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8 Clever Tips for Growing a Gorgeous Garden on a Dime

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Last year, Americans spent an average of $500 on lawn care — more than any previous year! To the rescue: FIRST polled the pros for easy ways to save on plants, tools, and more.

Opt for TLC Greens

“Check out the clearance section at your local nursery or superstore — that’s where you’ll find gems like fresh herbs that need some extra care but are priced to sell. With just a little water and nurturing, you can revive them easily and save a few dollars per plant, which really adds up.” — Mary Philips, grandmother of eight, Kansas City, MO

Find Gardening Tools Here

“Used tools always provide an excellent value, so even if you think your rake is looking a bit dull, it may still have a few good years in it. In fact, my 10-year-old trowel, spade, and hammer work just as well as they did when I bought them. But if, for example, your rake is broken or you need a tool you don’t already have, check out Craigslist or the local selling app Letgo to find a treasure trove of used gardening tools — from shears to hoes — for a fraction of the cost of brand-new ones.” – Kyle James, founder of Rather-Be-Shopping.com

Water at This Time

“Overwatering your lawns is one of the leading causes of unhealthy grass, not to mention a high water bill. To prevent water and money waste, avoid watering midday — water evaporates quickly at this time, so you end up using more — and late at night, which can cause fungal growth. Instead, set sprinklers to run between 4 am and 9 am and aim them away from streets and sidewalks.” — Lisa Shiroff, team member at Leafy Green Landscaping

Join a Club and Get Rewarded

“Sign up for a frequent buyer rewards program at your local nursery, Home Depot, or Lowe’s. You’ll often get a bonus just for signing up, like a coupon for 20 percent off your first purchase. Plus, you accrue points for each purchase to use toward money off future buys. Tip: If you buy trees, shrubs, or perennials that don’t survive after you plant them, many stores, like Lowe’s and Costco, will replace them free of charge. Just bring in the plant and the receipt!” — Anne Murray, mom of three, Fremont, NE

Go Non-Toxic for Less

“Weed killer and fertilizer can get pricey, but you can maintain your garden naturally with the help of some inexpensive kitchen staples. For example, white vinegar, which costs about $5 for 2 gallons at warehouse clubs, kills garden weeds and those pesky plants that. pop up between your brick and concrete pavers, and it’s safe around pets and children! And used coffee grounds work as quality fertilizer — simply scratch a few inches deep into the soil and sprinkle them over the ground.” — Melanie Hartmann, owner of Creo Home Solutions

Plant “Natives” to Save

“Since they’re accustomed to the local soil and rainfall, native plants (they’ve developed in or occurred naturally in your area) may need supplemental water, but they won’t need expensive fertilizers and pesticides to thrive — so you won’t have to shell out on those products. Also great? Many of these plants are perennial, so a one-time purchase can give you beauty and joy for years to come. Download the GrowIt! app on your smartphone, which uses geolocation to gather user reviews and photos, so you can discover and select plants that work for your area.” Cassy Aoyagi, president of FormLA Landscaping

“Borrow” and Trade Seeds for Free

“Many libraries have seed banks that offer free seeds, often with the understanding that once your plants go to seed, you’ll give for seeds to the library. Or visits sites like the National Gardening Association and GardenWeb.com whree you can trade seeds online. Some garden centers give away ‘expired’ seeds — they still have a good germination rate if they’re a year or two old.” — C.L. Fornari, author of the Cocktail Hour Garden ($16.72, Amazon)

Get Creative With Containers

“You can often find really cheap planters and other vessels to hold your plants, flowers, and herbs at yard sales, flea markets, or online groups like Facebook Marketplace. But the best place to find them may be in you garage, storage, or attic. Serving bowls, metal pails, and colanders will look great with a pretty plant to fill them. However, if you do buy used ones, take care to thoroughly wash and disinfect them prior to putting new plants in them. It may sound odd to clean something before you fill it with dirt, but unhealthy fungi and plant diseases could be hiding in the nooks and crannies of used planters, which can kill of your beautiful plants and blooms.” — Lisa Shiroff

This article originally appeared in our print magazine.

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