The only thing better than a healthy and beautiful plant in your garden is a free healthy and beautiful plant. It’s easy to spend over $100 at a greenhouse or nursery. But you don’t have to shell out big bucks to get big results.
Just take a look at these seven easy gardening solutions to get more plants for your yard—just keep in mind, patented plants should not be propagated. The following ideas are simple, free, and guaranteed to add beauty to your flower beds.
Every year, most flowers “go to seed.” You’ve probably heard this term before, but did you know that you can collect those seeds to plant in your garden for next year? It’s easy, as long as you have your timing right.
First of all, do not collect the seeds before they ripen. If you do, chances are they won’t sprout. Instead, wait until the seed head is almost completely dry. Then cut off the stem and place a bag (or even some old pantyhose) around the seed head.
Store in a cool location and give the flower another week or so to dry completely. During this time, the tiny seeds will fall out. Once you collect them, store them in a cool location until next spring. If you want to get a jump on the season, start them indoors and then transfer your seedlings after the danger of frost has passed.
Divide and Conquer
Many gardeners overlook fall as a time to divide plants, but it’s actually an ideal time for several varieties. (A good rule of thumb is to divide spring bloomers in fall and fall bloomers in spring, though there are exceptions.)
To divide, dig around the entire perennial. Then split the plant into halves, fourths or even more—if it’s large, use a garden fork or shovel. Plant the divisions at the same depth as they were previously. For best results, add a little organic matter and offer some protection for winter, especially if you live in a cold climate.
Overwinter Your Annuals
If you have the space, overwintering annuals like impatiens, geraniums, coleus and more is a great way to save money next spring. To overwinter your annuals, dig up as much of the root system as possible. Then use a good houseplant soil mix and a clean, well-draining container.
Place the annuals in a warm place, sunny location or under artificial lights. To avoid scraggly plants, pinch them back throughout the winter. Come spring, plant them in your garden or containers. You’ll get a great jump-start on the season, and it didn’t cost you a thing!
Take a Cutting
If you don’t have room to overwinter all your big, established annuals, try taking cuttings of your favorite plants instead. (Or you can turn a single plant into several little ones by doing several cuttings.) This is a basic gardening strategy to save your plants until spring, and it doesn’t take a lot of room or money.
For best results, cut your plant above a node (where leaves form) so the stem is left neat and tidy. Remove the lower leaves, then dip in rooting hormone and bury in a small cup of well-drained soil. Once you plant and water your new cutting, place it in a loose plastic bag. This will create a nice little greenhouse to help the cuttings root. After the plants have rooted, you can transplant them, and you’ll have great new plants for spring!
Find Plants that Multiply
Many plants will multiply on their own if you’re patient. Cleome, hardy lilies, flax and perennials like hostas, coneflower and more will multiply in the right conditions. Your best bet is to make sure your soil is prepared by amending it with organic matter. Remember not to weed until later in the spring, so you won’t kill sprouting seeds. Know what you’re looking for, and you might find a few surprises.
Search for Free
Gardeners are very giving people and, now, thanks to the Internet, it’s easier than ever to find those generous offers of free plants. Your local Freecycle Network (www.freecycle.org) is a good starting point. Some sites are more active than others, but it’s a great way to find giveaways. Also, check out the “free” section of your local Craigs-list (www.craigslist.com), a great place to find gardeners who are trying to get rid of excess plants.
Of course, you should take “free” at your own risk. Make sure the plants you get are free from disease and pests. And do a little homework on the people you’re getting the free plants from. Most gardeners are very welcoming and generous people, but it’s better to be a little cautious up front.
Try a Seed Exchange
Seed exchanges are a great way to try new plants without spending a lot of money. Organize your own locally with a church, garden or other social group. Or go online, where you can find some great exchanges as well.
If you do trade seeds with others, make sure the varieties are a good fit for your region. Or try a plant exchange. Again, make sure you’re trading healthy, non-invasive, disease- and pest-resistant plants. You’ll get an early start since the plants are already fairly sturdy.
All it takes is a little time and effort to get plants for free. Here are a few extra basic gardening tips. Once you take a cutting of a plant, dip it in root hormone to give it a little boost, then plant it in well-drained soil. Also, fall is a great time to divide plants. Look for overgrown plants in your own yard. Then ask around to find other gardeners who would like to trade. It’s a great way to try new plants for free!