Many local government authorities have free plant programs for their residents. See if you can find something in your area by checking the website of the city or shire council you live in. The websites of more councils can be accessed via the Regional Pages
. There may be vouchers available that can be redeemed at local garden centres, or giveaways at local "green expos" or "sustainability fairs".
Looking for Cheap Plants?
The cheapest plants are those you propagate yourself from donated cuttings or divisions or seed.
Small "tubestock" is the cheapest way to buy whole plants, but hard for the public to obtain except, perhaps, for native species for revegetation. Non-native species may be much harder to find as tubestock. Most wholesale nurseries won't sell to the public, but if you need a large quanity of plants, it might be worth giving then a call if they can supply the type of plant you're looking for.
Also, keep an eye out at Sunday markets or garden shows and expos, where growers sometimes sell direct to the public. Hobby growers also sell at these outlets (a good way to find more unusual plants, too).
Be careful when buying from markets, garage sales and fetes, however, as you might be transporting pests and diseases into your garden. There are restrictions on moving plants without proper certification in some situations (e.g. to control fireants). If in doubt, consult a relevant authority such as Biosecurity Queensland
Some nurseries (including online) tend to specialise in selling plants more cheaply that upscale garden centres. (If you operate a "cheap nursery", please get in touch about advertising on this page).
See also: Events Diary
, Seeds and seed raising
, Vegetative Propagation
Grow Plants from Seed
In the case of vegetables and annual flowers, it's easier buy seedlings in punnets. You gain several weeks of growing time and it's not a lot more expensive if you only need a few plants. On the other hand, if you have a large family to feed or if you want really put on a big display and need lots of plants, seeds will be a much cheaper, even if you have to Buy Seeds
. Over time, you'll be able to save your own seed or allow plants to self-seed.
Growing perennials and bulbs from seed is a little less popular amongst home gardeners, and even less common for them to grow trees and shrubs from seed. Nevertheless there are some advantages, depending on the type of plant. It might be the only practical way to propagate some species, while it is a faster way to produce large numbers or other types than waiting for it do get big enough to divide. Some unusual species might be difficult or impossible to obtain as plants in local garden centres. You also find a much larger range of varieties of both annual flowers and vegetables, including heritage varieties, than is generally available as seedlings, especially if you start looking at specialist mail-order seed suppliers. When it comes to buying plants by mail order, seeds have an obvious advantage being smaller and more robust than live plants (be sure to check quarantine restrictions before sending or transporting seeds yourself).
There's also the fun and educational interest of raising a plant from seed. There are some disadvantages, too, though. Some (sometimes a lot) of patience is required, and "newborn" plants are vulnerable and need more attention than more advanced plants. Also, the seed from hybrids and select cultivars may not preserve exactly the same characteristics of the parent plant. For more about seed raising, go to Seeds and seed raising
Tools and Equipment
Cheap tools that break quickly are a false economy. If you can't afford to buy good-quality tools, second-hand tools may be an option Make sure they are totally clean before bringing them home to avoid transporting pests and diseases.
Ask around your circle of friends and relatives. They may have unused tools and other equipment sitting in sheds that they'd be happy to give away, especially if they've scaled back their own gardening ambitions or downsizing their home. Alternatively, put the word out that you'd like a certain item for your next birthday or Christmas. Keep an eye out at local garage sales and flea markets, too.
Caring for your tools approriately will help them last longer.
See also Garden Tools
, Give a Garden Gift
The kitchen can be a great source of handy items like measuring cups, storage jars, seives and items that can be recycled as pots or pot saucers. Garage sales and op-shops are places to find kitchen cast-offs cheaply. It's important that such items aren't accidentally re-used for food, so label clearly if there's any risk. It's dangerous to use beverage containers to store chemicals (including "organic" mixtures) because they could be inadvertently picked up and drunk, perhaps by a child or visitor. Another risk is where spray bottles are reused. If there's any chance of confusion, tear off the original label and write the new contents on the container clearly and obviously in a way that won't be washed or rubbed off.
As far as items like plant supports, protective structures, garden edging, containers and garden art go, you may be able to use second-hand or recycled materials plus imagination.. You'll find some ideas in the links at the bottom of the page.
Getting value from your property
Besides finding cheaper plants and gardening supplies, you can also think about is how you might "leverage" your garden to save money in other areas of your life, such as food costs and recreation.
Growing your own vegetables and fruit
Those that think they will save large amounts of money by growing their food may be disappointed, particularly if they are starting from scratch in a suburban garden with the poor soil and lack of space typical of Brisbane gardens (for example), not to mention water supply problems currently experienced by SE Qld and many other regions nationally and internationally.
Fans of a certain vegetable-gowing TV personality (recently retired from the screen) will recall how much manure, blood and bone, green manures and other supplements went into those veggie patches. Factor in bad weather, insect plagues and inexperience, you might not get the bountiful harvest you were hoping for.
Cultivating vegetables is still a worthwhile activity, however. Consider its educational, health and recreational value (see below).
Meanwhile, if you're serious about growing your own to save money on your grocery bills, check out Growing your own food in a financial crisis
Gardening is an alternative pastime to going to the movies, computer games, sitting in cafes and shopping as a competitive sport. It is possible to spend a lot in the garden, but it's also possible to get a lot of satisfaction by spending very little.
What an opportunity to teach the kids about biology, give them a useful skill they can take through life, get them active and spend time together as a family. Vegetable gowing also gives us all more incentive to eat them, and be more consious of health issues.
Also, a garden is a place to relax, play and entertain. If you're having to cut back on holidays, day trips and other diversions, think about how you can design your garden to make a safe, functional and attractive place to spend more time. Many people lately are heading in that direction with the tropical resort-style garden, but you might like something different depending on the needs of the family and personal tatstes. See: Garden Styles
. Without air travel, visas, dodgy food and political unrest to worry about, staying at home could be more enjoyable than some "holidays".
When it comes to hosting a wedding or other important occassion, you couls save a lot of money compared to hiring a venue. See: Garden weddings
Strategically placed shading trees and screens can help keep the house cool, saving on air conditioning. (Trees too close to buildings can also cause problems, so plan accordingly).
For more on placement of trees around the house for savings to cooling and heating bills, go to The Self-Sufficiency Pages - Building
. See also Trees
Screening plants may be cheaper than a high fence, and nicer-looking, too. If you have a high house or units next door overlooking your patio, a strategically placed tree or clump of bamboo may provide the privacy that a fence can't. For more on this topic, go to the Hedges
When it's time to sell...
Now that the real estate boom appears to be over in Australia, many people will be looking for for cost-effective ways to improve the attractiveness their properties to buyers, or buyers in the future. This topic with respect to the yard is discussed further on Landscaping & property values
The following links might give you some more ideas for gardening on a budget.
Does Size Matter?
Article about the advantages of planting a tree from smaller, younger (and cheaper) stock. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Florida
More about money-saving in general