How to plant an inexpensive, maintenance free garden

May 2, 2013

By Sheryl Smolkin

Once the snow finally melts and the first tender shoots of green grass poke through the mud, I can’t wait to see beds of beautiful flowers on my street. But a garden can be expensive to plant and maintain unless you know what you are doing.

To give you some tips about putting in an inexpensive, low maintenance garden, we talked to Jill Umpherville, the greenhouse manager and third-generation owner at Dutch Growers Garden Centre in Saskatoon. Here is what she told us.

  1. Do your research: Go to Pinterest and get inspired. Search gardening catalogues and the Internet. Figure out the direction your house faces so you know if it is sunny or shady and you can get plants that fit the area. Come to the garden centre with ideas so the staff knows how best to help you.
  2. When to plant: Don’t plant flowers in Saskatchewan until temperatures at night do not drop below five degrees for about a week. Before that, you may want to put flats of flowers out during the day and bring them in at night to harden them.
  3. Early flowers: Pansies are a cold tolerant plant that you can put in early. But they won’t survive nights where the temperature is below -10, so cover them or put them on a cart and bring them into your garage at night.
  4. First steps: If you want a neat looking flower bed, put in edging. Also add mulch. This will save you time, as beds with mulch don’t have to be weeded.
  5. Prepare the soil: If you live in an area with heavy clay make sure you have a nice base of topsoil. A triple mix of peat moss, top soil and a little bit of manure will provide the soil with nutrients.
  6. Get advice: Depending on your space, you probably need fewer shrubs and bedding plants than you think because they spread.
  7. Hanging baskets: If you have the space to start plants from seed it may be more economical to plant your own hanging baskets. However, with the short growing season in Saskatchewan, buying them already planted will give you instant colour that will last longer.
  8. Perennials: There are dozens of varieties of perennials that do not have to be replaced yearly. For example, Dutch Growers has over 40 varieties of hostas with colours ranging from a bright vibrant green to chartreuse. This plant typically flourishes in the shade. Day lilies are hardy flowering plants that bloom year after year.
  9. Annuals: Inexpensive tried and true annuals are colourful petunias, marigolds, lobelia and impatiens (shade).
  10. Getting value: Look for plants you can lift out of the pot with roots wrapped around the pot. This means the plants are well-rooted. Also look for a deep green colour in the leaves (unless it is a chartreuse plant). This shows the plant is not nutrient deficient. A flowering plant should have additional buds so you know it will bloom right away and all season long.

Are you on a tight budget? Whether you want to spend $25 for a pot of flowers for your condo or thousands to landscape a large property, Umpherville says everybody can have a garden. “Let people at the garden centre know what your budget is. They will help you work within it,” she says.

Sign up today, refer a friend or transfer funds from an RRSP to the SPP before May 21, 2013, and you could win a $500 Dutch growers gift card. You can find the full contest rules here.

Have you started planning your garden yet? Send an email to so*********@sa*********.com and share your ideas with us. If your story is posted, your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

9-May Mother’s day Mother’s day gifts for every budget
16-May Spring cleaning Cleaning your closets? What to do with stuff
23-May Budget How to set up a budget and why
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