. It doesn’t look like my monstera.

The chicken planter obviously should have hens and chicks in it!


Roberta May 3, 2024 at 8:12 am

I thought hen and chicks, too!


Heidi Louise May 2, 2024 at 2:04 pm

Perhaps an arrowhead plant? the broken off stems look a bit like that.


Mary Ann May 2, 2024 at 2:18 pm

I am not a natural in the garden nor the kitchen. Having said that, I am completely willing to practice skills for both. I like the gardening better because it burns calories and that is important to my health efforts.

Currently, I have committed to 20 – 30 mins a day on the outside while I de-thatch my yard after years of abuse from neglectful garden maintenance guys. I try to go outside right after school which reduces my appetite and helps me to de-stress from some wack-a doodle teens. This week I have also fixed two broken sprinklers, spread weed and feed to get ready for seeding, and oiled our front door. Our front door is super cool because it is made out of walnut from our orchard. It was a gift from a man who has been gifted much of our wood.

So zero dollars spent on exercise, maintenance, and good old fashion vitamin D accumulation.

Cool story yesterday down at the river house, the wood workers cut down two dead two-story high black walnuts. Inside one was a living baby white owl who had fallen into it and was unable to get out. We took it to animal rescue.

Unrelated, I received a cool $100 rebate from my IHG credit card because I charge everything on it. So I get points and it pays its annual premium. I love that card.


Katy May 2, 2024 at 2:47 pm

Aww, poor little owlet!


Christine May 2, 2024 at 6:42 pm

I hope the owlet makes it. We brought a seagull with a fishing lure stuck through its beak and foot to a veterinary hospital for wild animals. He had surgery to remove the lure and when he was stronger they released him at a nearby lake. I wish the same for the little owl baby.


A. Marie May 3, 2024 at 9:09 am

Mary Ann, please keep us updated on the owlet if you can. We need all the owls we can get. (You say “white owl”; I’m guessing it was a barn owl? I don’t think snowy owls breed except in the far North.)


Lindsey May 3, 2024 at 9:43 am

Yup, they breed on the tundra. When we lived at the very top of the state, in a village called Utqiagvik, you would see them all over. When they spread their wings, it is a stunning sight.


Lindsey May 2, 2024 at 4:57 pm

My zero gardening expenditures:
1. Picked up some seeds from our local seed library.
2. Traded seeds with a friend (I did not really need 50 black pumpkin seeds)
3. Am spreading compost I made, as soon as the rest of the snow melts.
4. Saved poppy seeds from last year’s garden so have over 200 to broadcast, as soon as it gets warm enough.
5. Treated my just emerging rhubarb with some compost sprinkled around ech plant and a deep watering to start off the season right. The ground is still really, really cold and we had a sprinkle of snow yesterday and the plants are still marching on.
6. Needed a few seed starting pots for pumpkins so used some of many saved cottage cheese and sour cream containers that I squirreled away all winter.

Love the cobalt blue pot!


texasilver May 2, 2024 at 8:49 pm

The purple plant looks pretty w/ the turquoise saucer and sitting on the tiled table. My eyes were drawn to these first instead of the planter, but all are nice. Ceramic planters are expensive & yours were curb picked. Did you curb pick the tiled table too? I like the metal & tile contrast. Good job!


Gina May 2, 2024 at 11:22 pm

Your chicken planter is calling out for the succulent plant Hen and Chicks. You normally see them in planters with the extra opening in the sides. They are very hardy and will spread and give the chicken planter a full body.

I still think your found plant is a lucky bamboo.

Great finds in the planters!


A. Marie May 3, 2024 at 3:41 am

First, Katy, I congratulate you on your success/skill in curbpicking all those attractive planters. I’ve picked a few in my time, but I’ve gotten many more lately from a widowed friend who (a) is moving soon and (b) does not share her late husband’s enthusiasm for houseplants. (I inherited a lot of the late husband’s plants soon after he died three years ago.)

However, I’m starting to find other homes for my really big ceramic planters as I grow older and less interested in picking these up/moving them around. Fortunately, my new friend who owns the secondhand-housewares shop in a nearby suburb says she can’t keep planters in stock and has bought everything I’ve offered to her so far.


Bee May 3, 2024 at 4:29 am

I think the mystery plant is indeed the remnants of lucky bamboo. Pony Tail palms can grow quite large. The largest I’ve seen is 10feet tall. Good luck!!

I have also have had some thrifty gardening wins over the years.

I accepted two large garden urns on Buy Nothing that flank my front door. The were planted with perennials, of course. I have picked up many pots by the curb also.

I have brought home curb-found plants including orchids and a 6-foot Fiddle Fig Tree. The fig just needed a new pot and fertilizer. It is stunning and would probably be closed to $200 if purchased from a nursery.

I have found Estate sales (not garage sales) are wonderful places to buy plants, pots, gardening tools and fertilizer.

I have propagated cuttings from succulents, fiddle figs, night blooming cereus , Fire Stick and more. I am in garden club so we often share cuttings. If I see that my neighbors have a plant I want, I’ll ask for a cutting if it can be propagated that way.

