The new gardening catalogs should be arriving in mailboxes nationwide this month. Filled with colorful photos of flowers and plants, seed packets, tools, supplies and outdoor accessories, they are the stuff gardening shopaholics dream about. • Enjoy it if you're one of the lucky ones who is able to order to your heart's content. For the rest of us, who are probably tightening our belts in these economic times, we'll just dream about Logee's 2009 dwarf angel's trumpet for $29.95, Felco's $50 bypass pruners and Smith & Hawken's $149 copper hose pot. • The downturn may be taking its toll on your wallet, but it doesn't have to curtail your gardening purchases if you think outside the box (or flower pot). There are creative ways to save money on plants and supplies if you shop less conventional sources than the garden retailer or glossy catalog. • Thrifty shoppers know all about yard sales, discount stores and thrift shops, where you can find plenty of gardening items for pennies on the dollar.
One source of gardening deals is the classified advertising section in newspapers such as this one. Many shoppers turn to online versions from newspapers along with other Internet classified services.
"It's unbelievable what I've been able to find and sell," says Mike Sawoscinski, owner of Cheapskates Landscaping in Hudson who is selling some of his palms for $1 and starter plants for 10 cents.
"The market has dropped to nothing by now. Rather than letting it die on me I want to sell it," he says of the hundreds of plants left over from landscape jobs that now sit at his small nursery. "If you go to a retail nursery, it would cost you $50, and I'll just sell it for $10. It's really a liquidation of plants." Contact Sawoscinski at (727) 856-2833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Similar deals available online from landscape nurseries offer trees, shrubs and plants at huge discounts — 25-gallon live oaks for $50, 20-gallon ligustrum trees for $35, 4-gallon fishtail palms for $4 and 1-gallon Washingtonian palms for $1.
A deal you can dig
Homeowners, too, are peddling their plants, including a Tampa Bay area homeowner who is offering up every plant in the front, side and back yard for cheap. The catch? You've got to do the digging and haul it all out yourself. For the right price, you'll transform your own yard with more than 50 individual plants, including 20-foot-tall birds of paradise, palms, a viburnum hedge, Japanese boxwoods and Indian hawthorn shrubs.
You can also trade items or barter services for gardening. If you're willing to cut the lawn, edge and run a weed trimmer for a homeowner in Lutz, you'll get an almost new weed trimmer and gas can for free. In St. Petersburg, Dennis Marten will mow your lawn in exchange for a push lawn mower, blower or trimmer. Marten started a lawn service last year and is trying to accumulate extra equipment. So far he has gotten a mower and weed trimmer, plus some new regular customers.
"I've been trying to get this business going, but there's not enough work," notes Marten, who hopes his trade-for-service approach will help build his customer base. You can reach him at (727) 331-4524.
There are freebies, too, from used equipment that needs a good home to mulch, soil and horse manure for the garden. Lisa Yates, owner of L & S Stable in Odessa, has shared free horse manure with many home gardeners and school groups who fill plastic tubs and trash cans with the organic stuff. She even provides instructions on composting. You can reach her at (727) 785-1266.
"Even families come out," says Yates. "If they are going to have a home garden, they bring the kids out. They're all shoveling."
Yvonne Swanson is a writer and Pinellas County master gardener. Contact her at email@example.com.