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Low-cost gardening ideas

December 06, 2008

Money is tight, and smart gardeners learn ways to expand their garden without expanding their budget.

Here are some ideas from HGTV (at www.hgtv.com).

o Buy plants that fit your climate and soil conditions. Balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) doesn't tolerate heat, humidity or poorly drained soils, so planting in the Deep South or in wet soils is a recipe for failure. Balloon flower is a long-lived garden stalwart for USDA Zones 3 to 8, which includes Maryland. Plant in well-drained soils.

o Take cuttings. If you love the coleus you already have, there's never a need to buy more. Simply take cuttings in the fall, pot up the new plants, keep them indoors by a window for the winter, and you'll have plenty of instant color for the garden after the last frost in spring. For more varieties, exchange cuttings with friends, neighbors or garden-club members.

o Take softwood and hardwood stem cuttings to propagate some of your favorite shrubs. The method and timing for woody-shrub cuttings depends on the variety. Softwood cuttings, dipped in rooting hormone, are usually successful.

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o Choose pest-resistant bulbs. Squirrels won't eat the so-called "tommies" - Crocus tommasinianus.

o Choose bulbs that multiply. Unlike most tulips, which tend to weaken every succeeding year, some bulbs just keep going, replicating themselves with no effort from the gardener. Plant a few dozen daffodils, and in five years, you're likely to have many more.

o Choose long-lived perennials. Plants like scabiosa, wallflower and hardy mums typically last only three to five years. Other perennials like blanket flower, columbine and coreopsis are equally short-lived but reseed freely. Still others live long and prosper; such garden stalwarts include bearded iris, daylily, hellebore, astilbe and bee balm. Peonies are extremely enduring, sometimes lasting for more than a century.

o Multiply your plants by dividing them. Some plants like daylilies, bearded iris, yarrow and ornamental grasses need to be divided every few years to reinvigorate them and to reduce overcrowding. What you'll gain for your efforts are new plants to expand your beds and to share with friends.

o Check when bulbs flower. When a particular perennial is best divided depends in large part on when they flower. Spring-blooming astilbe can be divided in fall or early spring.

o Wait until the plant is "resting." Bearded iris, for instance, is best divided about two months after it finishes flowering; many gardeners like to divide their irises in August.

- HGTV

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