Summertime is here and the temps are sizzling just about everywhere. If you happen to live in Phoenix, the temps are doing more than sizzling—the place is melting! But in spite of it all, we still enjoy relaxing, barbecuing, playing and working in the yard. A luscious, beautifully landscaped garden, filled with color is the dream of just about every homeowner. It’s one of the perks to living on the ground and not in a high-rise. Of course, you can have an amazing garden in a high-rise too and these 8 tips will help you have the balcony or rooftop garden of your dreams even on a budget.
All it takes is one trip to the gardening center to see how expensive gardening can be. In one short hour, you can totally bust your budget. No problem, you can easily have that “cover page” garden. It just requires strategic planning and patience.
Tip #1: Don’t let the flowers fool you. The best way to stretch your gardening budget is to carefully examine the base of the plants you want to buy. Don’t be distracted by the flowers. The more important thing is to find a plant that has a nice, healthy clump at the base. Once you get it home, you can easily separate the clump into 3-4 mini-plants. Make sure each clump has an adequate supply of healthy roots. Re-pot or put in the garden. Now you have several plants for the price of one.
Tip #2: Plant Cuttings. Envious of your friend’s or neighbor’s garden? Rather than running out to the gardening center to find the exact plant, tree or shrub, ask your friends or neighbors for cuttings. It is very easy to propagate from a cutting. You only need some moist perlite, or depending upon the variety, just water, and in no time you will see roots forming, new stems, and leaves, at which point your cutting is ready to go into the garden.
Tip #3: Buy succulents. Succulents last for a long time. They spread, flower endlessly, and require little maintenance. They are perfect when on a budget. Buy a large pot of succulents, separate and spread them around and watch them take over all that empty space you want to fill. If you are in a condo or apartment, succulents thrive in all kinds of pots. You can find ones that spread and will hang down turning your balcony into a paradise.
Tip #4: Recycle. Rather than busting your budget on pots and containers, first take a look around the house. You are sure to find plenty of great candidates for pots and seed starters. For instance, milk cartons make great containers for starting seeds. But you can even use worn out hiking shoes, tin cans, egg cartons, yogurt containers, old tires…anything you have laying around. One of the best containers for beginning seeds are those plastic trays that meat is packaged in. Make sure whatever you use has small holes in the bottom to allow the excess water to drain out. Be creative, skip the store-bought containers and save money.
For landscaping, check the bulletin boards at grocery stores and community centers for items such as wood, bricks, stones, etc. that will be perfect for building a gardening bed. Yard sales and flea markets are another great venue for finding cheap recycled items, such as old bathtubs and discarded wood pallets for your landscaping projects.
Tip #5: Grow From Seeds. Planting seeds is a great way to stay within your budget. This requires patience, and the right amount of water, sunlight and soil. But you will have the additional pleasure of watching your plants come alive from the very beginning. Plus it is a great project to do with the kids. Be careful to buy seeds only from reputable sources, either online or from your gardening center, and not from the supermarket.
Tip #6: Do it yourself. If you have a limited budget, you are not going to be able to hire a landscape designer or gardener. Peruse the online sites and magazines for inspiration. Map out your space and keep in mind—you are going to be doing the work yourself. If you know you have limited time or limited energy, focus on easy-care plants, shrubs or trees. Calculate ahead of time what you want to grow and where. Educate yourself about the specific needs of each of your gardening areas. For instance you may love roses, but if you don’t have the right soil or measure of sunlight, you will be very disappointed with the outcome.
Tip #7: Make Your Own Fertilizers. Those big sacks of gardening fertilizer and plant food can be very expensive and easily eat up your budget. You can get around this by making your own plant food and fertilizers. For instance, if you happen to live near farmers, ask them if you can come and collect manure from their animals. If you have local breweries nearby, ask them if you can come and pick up the leftover malt and other byproduct which makes excellent fertilizer for the garden. Composting is another way to save your budget and there are lots of online resources to help you get started with this.
Tip #8: Gardening Tools are Important. One place you do not want to skimp is with gardening tools. In this case, the old adage you get what you pay for is really true. Invest a little money and buy tools that will last, that function properly, and that will protect you and your time.