Diana Guy has some thrifty tips on gardening on a shoestring

PUBLISHED: 16:29 26 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:45 20 February 2013

Gardens Feb 09

Gardens Feb 09

Diana Guy has some thrifty tips on gardening on a shoestring

It is a sad fact that when people are financially challenged, plants can be one of the first things to go. With some good-sized plants commanding not much short of 10 per pot, it can be hard to justify such expense. Consequently nurseries and garden centres can be badly affected, and even market traders will feel the pinch as new plant purchases are put on hold.

Keen gardeners do manage to find ways round this - we are a determined bunch, not wanting to see our gardens grinding to a halt. So much of the fun in gardening is had when redesigning old borders or creating new ones. So how can economies be made?

Well, we are always advised to plant in threes, now we can only afford to buy one plant - with luck. A newly purchased plant can be split straight away into several pieces at planting time, and indeed many plants will benefit from this treatment, putting on an extra spurt of growth. Otherwise just plant one of each type and although the border may then appear a little sparse, it will only be a season or two before that one plant can be split into three; do it again a few months later and you will soon have a drift of plants and surplus to swap with friends.

Look around for bargains, but remember, it will be false economy to buy a plant in very poor condition or one that is heavily pot-bound. The latter will never thrive as the roots will find it difficult to establish themselves. However, some plants are cheap just because they have finished flowering and do not look so appealing, in which case after being planted they can be cut down, and after a good feed and water many plants will reward you with a second flush of flowers.

If new purchases are out of the question then grow your own from scratch. Many perennials will flower in their first year if sown early in the year. Annuals are cheap and easy to raise from seed and are great fillers for half-empty borders. Go for flowers like cosmos which will make bushy plants flowering for months on end. You do not necessarily need a greenhouse as many flowers can be started off by direct sowing - that is, sprinkled where they are to flower.

Collect your own seeds at the end of the season and swap with friends. If you a are member of the Cottage Garden Society, the RHS or the Hardy Plant Society, you are entitled to free seeds from their seed exchange schemes and if you donate seeds you are entitled to extra packets.

Creating more plants from the favourites you already grow is most rewarding. Dividing established plants and taking cuttings from favourite shrubs and suitable perennials will cost you nothing, so whatever works will be a bonus. Any good reference book will show you how to take cuttings, whether hardwood, semi-ripe or root.

If you buy new tender plants for baskets and containers, take cuttings straight away and you will be amazed how quickly they will root and grow, even on a kitchen windowsill.

If you have a greenhouse, at the end of the season salvage as many container plants as you can, pot them up and over-winter them, then take cuttings from them in early spring and in no time you will have plants to spare.

Finally, try not to abandon your favourite nurseries, market traders and garden centres. They need you and you will need them when things do improve!

Diana Guy is a horticultural speaker and lecturer, and garden designer. Contact her on (01258 840894).

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