Hortus sanus: No Money? No Problem!

Ever feel like you are on the outside of the garden gate, looking in, wondering how you could ever possibly afford to have a nice garden, a healthy garden, hortus sanus?

Many gardeners think they can buy their way into hortus sanus. Others despair that they don’t have a lot of money to spend on their gardens, so they’ll be forever in a statue of hortus insanus.

But money doesn’t have all that much to do with hortus sanus. Experienced gardeners know this, new gardeners soon learn this.

It certainly helps to have money – to hire stronger backs than you have, to buy bigger plants, nicer patio furniture, a sturdier fence, etc. etc. etc.

But no money? No problem!

You can spend very little and have a healthy garden, hortus sanus.

It takes no money to make your own compost from your own leaves and garden clippings. And get this – many of your neighbors will let you take their leaves for FREE. Not to mention that utility companies and some cities offer free mulch made from trees cut back along utility right-of-ways or donated by other homeowners.

The plants themselves offer a lot of freebies, too. You can dig and divide some perennials to get more plants, and they’ll thank you by growing even bigger as a result. Other plants self-sow freely which results in more plants popping up all over the garden. And open-pollinated vegetables and annual flowers are just waiting for you to collect their seeds, store them in a cool dry place over winter, and then sow them the next spring. They are depending on you to do this!

And if you have too many of one kind of plant, you can find other gardeners who have too many of another kind of plant and exchange plants with them. For free!

There are many other ideas for how to garden with very little money, including shopping at thrift stores, performing daring plant rescues at big box stores, and even driving slowly down the street on trash day to see what folks have left at their curbs for you to repurpose for your garden.

If you set that as a goal, to spend very little money on the garden, or you just have no extra money to spend on the garden, don’t despair. If you are a passionate gardener, you’ll figure out all kinds of ways to not spend money and still have a beautiful garden.

You will learn, too, that there are places to spend money… on good design, on good hardscape, on good tools, and occasionally on must-have focal point plants, the "bones" of the garden.

But mostly, you will learn that money doesn’t buy hortus sanus. Time in the garden does.

And once you figure that out, hortus sanus, a healthy garden, is within your reach.


  1. This is an excellent message, Carol! It doesn't take loads of money, or any money really to have a wonderful garden. Other gardeners are always willing to share and seeds are everywhere. It does take effort from the gardener, but that is the fun of it.

  2. A great message especially for new gardeners that despair that they will never get their garden filled.

  3. OH YES it's true!! Gardening can be done on the cheapie, BUT you failed to mention that all consuming addiction that comes over plant lovers that make us spend and spend and spendon seeds we have no room to start, ANOTHER hydrangea variety we just have to have OR those 20 clearnace plants (because they are such a great deal!) instead of the one bag of mulch we came in the store for... :)

    Plantswap.NET is a great little forum for free trades with the nicest gardeners I've met!

  4. By the way...I saw a rack of salvias going to the trash once at a big box store and wanted to rescue them, but didn't know how or what the rules are...

    How do you rescue the plant babies from the shredder?? Could you give some tips?


  5. You are so sensible and wise. We have periodic plant swaps in our neighborhood - depending on who finally bought some knew plants that we can all share, and there is also an online plant swap AND a local seed swap. The nice thing is you don't always need something to exchange. There is always enough to share with beginners.

  6. Yes, I have been gardening for years on a tight budget. Growing perennials from seed or buying them small (such as through Bluestone) also helps get your garden filled without spending tons. You just have to wait longer. I agree you need to get quality tools, which you will probably have to order online, as the big box stores don't carry quality. But you might be able to find them at a garage sale.

  7. Carol, I am loving this series! I especially love that plants can be divided and moved them to create that repetition that makes a garden look cohesive. Sharing with friends is sweet, too! gail

  8. A reassuring post, Carol. This is bound to encourage some new gardeners.

  9. An excellent message, my friend! You make me want to go divide some plants and start some compost!

  10. A great post, Carol! Although a few years ago I changed my clothes budget to my garden budget, I've learned a few tricks to save money the last few years. I just "rescued" a few plants at a local box store for a pittance, and have gotten all the irises I can plant from my aunt who divided hers up. Anyone who wants a garden can certainly afford one!

  11. Good ideas and encouraging. I agree about quality tools, I think it is my only real major expense. And. that's a one time investment. Great post.

  12. ha ha ha! Great tips. I'm definitely in a state of hortus insanus.

  13. Nice post Carol, frugal gardening is a good thing. The more money a pay for a plant, the faster I kill it. I want to give thanks to my mom, Craig's list, garage sales, flea markets and neighbors for helping me along the path to frugality.

  14. I love your money saving tips. My favorite if you have the patience is to cultivate all your plants from seed. I recently bought a pound of California poppy seeds online which I share with my clients. A teaspoon of these seeds can easily bring color to a planter bed for pennies on the dollar.


Post a Comment

Comments are to a blog what flowers are to a garden. Sow your thoughts here and may all your comments multiply as blooms in your garden.

Though there is never enough time to respond to each comment individually these days, please know that I do read and love each one and will try to reciprocate on your blog.

By the way, if you are leaving a comment just so you can include a link to your business site, the garden fairies will find it and compost it!