The Tightwad Gardener

That’s me, the tightwad gardener. It’s not that I don’t spend some treasure on plants and garden stuff, because I do. It’s that the garden is of a size and diversity now after eleven plus years of blood, sweat, tears and broken fingernails that there are other options besides buying when it comes to adding to the zoo or sprucing up the hardscape. (Above shot taken May 1, 2011.)

Use, reuse and reuse again and again and again can be spoken of rocks and stones. The original stone purchase for the front facade of the addition, read about it here, yielded mass quantities of overages due to my husband, The Financier’s calculations. In truth, we both agreed that too much stone was better than not enough. Many were used for the rebuilding of the pond for the umpteenth time. Many were taken away to the North Carolina garden of offspring Brokenbeat for use in his own pond contruction. The rest have been used to build and rebuild walls to shore up eroding soil from our steep slope, give protection to container plantings and newly disturbed beds against the devil digging squirrels and to edge the boundaries of pathways. (Above shot of the pond taken March 29, 2011.)

Extra bits of wood and metal, some found on the property under decades of unrestricted Japanese privet and honeysuckle growth gone wild, after it was hacked back, have been recycled and upcycled and whatever the latest buzzword for tightwadedness is now, for art and function. As needs change, plants grow, new projects ideas are hatched then executed, these bits are drafted into action. Leftover wood is especially valued and the raised box planter made entirely by me from extra lengths of deck boards from the garage deck redo has been a fine area for planting those tricky ones such as Dahlias and Eremurus. (Above shot, taken October 24, 2011 showing Dahlia ‘Gallery Cobra’ and the leftover cinder blocks from the garage construction.)

August 24, 2009 062 (2)
Metal reinforcing wire leftover from the paving of the driveway has been shaped into good sized tomato cages, fences around the veggie patch to keep out marauding critters when covered with plastic rabbit fence, along with providing support for bean and pea seedlings to reach for the sky. I did have to buy a special cutting tool to snip the heavy gauge wire, but that has been used so many times it has more than paid for the initial investment. Besides, tools last forever. (Above shot taken August 24, 2009.)

May 26, 2010

Even if they break, the good metal parts can be fashioned into um, interesting art. Sort of. If only we could weld. There was an old rusted out wheelbarrow found on the property, at the back edge where many of these prized bits of scrap were found, along with a pile of broken bricks that made perfect edgers. One of our own old wheelbarrows also rusted out and both of these have been made into planters with good results.

Several volumes could be written about the use and reuse of found objects here, but let’s move onward to my favorite topic, plants! Looking around the garden, there is hardly a plant that has not been divided and spread. Except for trees and some shrubs, the effort was at least made to make more of them. We have learned from experience to allow a new purchase to settle in for a season before attacking it with the hori hori, shovel or folding saw. And let us not forget about the joy and wonder of seeds! Look at those stacks of flapjack seeds and multiply that times the fifty or so blooms to get the feel for my tightwad elation. Each pod was squeezed and sprinkled in the area last year. Hopes remain high for babies. (Above shot, May 5, 2011 of Salvia ‘Caradonna’ and a fecund seedhead of Fritillaria meleagris.)

At the moment, bulbs are being screened for possible division. When I see the crocus blooming so abundantly, (above shot taken January 23, 2012), for one single second I do think, oh how pretty. But immediately afterwards, the hori hori comes out and these babies are divided and spread. A large overgrown clump can yield dozens of small ones that given enough time, will grow to become clumps of their own. Timing is everything in this endeavor, with the cool moist earth of late winter being the most welcoming to the freshly dugs. No watering necessary. See the post about dividing daffodils that was written last year here, or the year before’s post about lily bulblets here to see how it’s done.

There could be so much more written on this topic, it will be added to the list of categories. Older posts that qualify will have this category added to them, as well. Maybe I will make a page of tightwadedness. I am a font of tightwad ideas. The page is up and running, click here-Tightwad Gardening or on the sidebar list of pages to see it. (Above shot, taken March 2, 2011 shows germinated Allium christophii babies from saved seeds, hidden under a broken rake head and a saved plastic flat with leftover wooden finials on each side. Do you see what I see? A future mass planting of Allium blooms.)


ps, Happy Birthday, dear Brokenbeat! ♥

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16 Responses to The Tightwad Gardener

  1. Carol says:

    Good ideas, Frances. A penny saved is a penny that can be used elsewhere in the garden.

    Thanks Carol. So true, that. Saving pennies comes naturally to me, and gardening is the perfect place to practice the art of tightedness!

  2. Meta says:

    Frances, I was pleased to see your old, rusted out wheelbarrow put to good use. I have two of them that I call my nursery barrows. I stick any cuttings of plants in it that I want to propogate and then transplant them when big enough.
    I have “created” many plants that way. The garden soil came from my compost bins.

    I love reading your blog.

    Thanks Meta, for those kind words. I do appreciate your readership! Wheelbarrows made the best planters, they are just the right height for gardening without having to bend over too much and the size makes the plants so happy. I love your use of them for propagation!

  3. Robin Ripley says:

    You could learn to weld! We would cheer you on!

    Thanks Robin! Maybe someday. I do love metal. HA

  4. michaele says:

    Great topic upon which you can’t write enough as far as this reader is concerned. I am especially interested to read about your bulb dividing timing and technique so I’m off to click on the links. Thanks.

