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Back in the spring, you were confident you would have an award-winning garden by now. You thought you planned and planted well, but as you enjoy a glass of rosé on the back porches of friends, you realize that your garden pales in comparison. Never fear, it’s not too late. Gardening pros share their favorite tips for saving money on your summer garden upgrades.

1. Buy Small

While big plants look impressive, smaller plants are less expensive. Alice Rossiter, founder of Alice’s Table, producer of floral arrangement events, said, “If you’re in the market for perennials, trees, or flowering shrubs, purchase the younger, more economical sizes. While smaller in the beginning, the plants will quickly grow to the same size as the marked up, larger sizes.”

2. Reuse & Recycle

If you’re starting seeds for next year, Rossiter recommended used K-Cups instead of small plastic pots. “These small cups are perfect for starting seeds,” she said. “Plus, they already have a hole created in the bottom that’s perfect for drainage, reducing plastic waste and saving you time and money.” She also recommends checking out summer yard sales for great deals on gently used tools and supplies.

Trevor Morton, content creator for Australian gardening service provider Fantastic Gardeners Melbourne, suggested saving your own bulbs, seeds, and cuttings instead of buying new ones. “Also, If you want a plant you don’t have, check if your friends have it,” he said. “I’m sure they will be happy to share.”

3. Team Up

Rossiter suggested creating a “purchasing pod” with your friends or neighbors. “You’ll save about 20% buying flowers — like annuals — by the flat, versus individual cell packs,” she said.

Joining online communities can help save you money, too. Gena Lorainne, horticulturist and plants expert at UK-based gardening service provider, Fantastic Gardeners UK, said, “Look online for communities where you can swap seeds and plants with other garden enthusiasts instead of paying for new ones.”

4. Grow What You Can Eat & Drink

Gardens don’t only look pretty, they can be functional, too. Craig Jenkins-Sutton, founder and president of Topiarius, a landscaping firm in the Chicago area, said, “One of the biggest trends for 2017 is growing juice gardens to cut the cost of the grocery bill. There is nothing like picking fresh fruits and greens from the garden and using them in the juicer.” He also suggested growing fruits and vegetables while you’re at it.

Herbs are also very useful to grow in your garden. Lorainne said, “It is in all cases better to have a herb garden instead of buying fresh.” She noted, “It is definitely less expensive to grow a herb garden from seed, but transplants will be ready to harvest much earlier and will be easier to grow.”

5. Spend to Save

Sometimes you need to invest more up front to save long-term. Morton said, “Investing in drip irrigation or soaker hoses will save a lot of money in the long run. Burying those under the soil or mulch will deliver small amounts of water straight to the roots of your plants. This is better than soaking the top of the soil as it is better absorbed and also conserves water.”

Jake Hill, research analyst for on-demand lawn service LawnStarter.com, recommends buying high quality equipment instead of cheap. “The more money you put up front on quality equipment such as shovels, trowels, wheelbarrows, etc. the longer your equipment will last,” he said.

6. Go Slow

Be prepared to take your time. “In many cases, those opting to do home landscape projects might be working with limited financial resources, so we recommend purchasing your materials in phases,” said Don Caroleo, owner of The Garden Dept., a nursery and landscaping business on Long Island, New York. “Not only does this help keep costs under control, but it also allows homeowners to adjust their plans and designs as they work.”

7. Self-Seed

Hill recommends focusing on self-seeding plants that grow back year after year on their own. Some examples include Forget-me-not, Verbena bonariensis, and Chrysanthemum parthenium. “The plants you select should be well adapted to your growing zone so they will not require any special attention,” he said. He proposes referencing the Department of Agriculture hardiness map for more details.

8. Water Wisely

Hill suggested collecting rainwater in rain barrels and to be smart about watering. “Water your garden in the cool morning hours to reduce losses to evaporation,” he said. “Also, mulch the soil at least two inches thick to keep the ground cool and moist, and water the soil not the foliage (so it gets to the roots where the plants need it).”

9. Keep the Trees

Trees can keep a garden cool, and that’s a good thing. Cassy Aoyagi, founder and President of FormLA Landscaping, a sustainable landscaping firm based in Los Angeles, said, “Trees canopies can cool a garden by as much as 20 degrees. According to the [Environmental Protection Agency], strategic use of trees can reduce energy bills by as much as 50%. Trees also have their own, appraisable value and increase the value of homes.”

10. Make the Most of Your Space

We don’t all have a ton of land to create the garden of our dreams. Bonny Ford from the lifestyle and design blog, FurnishMyWay, said you can expand your usable space with vertical planters. She refers to easy do-it-yourself projects for vertical planters on BonniePlants.com and on the Better Homes and Gardens site.

11. Shop Around

If you’ve determined that maintaining your own garden will be too much work, Gene Caballero, Co-Founder of GreenPal (the “Uber for lawn care”), suggested shopping around before choosing a provider. “Using online services like GreenPal, LawnLove and LawnStarter to find lawn care can ensure that any homeowner is getting the best bang for their buck,” he said. “When homeowners list their lawn, they are getting quotes from several lawn pros. They are inevitably going to get bids from various lawn care professionals at the best rate.”

While deciding on a provider, consider using a cash back card when you seal the deal. A lot of credit cards have great cash back deals that can make the cost more bearable. Remember, many cash back cards require a decent credit score to reap those rewards. You can check two of your credit scores for free at Credit.com.

12. Prep for the Pro

Doing a little legwork before you bring in a landscape designer can save you time and money. “Prepare your ideas before meeting your prospective landscaper,” said Jenkins-Sutton. “Some companies offer free consultations, but it’s standard for others to charge. Offer as much detail as possible like printing or tearing out images of things you like from landscaping websites, magazines and books.”

Image: AleksandarNakic

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