How to Get a Lush Garden For Free

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As you may have noticed, we have put a lot of time and energy into our garden. We have also invested a fair amount of money, but have found many ways to fill out the planters without spending very much, or any, cash. Our lower yard, for example, is unfenced and anything we plant down here is promptly eaten by deer. We got pretty fed up of trying to fill the large planting area with shrubs and other flowers only to come down and see them all nibbled back to the stem. WELL. This summer we got wise.

  1. Transplant native plants. After seeing one expensive plant after another fall prey to the deer, I started prowling the property for native plants that were not being eaten by the wildlife. This will obviously vary depending on your region, but I found quite a few plants that were growing wild including rosa campanula, shasta and ox eye daisies, Mediterranean spurge, comfrey, nootka roses, violets, self-heal, dock, plantain, purple thistle, and feverfew. I took a cardboard box with me around the yard and using a trowel I pulled up a selection of small plants and then replanted them in the areas I wanted them to grow. This worked really well, especially with the spurge, feverfew and comfrey, as they all filled out really quickly (check out a before and after here). Because they are native plants we don’t have to give them any special attention and the deer don’t like them so it’s been easy to keep the planted areas looking lush. Keep in mind that after transplanting the plants may look wilted and sad, but fear not! I’m no scientist, but I imagine the plant is sending its energy back down to the roots to get comfy in the new location and the above ground portion of the plant can sometimes die back. Be patient, 99% of the time we found new shoots coming up under the wilted leaves within a few days.
  2. Split existing plants and spread them out. The comfrey has proven easiest to divide and replant; we had 2 or 3 comfrey plants last year, and this year we have about 10 just from the small leaves I found on the lawn and transplanted, which we then later divided and spread out. Rosa campanula also tends to grow in clusters which are easy to divide and replant.
  3. Save seeds and plant new crops. Perennials that go to seed in theory only need to be purchased once, then you’ll have them forever. We have had huge luck with rosa campanulas, mullein, hollyhock, balloon flower, cardoon, calendula, osteospermum and more. One cardoon flower will go to seed and provide hundreds of new plants. Carefully monitor plants as they end their blossom cycle and begin to form seeds, then carefully collect, air dry, and label them for the spring. When it’s planting time set up a tray of 30 or more starter pots (use egg cartons and soil from your garden) and use up all your seeds to make a new generation of plants. Come fall you will have more seeds to grow more plants, and you won’t have broken the bank! Excess seeds can be tossed right into the beds you want them to sprout in, calendula, rosa campanula and osteospermum have all been very easy for us to grow this way.

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^ The mullein in this bed sprang up this year after the seeds fell naturally from our plants at the end of last season. We didn’t even have to do anything! The feverfew, spurge, rosas and comfrey were all transplants, and the cardoons were sprouted from seeds collected last year. We have spent zero dollars filling this bed and next year it will look even better.

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^ We bought a balloon flower and some columbine this year from the garden centre, and I watched them like a hawk for when the seeds were ready to drop. I collected a good supply and next year I will try to sprout as many trays of them as I can.

Ask friends with gardens if you can share seeds or help divide plants for you to grow at home. Check out what grows locally and transplant to your garden to fill it out – responsibly, of course! Don’t steal from people’s yards and don’t clear out an entire area, just take one or two samples at a time or visit several different locations. Only take what you need, and give back when you can ❤

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