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Frugal (patient) Gardening

Last updated June 2021

I’m not a big gardener, partially because I really hate getting dirt on my fingers, and partially because my parents, who live close by, have an enormous garden which I get to mooch off of each summer.

A healthy basil plant, growing in mulch.

However, I do plant a few things here and there, and I’ve decided that really frugal gardening requires a lot of patience.

If I had loads of money, I would probably go buy nice bushes and flowers to plant in my yard, and I’d buy vegetable and herb plants.

However, I don’t have loads of money, so I have to take the slow route.

For instance, about six weeks ago Aldi had some plants for sale. I bought a hydrangea plant for $2.99, which is a great deal for a bush that will be around for years.

However, for $2.99 all you get is a stick with roots and a little bit of dirt. I planted it in a pot, watered it, and for a long time, all I had was a pot with a stick in it.

Finally, though, there are signs of life!

A baby hydrangea plant from Aldi, in a terracotta pot.

I don’t know how much this plant will grow this year, but at the rate we’re going, I think it’s going to be a long time before I have an impressive bush. For $2.99, though, I can be patient.

Update! My former stick hydrangea now looks like this:

A large hydrangea bush with blue flowers.

As another example, last year, I bought a $.10 package of basil seeds from Walgreens.

(What’s that you say? Real gardeners don’t buy their seeds at a drugstore??)

I planted half of them last year and ended up with something like 10 enormous basil plants (I even gave some away on Freecycle!).

I wasn’t sure the seeds would still be good this year, but I figured I should at least give them a shot.

So I planted them, watered them, and now, weeks later, I have a little pot of healthy basil seedlings.

A terracotta pot full of basil seedlings.

While it wouldn’t break the bank for me to buy a basil plant each year, by exercising some patience, I get more basil than I can possibly use for $.05.

This kind of reminds me of our backyard.

It would have been far more instantly gratifying to plunk down a thousand dollars for sod.

But by combining seed, water, and some sweat, we have a yard that looks almost as good as sod for a fraction of the price.

A view of a green lawn, from a low perspective.

Really, when you think about it, a lot of frugal living depends upon your ability to deal with delayed gratification.

People who are patient enough to wait for seeds to sprout will probably also be

  • patient enough to save up before they buy something
  • patient enough to wait to buy a new electronics item until the price falls
  • patient enough to wait for something to go on sale or clearance
  • patient enough to wait for laundry to dry in the sun
  • patient enough to wait until they can find a desired item in a thrift store or on Craig’s List (or even better, on Freecycle!)

What other frugal living habits depend upon delayed gratification?

More Frugal Gardening

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Sunday 6th of June 2021

Growing up our garden was enormous. I have blackberries, blueberries, grapes, raspberries and a veggie garden. I am always jealous of my neighbor who grows large heads of cabbage. I never have luck with cabbage. I only put in a small garden this year. Tomatoes, yellow beans, peppers, onions and eggplant. I grow most flowers from seed, this year it is nasturtium, zinnia & cosmos. I love digging in dirt, however my back no longer agrees with gardening.

Erika W.

Saturday 5th of June 2021

I was going to mention soap under the fingernails but someone beat me to it.

In the garden shed of my grandparents Vienna apartment there was a pile of tough canvas gloves with pointed metal fingernails sewn on. My grandfather remembered them being used when he was a child. They were absolutely wonderful for weeding and I have looked to see if any firm still makes them, but no luck. I did find a mention of them in a gardening book from the 1840s!

Your anonymous picture looks like Hyacinth Beans. One of my favorite vines but haven't grown them in a long time.

Now I know what one of my extravaganzes is; I buy well grown, flowering potted plants for our back porch each year and have just done so from a Home Depot store. However, when frosts start in November we will plant the two lavender and two Rosemary plants in the back yard in one of the narrow flower beds surrounding the house.

Heidi Louise

Saturday 5th of June 2021

The soap will turn very very black (whatever color your soil is), but it will wash out much more easily than just dirt. I've read of using wax, specifically scratching your fingernails on waxed paper, which did not sound frugal, but I have not tried that.

kristin @ going country

Saturday 5th of June 2021

How did I never comment on a gardening post before?!

Anyway. You know I do this. You should have seen the raspberry canes and apple "trees" we've gotten for super cheap from Burgess. They come as five-inch-long dead-looking sticks. But the apple we planted two years ago is now about three feet high, and the raspberry canes we planted this year have leafed out.

Even better is learning how to propogate your own plants. My husband has learned how to graft apple scions onto an existing tree, which means we now have three varieties of apple growing on one tree. We didn't have to start from scratch OR pay for a more mature tree. Of course, we probably won't get any fruit from those grafts for another year or so, but still . . . free! As is separating iris bulbs, or propogating strawberries, or grape vines, or . . . well, I'll stop now.

Should probably do a whole post about this so I'm not just rambling on in your space. :-)


Saturday 5th of June 2021

Well, perhaps you were not reading here in 2009. :)

You should most certainly blog about gardening because you are SO much more qualified than I am.


Wednesday 14th of May 2014

I have the patience just not the green thumb :(

I found a planters box works great becuase I can't over water!


Friday 31st of January 2014

Do you add any fertilizer to your basil plant? What kind of soil do you use? How often do you water? That plant just looks so healthy that I need to know exactly how you made her grow like that!


Friday 31st of January 2014

Nope, I don't. I do usually mix my dirt with some compost, and I just water it when it looks dry. And basil does need lots of sun.

I'm really not a brilliant gardener so if I can do it, you probably can too!

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