Frugal Gardening

Ilona Erwin

As I write this it is late October, and one of the best times to find garden bargains if you hurry out to your local nursery or order from your favorite online catalog. If you don’t mind less than ideal weather for planting, you can get fine plants in an end of season clearance. (They will have just enough time to grow roots into the earth which remains unfrozen for yet another month or so).

I have snagged more than one of my finest plants this way, for much less then the usual going price. That is the only way I might have afforded them. An avid gardener has a mental list of plant prospects, and if visiting a clearance sale, just might happen upon one…or two, or three.

This is how I bought ‘Endless Summer‘ and ‘Light O’ Day‘ hydrangeas, and my beloved Hinoki Cypresses. I have also purchased many of my spring blooming bulbs this way.

Ilona's Autumn Garden Tips

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Of course you can’t count on either sales, or availability of desired plants, and that is one of the drawbacks. Yet, stretching the landscaping dollar can be a boon in these times, especially when first starting your garden.

Consider late fall time as your primary bargain hunting time. Another time of year for seasonal sales is in the middle of high summer, after the initial crush of spring and early summer planting is over. However, my experience is that the heat and dryness of summer can deplete plants and there is less chance of success. In fact, I do not like to plant at all at that time of year because of the high rate of loss. You just can’t tell when there might be a drought or disease problems, etc. Fall is much more predictable, with soft rains, and mellow soils stretching into December many years. Besides, mulching provides an extra layer of protection and I often apply mulch right before winter.

Still have time before the hard freezes? See if there are any clearance plants, and get them into the ground. You may be very happy in the future with a few frugal efforts today.

Buy Dormant Plants

Another way to get the best plants for better prices is to buy dormant plants ( after they lose leaves or before leafing out). Because it is not the height of the garden season, and there are no blooms or foliage to lure spontaneous buyers, they often have better prices. An additional benefit: these plants will root and take better than plants in full growth mode.

Updated for Post-Covid Shopping

In cold climate areas of the USA, the window for getting plants in the ground is greatly reduced and nurseries and plant stores no longer have a plethora of offerings for fall. For frugal gardeners that means we must keep a sharp eye at the end points of the gardening season: July and maybe mid-October.

I have since moved to the South where the planting season is much extended. If finding after Christmas shrubs that were sold for Christmas, I purchased hollies at a bargain. Grocery stores that have Hellebores for sale, yield a good price and indoor blooms. I plant those outdoors during March.

Late purchases may be overwintered in a frost free place to plant in the spring, in all climates. I also find bargains in tools and garden decor at the very end of the summer season. Big box stores and discount houses like Costco or Sam’s will have finds during the season or when they are clearing out stock- these are brief opportunities and not repeated, so grab them when you can.


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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.