These days, it's money that makes a garden grow.
Gardening has long been one of the top leisure activities for many Americans. But green thumbs are finding that this hobby can quickly become quite expensive.
It doesn't have to be. With a little bit of effort and keeping an eye open for plants that are looking for a good home, you can fill your garden without emptying your wallet.
In fact, beautiful gardens can be created at a very low cost, and many plants can be obtained at no charge.
Here are 10 great ways to build your garden with plants that don't cost a dime:
1. Look for Unloved Plants
You probably think your local nursery will have the highest prices for garden plants. That's probably true if you are looking for plants in the main retail area. But frugal gardeners look behind the building to find free plants.
Plants that don't look healthy won't sell and take up valuable retail space, so they usually end up back by the trash bins. Most people who run nurseries hate to throw out any kind of plant -- no matter what condition it's in -- and will usually let you take any plant you'd like.
Simply ask the manager if there are plants that can't be sold, and if you may claim them. While they won't look as beautiful as those on the retail floor, these plants (especially any that are native to your area), with a little bit of care, can be nursed back to health in no time.
2. Bartering and Trading
If you want to be a little more choosy when it comes to plants for your garden, consider bartering with a neighbor. This works especially well if you have junk lying around the house that you no longer want or need.
The stuff doesn't even have to be garden-related. This is also a great way to get gardening tools and supplies that can cost a pretty penny when purchased brand new.
3. Plant Rescues
Simply keep your eyes open when driving down the street, especially on trash days. Many people move during spring and abandon their plants in the process.
While you are likely to find more houseplants this way than garden plants, they are still worth rescuing, even if you don't plan to keep them. These plant rescues are excellent for trading and bartering. While it may be an extra step, it still will allow you to get free plants.
4. The Internet
The Internet is a wonderful place to pick up free plants. FreeCycle will allow you to make requests for free plants, which should get you plenty.
People who are moving who are a bit more organized will try to find homes for plants they won't be talking with them. Most gardeners love to share extra plants that they have when preparing their own spring gardens.
People who are doing new landscaping often have perfectly good plants that don't fit their new look that are in need of a new home. Free plants can also be found by placing wanted ads through CraigsList.
5. Dig Your Own Plants
While this will take a little muscle work on your part, there are often offers by homeowners where you can take any plants that you dig yourself. These property owners need to get rid of plants for many reasons but don't want to put in the labor to dig up the plants themselves.
If you are willing to dig them up, they are yours for the taking. These can be found on Web sites such as CraigsList and in the classified section on local newspapers.
6. Landscaping Crews
An often overlooked place to find free plants for your garden is from landscaping crews. Landscaping crews are usually paid to keep landscape fresh and in season meaning that they often take out perfectly good plants that just happen not to be at their peak.
These plants usually are thrown out or composted even though they are still in good condition, but the crews will often be willing to give you them for free if you ask.
This is especially true if they need to pay to haul them away. In this case, giving them away to you will actually save them money.
During spring you should be able to find crews alongside the road who you can ask, but you can also use the Internet or phone book to find local landscapers in your area to see if they have extra plants from jobs.
7. Gardening Friends
Friends who also garden can be a wonderful source of free plants for your garden. Most gardeners have extra plants that they are more than willing to give away.
Even if they don't have full plants to give away, most will have new starts from dividing their established plants or cuttings that can be used to begin growing new plants.
8. Participate in Community Garden Groups
If there is a local garden group that you can join, this is an excellent way to get free plants through other members and through projects that you may undertake.
It's also a great place to get quality gardening information and to get answers to all your gardening questions.
9. Join a Gardening Forum
If there are no garden groups in your community, another option is to join a gardening forum. The key to be successful in getting free plants is to be an active participant in the forum.
Most gardeners are more than happy to help out people whom they have come to know, but many also take a dim view of those who pop in for the sole purpose of trying to get free plants.
10. Keep an Eye Open for 'Volunteer' Plants
Your own garden may provide you with free plants that you never expected. Plants that grow unexpectedly from seed in the early spring are called "volunteer plants," because they volunteer to be part of your garden.
When they appear, these plants can be dug up and potted and then replanted in the garden when they grow bigger.
While creating a new look for your garden can be expensive, using the tips above can greatly reduce the costs while giving you a large variety of new plants to add to your garden this season.
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These days, it's money that makes a garden grow.