May 24, 2012
Garden Design on a Dime
Exercise your green thumb—and keep some green in your pocket
For Metro Detroit’s neighborhood horticulturalists, the unseasonably warm March was simply a tease. When tulips, daffodils and buttercups—even hostas—begin their ascension from the soil, it’s usually a signal that it’s almost time to get busy in the garden.
But, not this year. Good gardeners with real green thumbs knew despite temperatures rising into the 70s, they still had to wait to plant annuals and new perennials. Now, it’s officially spring planting time, but before you slip on your gloves, cushion your knees and dig into the earth on your quest to win your neighborhood garden club award, consider a summer spending plan.
Those lime green or orange lawn chairs you spotted are cute enough, and so are the flowers to match, but all that spending may not be a good match for your budget at the end of the day.
I know it’s hard when you get to Eastern Market and the flats start calling your name. I also know someone who goes crazy buying flowers. She throws all caution to the wind and buys whatever catches her eye to go head’s up in a competition with her neighbors.
She has good intentions to get all those plants into the ground, but by mid-summer some of the plants are sagging and scorched and by summer’s end and full flats sit on the back porch. Maybe you can relate. Having the best yard may not be your goal, but you still want it to look good.
Whatever your plans, you can have an eye-catching yard without breaking the bank. Here are eight tips to help prune expenses.
1. Set a spending limit. No one plans to spend a lot of money on flowers and plants, but it sure is easy to do. Decide how much you plan to spend, set your spending limit and stick to it.
2. Start plants from seed. Growing perennials from seed may come with some trial and error, and it can take several years before the plants become the brilliant array of color you’re going for. The payoff is, though, you can grow lots of flowers for a fraction of what you’d pay for a flat at the store. Then, you can spend that money on buying something else for your garden.
3. Start with smaller plants. It’s great to have a wonderful looking garden the first day you plant, but if saving money is your goal, you can cut your bill by 60-70 percent just by buying smaller plants.
4. Use what you already have. Instead of buying a fancy compost bin, use an old garbage can instead. This will save you close to $100, and lower your need to buy fertilizer. Use colorful dollar store mop buckets and small trashcans for planters. Just cut a hole in the bottom and they’re ready to go.
5. Do a plant swap. In many Detroit neighborhoods, residents meet once a year to exchange plants. Participate in this community event, and you can come home with a bundle of new plants you don’t have to buy and you can share yours.
6. Find plants with many blooms that will flower all season. Impatiens and geraniums are good examples. As long as you keep them watered, they will continue to multiply, giving you pleasure all summer long.
7. Buy perennials at the end of the blooming season at a fraction of the price. Perennials bloom every year. Purchasing a tired looking plant at the end of the season is like buying a coat in January; it will be like new the following year—if you can stand to look at it meanwhile.
8. Hang out with the experts at Eastern Market. You will expand your knowledge with the free advice, make some new friends, and get some great deals, too. Just don’t dally on Flower Day; with nearly 200,000 people to serve on May 20, compared to 40,000 on a regular Saturday, they won’t have time to chat.
Samirian Hill, a financial educator, is founder and president of Budgetwise Financial Solutions in Southfield.