Looking to add a bit of landscaping to your yard, but short on cash? Here are my top five sources for scoring a free garden of your very own:
1) FAMILY -- I've gotten most of my plants from my mom, mother-in-law, grand-mother-in-law and great aunt. They all have wonderful, mature gardens that need paring down each fall and/or spring. Remember that these seasons are the time when gardeners will be splitting hostas, dividing bulbs and moving plants around. Ask if they have any plants that they're planning to split and offer to give them a hand in the garden for a day as an exchange. If you're looking for free plants, this is the best place to start.
2) STRANGERS -- Don't jump in a stranger's van, but do keep an eye out for strangers offering up free goodies from heir own gardens. Kijiji, Freecycle and word of mouth are great ways to find random free plants. This summer, a friend of ours found a lady at his office who was looking to hire someone for some garden work. He, Jeff and I put in 40 minutes of labour and walked away with $60 (enough to cover lunch) and four mature plants for my own garden (a boxwood, juniper, bluebeard and dogwood).
3) SWAPS -- Chances are good that churches and community centers in your area host a plant swap every season. Check them out! They are a great place to trade a few of your hosta (yep, in the free-plant world, hostas abound: AND I LOVE THEM) for a lily or lilac. Don't be shy. Go meet some of the other gardeners in your area. Bonus points if you show up at the swap with a "Will Work For Plants" t-shirt.
4) NATURE -- Turns out, a lot of the plants you can buy in the garden center grow naturally in the wild (crazy, I know). While it's NOT OK to go steal plants from parks and strangers, I'm of the opinion that a clipping taken here and there (with discretion) is a great way to acquire new plants. Our neighbours scored all or their lilac bushes by cutting a small clipping from wild plants and starting roots in a glass of water. Certain vines are similarly easy to start from a simple clipping. Keep your eyes open the next time your out on a stroll, you might be surprise what you'll find.
5) SEEDS & LATE SEASON -- OK, this is kind of a cheater. Buying seed packets or late season plants is an awesome way to get the specialty plants you're after at a deep discount. Dig through your sofa cushions and check out the big box garden centers around mid-June. They will likely have a slew of stuff for under a dollar. These plants will be small, but if you can keep them alive for the rest of the summer, next year they'll come back robust and double in size.
Remember that free doesn't mean work-free. Many of our best finds have come with a good amount of effort required. But... if you're willing to put in the time, energy, compromise and PATIENCE, a free garden is definitely attainable. Keep the long-term in mind, accept anything that's on offer, and slowly build up your roster of plants. Eventually, you'll be the one offering up freebies to the next gardener, and your yard won't look like a lawnmower parking lot anymore.
Looking for more tips? Check out all of our projects, tutorials and tips on our blog: www.moreofeverything.ca