The easiest way to start a garden on a budget is to exchange plants with friends. Perennials, especially, are easy to exchange, as they should be divided every three to five years anyway. So, choose a friend who has a great garden and offer to help her divide her perennials – and you get to take home some of the divisions.
Or host a party and have everyone help with a garden project and you provide lunch.
In the autumn, ask if you can collect seeds from some of the plants you admire in other people’s gardens. Plant perennial seeds in autumn and nurture them during the winter and they’ll be ready to plant out in the spring.
Seed packets are much more economical than buying flats of annuals and vegetables. Start seeds in late winter in a sunny window and they’ll be ready to plant out by the late spring. If you have too many, swap them with a friend for plants that she’s grown from seed.
Join a garden club. They frequently have plant or seed swaps, plus guest speakers who will give you ideas on gardening.
Visit flea markets (called boot sales in England) for cheap garden accessories. Someone else’s trash might be your treasure. You can frequently pick up old pots, fencing, stone, arbors and benches for a fraction of what you’d pay in a retail store.
Check the classifieds. People frequently give away stone or bricks if you haul it away.
If you have a friend or neighbor who likes to do woodworking, you could ask them to make something for you like a birdhouse, arbor, or bench. In exchange, you could do something for them – rake their leaves in the fall, shovel snow in the winter, clean their house, do mending – anything you can manage.
If you have a new garden project that requires heavy labor, like digging a pond, see if there are some local teenagers who want to earn some extra money. It’ll be much less expensive than hiring a landscaper and you may inspire the love of gardening in a young person.
Get free ideas for garden design by visiting public gardens, parks, or take walks through your neighborhood, checking out other gardens as you go.
Finally, make a wish list of plants or tools or garden accessories and give it to friends or family for Christmas or birthday present ideas. They’ll love getting you something they know you really want.