Gardening on a budget:Tips and tricks from a master gardener

WOODSTOCK – For Stacey Morgan Smith, of Woodstock, gardening has always been a hobby. But it wasn’t until she became a Northern Shenandoah Valley master that she learned it was much more – it was a passion, an opportunity to learn and grow with fellow gardeners and share her knowledge with the community.

“Over the years I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work for me,” Smith said. “I tend to be a bit more creative in my gardens because I garden on a budget.”

Scattered throughout her garden are old blue wine bottles propped up to help prevent her husband from mowing over her precious flowers, old wire crates that keep rabbits out, and concrete pavers she painted to create stepping stones throughout her pollinator garden.

For those green-thumbed individuals looking to start a garden, Smith said anyone can create a productive garden on a shoestring budget. Gardens can grow virtually anywhere. It just takes a little prior planning and TLC to make it happen.

Smith shared some of her favorite gardening- on-a-budget tips and tricks:

  • Re-use household items for garden structure or wildlife protection. Spray paint various items including wire shelving, wire trashcans, wire baskets and metal poles brown to help them blend in or bright colors to help them stand out.
  • Add paths using concrete pavers spray painted any color. Smith painted her pavers cobalt blue to add a pop of color to her garden.
  • Plan your garden before shopping. This allows you to know what fits and doesn’t fit so you don’t buy plants you won’t use.
  • Check plant tags to make sure you’re adding plants that will thrive in your local conditions.
  • Make a list and carry it with you. Smith said this allows you to stay on plan.
  • Add plants that self-seed, annuals that include zinnias, cosmos and poppies and perennials that include beardtongue, black-eyed Susans and purple coneflower.
  • Add perennials that increase in size each year. Divide them every three years or as needed to increase the number of plants in the garden.
  • Let gardening friends know you’re adding a garden and would like any of their divisions.
  • Shop end-of-season sales and discount racks at local greenhouses and nurseries for plants.
  • Plant close together to decrease the need for mulch. Not using mulch allows for self-seeding but also increases manual labor of weeding.
  • Place cardboard or several layers of newspaper under mulch or soil to smother grass to create a new garden bed.
  • Support volunteer organization plant sales such as those by master gardener groups and native plant groups throughout the Shenandoah Valley.