I love my garden-but gardening successfully can take a long time. Adding my Mother’s Day plants to the garden this year made me think about how much successful gardening resembles wise financial management. I’ll share those thoughts today, and I’ll talk about how to build a successful, beautiful garden without spending a fortune.
The Key Word-Patience
Growing a gorgeous garden doesn’t happen overnight. You need time-not only to create a garden in a cost effective way, but also to learn what does and doesn’t work.
You would pay a ton of money if you purchased only large, mature plants that look wonderful as soon as you plop them in the ground. The less mature the plant, the less money you’ll pay. The least expensive way to get plants is, of course, planting them yourself from seed.
Ok actually the cheapest way is to get part of a plant from someone else for free. I’m fortunate that my grandmother was a wonderful gardener, and over the years she gave me many plants. This is a great gift, because now every year that they come back I’m reminded of my grandmother. I can also use this as an opportunity to remind the boys of how much their great-grandma liked gardening, and show them all the plants that belonged to her.
If you’re not fortunate to know a gardener personally, you might be able to snag parts of plants in exchange for some labor. It’s always worth checking in a local Facebook group to see if someone has any plants that are overgrown, that they might give you in exchange for digging them out of the ground. It’s a win/win-they get rid of an unwanted plant, and you get a plant in exchange for a bit of labor. In a related note-if anyone would like some oregano, chives, mint or pacasandras, stop on by.
Seeds are least expensive because they require the most labor-and patience-from you. If you live in a climate like mine, you’ll have to start them indoors during the winter in order for them to flourish. I don’t have a good setup for that-maybe one day!-so I buy small seedlings for things like herbs, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. If I had a large vegetable garden like I dream of having one day, I would do more seeds.
Speaking of that-one of my patience tips would be to start small and expand gradually. Many an amateur gardener has been thwarted by starting too big. Not only is it more expensive, but it’s also a lot more work. Before committing to a large garden, you’ll want to accurately judge just how much you like to garden. Do you enjoy weeding, watering, and feeding your garden? Or do you hate spending 90 degree days out in the sun tending to your plants? Only you know the answer.
Every year I expand the garden in front of my house by a few square feet. This not only keeps the cost manageable, but also gives time for perennials to fill out much of the rest of my garden. More perennials means less overall work.
Annuals vs Perennials-Lessons On Price Versus Value
When you see tons of colorful flowers for sale for an inexpensive price, those are more than likely annuals. They’re pretty plants that grow fast, fade fast, and won’t last more than a single season.
Perennials, in contrast, will come back every single year. They may start small but every year they’ll be larger, and larger. Assuming you get perennials that work for your zone, meaning they won’t die off over the winter or perish from the heat of the summer where you live, they’ll last forever.
The downside of perennials is they’re more expensive. As in, four or five times the price of annuals-and sometimes more. But in this case you’ll get what you pay for. Whereas you have to buy annuals every year, you buy a perennial for life.
If you judge a purchase based solely on its price, you would buy annuals every year. But this strategy ends up costing more in the long run, since you have to re-buy them every year. Instead of just looking at price, you should look at the value of your purchase. Are you looking to build a beautiful garden just for one season? Or do you want one that will last decades?
You also want to think about where you buy your plants. Don’t just pick up a bunch at Home Depot and hope for the best. I’ve gotten plants at many different places over the years, and finally settled on a local nursery that doesn’t have the cheapest prices, but has spectacular plants that last a long time, grow well, and flourish in our environment.
Compounding Power of Perennials
Similarly to any long term investment, your purchase of perennials compounds over time. The first year, your garden may look sparse. But over time-as your perennials come back stronger and stronger each year, and as you get more of them-your garden will fill in and look beautiful with less and less work on your part.
I like to think of it like compound interest. The first year, you might make a small investment and see it grow only a little. But in time, as you add to your investments and they begin to compound, you’ll see the impact of your investments take hold.
Set Yourself up for Success Through Automation
My personal gardening rule is that if it can’t survive in my area easily, it’s not going in the ground. As the full time working mother of three boys, I know that I love to garden, but I’m not going to have the time or patience to deal with a particularly fussy plant. If the plant isn’t pest resistant and hardy for my area, I’m not going to deal with it.
This is essentially automating my garden-similarly to automating your money.
Same is true of your financial strategy. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time tracking, learning about sophisticated investment options, etc. you’re best of selecting a strategy that works for you. There’s no sense in wishing you were a different type of person, or trying to force yourself to use a strategy that works for someone else but not for you. Instead set yourself up for success by creating a simple strategy that works for you.
Starting A Successful Garden Without Spending A Fortune
Ok so how do you start a garden without spending a fortune? Start small. Have patience. Seek out free and inexpensive sources of plants. Don’t confuse price with value-be willing to pay more if you’ll get more for your money. Play the long game-if you can’t afford a bunch of perennials up front, fill in extra space with annuals in the meantime. Get plants that grow well in your environment, and that line up with the level of effort you’re going to be willing to put into them.
Do you like to garden? What are your top tips? Any other financial lessons you’ve learned? Let me know in the comments.
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