Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Zero Dollar Gardening!!!

I love gardens. Whenever we moved to a new house when I was a kid, I would help my Mom put in a new garden. Having lived in my home for over two years now, I decided it was time to put in a garden of my own. Unfortunately, the cost of soil, landscaping materials, and plants can add up pretty quickly. So, I decided to find a way to put in a garden without spending a single penny.

Here's a view of my house from across the street.

On the side of the Sandwich Shoppe, there's a 6x28ft stretch of property covered in weeds (in front of the blue SUV). I decided that little bit of land was in desperate need of some flowers.

From this xeroxed copy of a picture of our house in the 80s, you can see that there used to be a hedge running along that whole area - in front of all those windows and the door.

Someone must have cut it down at some point, but I didn't find any trace of the hedge.

We have had four wooden beams hanging out as a border of sorts near our usual parking area. I re-appropriated the beams to act as my new garden borders and Stephen cut a few down to size for me.

Eventually, I'd absolutely love to build a pretty 1 foot high flagstone wall, but I don't have the money for that. The beams work for now and can always be replaced at a later date.

My first inclination when starting a new garden is to take the easy route. Buy a bunch of soil, dump it into a contained area on top of some weed stop, and voila! Instant raised bed. Very little work. But buying enough soil to fill a 6x28 ft space? That'll cost about $100.

So. Plan B. Gardening the old fashioned way. I dug up all the weeds & grass in my future garden area, shook out all the dirt, and raked it into a pile.

And got very, very dirty.

Of course, that wasn't enough dirt for a full garden bed. Fortunately, I was able to commandeer more dirt from our ongoing driveway extension project. Which was pretty handy, since we needed a place to move all the sod & dirt we were digging up.

Stephen did all the digging while I broke up the dirt. Getting dirt this way is a lot more labor intensive because you have to break up each individual dirt clump, but hey! It's free!

Now for the star players. The plants. It's kind of hard to have a garden without plants. Unless you live in Japan & want a rock garden. I no longer live in Japan, and generally prefer plants over rocks... so plants it is! 

Just look at all those beautiful FREE plants hangin' out in shopping bags! Holla!

How did I get so many free plants? I have an awesome family. That's how.

First, I rescued 3 clumps of succulents & 2 clumps of hostas from Stephen's Aunt Mary's driveway back in April. Her fiance Ed kept running them over. They needed saving!

Then, I raided my Mom's garden at her old house.

Isn't it gorgeous? My mom seriously rocks in the gardening department! She built that flagstone wall herself. I want it. I lust after it. One day, it will be mine.

Anyways, no one is living at the house right now, so I was given permission to loot away. I split most of the hostas in half and spirited them away. (Don't you love how hostas bounce right back from being split in two? They are like conjoined twins with no shared vital organs to worry over.)

I happily uprooted pieces of other plants. Ivy. Mint. Rosemary. Thyme. Lambs ears. Dusty miller. Lilacs. Goosenecks. Pretty yellow ground cover and who knows what else. I may even go back for a second round of pillaging the next time I'm in that area.

I also got to loot the house for flower pots, furniture, power tools, and anything else I wanted. More on my excellent pillaging skills and potential furniture hoarding problem later...

I had gathered everything I needed to accomplish my goal of zero dollar gardening - soil, timbers, & plants. All FREE!

Please excuse me while I pause to give myself a little "thrifty lady of the week" pat on the back.

Joseph kept me company in his bouncer while I laid out all of the plants where I wanted them.

I decided to go with a middle row of hostas, then a row of succulents (which I split into smaller clumps) and then a row of random ground cover plants that would eventually spread & spill over the timbers. Some of the plants are looking pretty sad, but most of the plants look like they will survive the transplant.

On the end closest to the kitchen, I planted rosemary, thyme, lemon balm, and mint. I don't know if the rosemary & thyme will survive the transplant because they aren't looking too happy, but the mint is looking like an athletic 20 something college student right now.

It's actually chocolate mint. It smells like heaven.

I have a variety of hostas - variegated white & green, blue & green, just plain green, and giant. I alternated them throughout the row so they should look great once they fill out by next summer.

I think succulents may be my new plant niche. I potted a bunch and brought them inside. They appear to be flourishing. I think I may have finally found an indoor plant that I'm not in danger of killing. By the way, Sarah, the plant you gave me is sprouting new leaves and two new branches. I so didn't kill it! ;) I just made it unhappy for a while, but it's bouncing back!

Behind the row of hostas, I planted hollyhock seeds (also free! - my mom had half a packet leftover after planting her garden).


The hollyhock gets to be 5 or 6 feet tall, so it's going to be really pretty! Plus, it's a perennial!

See how sad the garden looks right now?

By the end of this summer or the beginning of next summer, it's going to be awesome! Just imagine tall bright flowers and fluffy hostas! 

Eventually, I'd like for the border of the front garden bed and the side garden bed to match, but I'll worry about that later. I'm still too giddy over the fact that I put in a whole garden without spending a dime.

As part of my "zero dollar gardening" motto, all of the plants are perennials. All I have to do next year is mulch & weed! I'm not completely done. I might be moving a Korean lilac from the back yard to the front corner of the bed. If I can even move it. It's pretty darn big.

Overall, this project took me about 2 afternoons (2pm to sunset) and one morning to complete.

I haven't fully committed to a vegetable/herb garden yet because I'm paranoid about lead in the soil from old paint that would have been scraped off the house. I want to have the soil tested before I start feeding people home grown tomatoes (go ahead and roll your eyes Stephen). If nothing else, I might build some raised beds in the back with a plastic barrier between some store bought soil & the ground. I know I sound paranoid, but I actually have nightmares about giving Joseph lead poisoning. Better safe than sorry.

That concludes my zero dollar gardening adventures. Next up, more zero dollar DIYing!

Who's on a roll? I'm on a roll!


  1. I'm so impressed!!!!! You might think your garden looks sad... but the before and afters right now still look pretty amazing!!
    And succulents? They look so fabulous! Why have I not jumped on this bandwagon?
    Grow little garden, grow!! (so I can steal parts of you in a few years) ;)

  2. Also? The pot with the spilling-over vines? Fabulous!!!

  3. Also #2? My front yard wants to look like your Mom's old front yard. That is a BEAUTIFUL garden!!!
    Ok. I think I'm done. ;)

  4. It looks so great! And what you call succulents, we call "live forevers." LOve them. Have several of them and am amazed at what they can take. Funny story, my grandma-in-law gave some to my fil and he didn't like them. He tried to BURN THEM and they came back the next year. That's trial by fire.

  5. And PS, you win some sort of award for all that work. I'd never have the guts or patience. You rock.


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