    Glad to hear it, Micheale. The weather this year has been so much nicer to be able to divide the bulbs and have them still bloom and stand up tall with all the rain and warmth. It is not always so pleasant, but I get out there anyway. I do believe bulbs are the number one easiest plant to divide. Have some fun out there!

  5. commonweeder says:

    I was just considering how to use a useless birdbath (a gift that is too shallow) into a container for succulents. We try to recycle everything at our house.

    All you need is some holes, Pat, and there you go for the recycled succulent planter. Succulents are so forgiving. I plan to use more of them in containers this year. Wish that some of the prettier ones were hardy here, but will consider them as annuals if they aren’t.

  6. Would love to see you do that page of tightwadedness. I need more ideas for my personal use. –Mizz Chairman

    Hi Mizz Chairman, great name!, thanks for your support. I am working on the page now, it will be up shortly, or whenever I get it done, whichever comes first.

  7. Valerie says:

    I second your ideas for reusing, reseeding and recycling. Save some money where you can and then you can purchase a new plant when you find something you want to add to your garden. V

    Thanks Valerie. That is the point of tightwadedness. Save some pennies in one area to spend when you need to for plants, etc. It works when you are on a budget, especially well. X number of dollars available equals beans for dinner and money for bulbs!

  8. The key is to know when to be a tightwad and when to splurge. I know you spend money on art for the garden (which I approve of). I love that you approach gardening creatively, with a gleeful spirit.

    How sweet of you to say, Kathy, thank you! I save to spend, yes. Being creative becomes a matter of necessity when trying to save money, whether in planning meals or dividing clumps of daffodils.

  9. Denise Carlin says:

    Really great ideas! I too have walked into the tightwadedness zone in my gardens. After all, isn’t this the age of recycling? When I go to our recycling center and look into the metal dumpster, I just want to climb in, though, haven’t yet. I see so many things that I could use in my gardens! I get so many ideas just looking at the stuff people have thrown away. I have even “rescued” a few things before someone throws them away. I am always on the alert for things at thrift stores, yard sales, and flea markets.
    Thanks for your great ideas! Denise

    Thanks for visiting, Denise, you sound like a woman after my own tightwad heart. Nothing is safe from being considered to use in a different way, especially if it is free! We have a metal salvage yard here that sells stuff by the pound. I try not to go there too often, until I learn how to weld, anyway.

  10. F, I think of you as resourceful. You see beauty where others see trash. Once you put your magic touch on something, it becomes art. Keep it up girl…keep making magic.

    You are too kind, Helen, thanks so much for your support!

  11. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    This is a great topic. I love the tighwaddedness of people. Their gardens look so inviting, so lived in. To my eyes this is being creative.

    Thanks Lisa. You will enjoy my garden, then. It is certainly lived in and looks it!

  12. nuttygnome says:

    I didn’t realise that Tightwad was an expression used anywhere but in the UK! 🙂
    Gorgeous photos – you and Himself would get on so well together as he can’t bear to part with anything that might come in useful either! I’m slightly more choosy than he is, but still love recycling and reusing stuff!
    What’s a horihori please?!

    Hi Liz, I like the sound of Himself, we would get along famously, although we might run out of space to keep our rainy day supply of stuff that might be useful in the future. A hori hori is a Japanese gardening knife, about a foot long with one side of the blade serrated for sawing stubborn rootballs. I lost my first one while laying mulch over newspapers, it might turn up some day when the mulch breaks down. But I couldn’t wait that long so had to get a replacement. It is my go to for dividing and replanting smaller stuff.

  13. sandy lawrence says:

    I always enjoy your posts. Today was special for me with the magic of fog, which I love, and conversation on re-purposing, metal objects, and mountain music. I was ready to hop a plane for Tennessee and share a pot of tea and ideas!

    I have a junk shop zinc bathtub on iron claw feet from the 1800’s that I want to make into a water garden. I have to line it with pond liner. Any ideas on fish-safe glue I can use to secure the liner? Anybody done this before?
    Thanks for your truly Fairegarden. (Lucky fairies!)

    Thanks for those kind words, Sandy. Lucky you with that bathtub! I would check with a pond supply place about the glue and anything else you might need for your watergarden. Or maybe ask on facebook. Good luck with this, we are truly both lucky gals.

    • Riverdragon says:

      Aquarium silicone would be a good option. It’s designed to be fish-safe and flexible after it’s set, and if you ever need to remove it a razor blade will do the job. I’ve used it when making fountains to attach tubing, and the fish didn’t mind at all. By now you’ve probably already decided what to use, though! I just discovered this awesome blog, so I guess I’m late to the party. 🙂

  14. Rose says:

    I was mesmerized by the first few photos, Frances–so beautiful! But then you had me chuckling–I guess I’m a tightwad, too. Everything I’ve learned, though, came from my mother who was into recycling and “going green” before it was cool or the latest populist movement. She called it not being wasteful:) A page on tightwadedness sounds like a great idea!

    Thanks Rose. I consider being a tightwad to be a very good thing, welcome to the club! My family was frugal, too, living through depression and WW II shortages. The page has been created with several pertinent posted listed under the title of Tightwad Gardening.

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