Some gardeners dream of a greenhouse filled with exotic plants while others simply wish they could grow plants that hate their current climate. Making either of these scenarios a reality is bound to cost far more than any one person could afford. To be honest, I’m still amazed at the thought of the large collection of incredibly expensive sun pitchers that I saw at the Atlanta Botanic Gardens on my last trip there. But the truth of the matter is that most gardeners’ budgets don’t coincide with their aspirations and since Santa no longer delivers big ticket items to our houses, we’re forced to decide what we can and cannot live without.
Money vs. Plants
Before you start purchasing every wonderful plant that crosses your path (I know there are lots), you’ll want to decide exactly how much you want to spend and also how much you can afford to spend. I haven’t ever heard of people who bought so many plants that they couldn’t pay the light bill, but you never know. Be sure to factor in not only the cost of new plants but also the cost of potting soil, extra planters, and pest control materials.
It is also a good idea to have a designated backup fund for all the craziness that is bound to happen over the summer. We have all been there. You’ve gotten everything you think you need and you have $10 left in the annual garden budget. Then your favorite plant shoots up overnight, aphids attack, and the potting soil runs out. Before you know it, you’re out another $30 or so dollars to keep things afloat. Clearly, garden emergencies should be factored into the overall budget.
The Master List
A garden wish list also helps. Mine usually includes several plant must-haves and a longer list of things that I think would be nice to have but can do without if needed. I then go through my seed stores and mark those from the previous year that are presumably still good off the master list to prevent duplication. You’ll want to keep up the list throughout the growing season because otherwise you might end up like me – with 4 nearly full packets of dill seed in your possession and no clue how that happened!
Check your favorite gardening stores both online and locally for the best deals on everything. Note where specific items are cheapest and make a master list for each store, including total price. Do your best to lessen shipping charges by reducing the amount of online stores you’ll be purchasing from and double check to be sure that plant purchases you deem crucial are on at least one list. Total up all the master list prices and make sure they come under budget or you’ll have to take some thing off. If I come in under budget, I reward myself with one or two experimental plants provided they don’t mess that fact up. Usually these end up being the most fun.
In general, gardeners that are on a budget should probably stick to seeds rather than plants. With the exception of onions and one or two other vegetables, most seeds stay viable for several years if stored in a cool, dark place. Seeds also give you more plants for your money. Even if half a $1 dill packet doesn’t sprout, you’ve still got about 20 plants for that money rather than spending $3 on a plant that will die in the fall. Not that I would know anything about dill-ahem.
If you are really pinching pennies, you should choose multipurpose plants rather than those that just fulfill one purpose. For example, a number of edible herbs produce lovely flowers and they also attract beneficial pollinators. These would probably be a better option than an inedible, nonflowering succulent in terms of getting the most for your money.
Annuals should always be started from seed if you’re on a budget. If you can’t manage that, at least purchase these plants locally. After all, there is no sense paying shipping charges on something that’s due to croak in a few months. Perennials are a different matter as the expense of having them shipped will be mitigated over the course of their hopefully long lives and some of them can’t be grown from seeds.
It’s a good idea to get your seeds as early as possible if you have your heart set on a specific plant variety. This is also true if you’re planning on growing a plant that takes a long time to mature. I ran into both problem last year with the Chinese 5 Color peppers being sold out before I could place an order and I ended up waiting too late for the Carolina Gold rice to have enough time to produce a crop before the weather turned cold. However, you may want to stagger the rest of your plant purchases so they don’t impact your finances all at once.
Good luck and Best Wishes to all my fellow Home Fixated gardeners in 2015!