Splendour on a shoestring

We've got all the secrets to getting the garden of your dreams without spending a fortune

Water wise

Try these solutions for keeping your garden green without losing all the green in your bank account:

Where you can save

· Switch from sprinklers to soaker hoses, which use up to 60 per cent less water.
· Keep beds moist longer with mulch. Try wood chips, cocoa bean hulls or pea gravel.
· Water in the morning or evening. If you do it midday, as much as half of the water will evaporate before reaching plants’ roots.
· Save rainwater for your plants. Direct water from your eavestroughing and downspout into a covered rain barrel. Avoid using an open barrel, as mosquitoes may breed.

When you should splurge

· Opt for quality hoses, watering wands and cans. They cost more but will last much longer (see Top tools).
Top tools

Here’s how you can maximize your gardening budget by choosing high-quality tools. Look for:

· Garden hoses made of thick durable plastic with brass fittings at each end.
· Watering wands with sturdy brass on-off valves and metal water breakers. Avoid wands with plastic valves and breakers.
· Garden gloves made of spandex/nylon or lightweight leather, available at better garden centres, home centres or work clothing stores such as Mark’s Work Wearhouse. Cheap cotton gloves wear out quickly and don’t properly protect your hands.
Dirt cheap

Follow these tips and you’ll have the best dirt in town without digging deep into your wallet:

Where you can save

· Use do-it-yourself compost made from grass clippings, leaves and kitchen fruit and vegetable waste.
· Find out if your municipality has free or cheap compost and mulch available.
· Purchase wood chips, gravel and mulch by the cubic yard at garden and landscaping centres. You’ll pay up to 50 per cent less than you would for bagged materials.

When you should splurge

· Hire someone to dig that new bed or work a load of manure into an existing one—you can save your back and better use your time poring over plant catalogues and planning your garden’s design.
Grow zone

Here’s how to pack your beds with colour and variety at half the price:

Where you can save

· Choose smaller-sized perennials and flowering shrubs. Perennials in four-inch pots and shrubs in one-gallon pots usually cost 50 to 65 per cent less than full-grown ones, and will soon catch up in size.
· Shop for annuals in flats. They’re about 20 per cent cheaper than individual cells. Share with a friend.
· Buy roses bare root (without soil). Also, check mail-order catalogues or online suppliers in early spring or early fall. Prices can be 30 to 50 per cent lower than at your garden centre, and the selection is often wider.
· Grow annuals from seed. With at least 50 seeds per packet, you’ll get a lovely patch of plants for as little as $1.50. Try cosmos, larkspur, love-in-a-mist or hyacinth bean vine.
· Shop plant sales. Check with arboretums, botanical gardens, expert gardeners or fundraising community groups.
· Know your climate and conditions so you don’t buy plants that won’t thrive in your space.

When you should splurge

· Buy perennials. For about $8, you can buy a dozen annuals that will last one season or, for the same money, get one large or three small perennials that will return each spring. Grow-anywhere plants we like: Asiatic lily, hosta, shasta daisy, bearded iris, Siberian iris, daylily and peony.
· Shop at specialty nurseries. Plants may be pricier, but these shops provide expert advice and guarantees.
· Invest in a medium-size tree (up to 10 feet/three metres tall) for instant impact. These are easy to grow: Shade: red maple (Acer rubrum) Flowering: Siberian crabapple (Malus baccata), apple serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora) and ivory silk tree or Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata) Evergreen: Colorado spruce (Picea pungens) and concolor fir (Abies concolor) Specimen: flame Amur maple (Acer ginnala ‘Flame’) and weeping Nootka false cypress (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ‘Pendula’).

Here’s how to divide your perennials and double your blooms at no cost:

Divide these 10 plants for extra flower power:

1. Daylily (spring or early fall) 2. Aster (spring) 3. Heuchera (spring) 4. Astilbe (spring) 5. Bearded iris (August) 6. Campanula (spring or early fall) 7. Hosta (spring) 8. Perennial geranium (spring or early fall) 9. Rudbeckia (spring) 10. Yarrow (spring or early fall)

Add lushness to your garden by creating new plants from cuttings. Follow these four fail-safe steps: