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The Shoestring Gardner
The Shoestring Gardner - by Peg Diem   The following are tips we learned on our own or we've come across to help keep a little money in your pocket. When we first started gardening we bought everything that we planted from the nurseries and garden centers. This proved to be very expensive, especially when you start purchasing perennials and shrubs instead of yearly bedding plants. If you are like us, a trip to a local nursery with money in your pocket is a temptation to which we usually succumb. I have never gone to one of those places without seeing at least one or more new plants that I absolutely MUST HAVE! Here are a few ideas to help defray the cost.
   Plant sharing - get with a local group or find neighbors in your area who are willing to share or swap. With this method you know that you are going to get plants that will do well in your area. Another bonus is the ability to see the plant at full maturity and how it does with companion plants.
   Identify the plants you have in your garden and make note of the ones that you want to include. Find out how they can be multiplied, either by root cuttings, dividing, stem cuttings, basil cuttings, etc. A good book we find invaluable is
From Seed to Bloom - by Eileen Powell. (click to see this title on our Bookshelf) Here you can find seed germination times, ideal soil temperatures, light requirements, any special pre-germination needs etc.
   Location - if you see plants that you like growing in someone else's garden, take notice of the soil type, water requirements, light availability, etc. Different plants can have very specific likes and dislikes when it comes to growing conditions. They may survive if you omit one, but they will never produce like the originals that you first coveted. Don't be afraid to move things around. Never, never wait until the plant is almost dead to decide to make a change. We have a miniature red dragon leaf maple, that has had three homes and it might still get a fourth before it gets happy!

   
Think about all of the seasons - Will it be a desolate landscape in the winter? Ours certainly was the first year. We had flowers everywhere during the early spring and summer, but the rest of the year was pretty bare. The goal is to have plants coming up to flower at all times of the year. It's easy to do the flush of bulbs in the spring and have a full array of annuals in the summer, but the in-between times take the greatest amount of consideration and thought. Plant backbones of shrubbery, dwarf conifers or whatever pleases you so that you'll see something in the beds during the dead of winter (or heat of summer if your a zone 10 or better).
   End of the season sales - this is a great time to get the perennials you want for the following year. They may be past their prime as far as color and form goes, but they will begin anew next season. The process of planting at the end of this year's season gives them a head start on putting down roots also. Check out which nursery has what, then visit them at the end of the season and clean up on their "blow out" sales. Remember however, if you wait you are taking a chance that they may be sold out of some varieties.
Bigger isn't always better - for that special spot that is to be a focal point in your garden, a 5 or 10 gallon specimen might be great, however you can most often get two or three smaller containers for the price of one big one. Think smaller and get more for your money. Note: take into consideration what size the plant will be at maturity to avoid overcrowding and make possible transplanting at a later time unnecessary.
     
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