Plant sales given by garden clubs, agricultural extension services and botanic gardens often have a variety of plants – and rarer specimens— at substantially less than commercial garden centers. These usually happen in the spring.

I have had some fails along the way too. Some plants don’t make it, and I can’t seem to grow vegetables. The salt air and sandy soil makes it difficult. I’m hoping one day to find a hydroponic tower on the curb.

Happy Spring! May your flowers always be in full bloom!


A. Marie May 3, 2024 at 7:54 am

Bee, since you’ve mentioned your many successes with frugally obtaining/propagating plants, I’ll mention a few of mine as well. (In my comment above, I was concentrating on planters/containers.)

I’ve propagated these kinds of houseplants for decades from their original “mother ships”: wax-leaf peperomia (from the very first houseplant DH and I bought when we moved in together back in 1978); spider plants (from my MIL’s ancient specimen); and jade plants (from a jade plant DH rescued when he was renovating his PCP’s office in the late 1980s). It’s nice to have plants with long personal histories.

As noted in my comment above, I inherited a good many plants from my friends up the street when the husband died three years ago. He was particularly into succulents, so I got several sanseverias and aloes from him–plus one monster jade plant that’s a different variety from the rest of mine and is a Big Plant (TM) like Katy’s ponytail palm.

And when I feel the need for a bit of variety in the houseplant collection, I occasionally get plants off the clearance rack at Lowe’s that look as if they have a fighting chance.

I’ve had better luck over the years with vegetables than Bee seems to have had–or, at least, I did till the deer population exploded. (The environmental conditions are right, but the predation is awful.) Still, I continue to grow alliums (garlic and various onions), herbs, and kale, as well as fiercely protected tomatoes in pots. This year, I’ve also got a fine crop of spinach coming along in my old Easy Washer copper/zinc tub, which is topped with a trashpicked screen lid for a fire pit to keep the deer out.


Ruby May 3, 2024 at 11:22 am

I have a greener thumb for veggies than houseplants, but can’t grow lettuce without a screen over it because neighborhood cats think a lettuce patch makes a fine potty.

My container garden this year has scads of tomato plants that grew from the seeds in one store-bought cherry tomato. The same thing tried with mini pepper seeds was a total bust, but worth the effort.


Bee May 3, 2024 at 12:28 pm

Propagating plants is very easy and can save a lot of money, but it does require patience. I can grow herbs! I have a rosemary hedge. Maybe I try tomatoes again.


Fru-gal Lisa May 3, 2024 at 8:02 am

Those stalks on the mystery plant look like bamboo to me. Although that poor bedraggled plant looks anything but lucky. Hopefully it can revive itself with a little TLC from you!


Roberta May 3, 2024 at 8:28 am

1. I stopped by a free pile, and scored two pots, one tiny bowl that would be good for maybe paperclips, but was too cute to leave, a new water bowl for the dogs, and a bottle of Nature’s Miracle! With an aging, incontinent dog, we use a lot of NM. Even with doggy diapers.
2. We got the Planta (free) app, to try to keep our houseplants more alive and happier. We do not have a good history. Planta is pretty critical of where we’ve been keeping our plants (the light is all wrong), and I have definitely been underwatering the plants I haven’t already killed with overwatering. I am optimistic about frugally keeping more plants alive.
3. I picked up a lot (4?) of seed packets someone dropped off at the food bank yesterday. All for basil, but you can’t have too many basil plants.
4. One of my pothos starts has already started sending out a root. I am so excited! It will go into the bathroom with very little light, and Planta says it will be happy there.
5. Not an actual plant, but I’m redoing the junior bathroom, since we’ll be living here for several more years. I wanted a floral painting, my husband wanted pressed leaves or ferns in there. I found a large print of a botanical drawing of a fern at Goodwill. Both of us are happy, and minimal money was spent.

Less frugal, the plants we bought at Home Depot a couple weeks ago are still in their pots, not the ground. I need to get them in the ground before the heat comes. But I hurt my back (is it possible for a virus to give you a sore back?) and I will have to wait to dig.


Ava May 3, 2024 at 10:13 am

I have cucumbers coming up from free seeds from the library. I also have kale from free library seeds. I planted bean seeds that have been in my freezer for years. I think they will come up. Years ago Ì had some of the purple plant you have pictured. It eventually died out. Then I found two small stems of it on the sidewalk. I took them home and rooted them. Now I have a pot full inside as well as several clùmps in flower beds. It can live outside here and return in the spring as long as the winter wasn’t too harsh.


Lynda May 5, 2024 at 8:40 am

Monstera due to the shape of the stems.


Katy May 5, 2024 at 9:16 am

That’s what my son thinks, and he’s very knowledgeable about houseplants. It’ll be fun fun to see what grows.


Ashley Bananas May 6, 2024 at 9:04 am

This weekend there was a curbside free post in the neighborhood Facebook group. I drove over quickly an scored three glazed pot. I plan on putting spider plants or jade cuttings in them and making some new plants. Totally thought of you when doing this!


Katy May 6, 2024 at 10:38 am

Love this, love this, love this!


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