4 Ways to Get Cheap or Free Flower Gardening Supplies

Save Money on Compost, Mulch, and Planting Materials

It’s fun to buy the latest gadgets and new plant introductions for the flower garden, but sometimes our green thumbs are bigger than our wallets. Discover four ways to satisfy your need to expand your flower gardens for little or no money.

  • 01 of 04

    Free Plants and Seeds

    Close-up of someone's palm with freshly harvested flower seeds
    Katja Kircher/Maskot/Getty Images

    Flower gardeners are a generous bunch, and most people love to share their plant and seed materials with other gardeners, especially ones who are new to the fold. There are several ways you can get hooked up with plant or seed swaps to find free flowers to start your garden:

    • Check with local or regional botanical gardens which often host annual plant swaps
    • Join an online flower gardening forum, where members connect to share seeds
    • Become a member of a flower club, and gain access to unusual varieties of your favorite flower

    If you can't find like-minded flower gardeners with extra seeds or plants, learn to save flower seeds and start new perennials from cuttings, divisions, or layering. 

  • 02 of 04

    Free Compost

    A sign that says compost
    Kirsty Hall / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    Many homeowners haven’t discovered the joys of composting yet, which is unfortunate for them but can be beneficial for you. When these homeowners bag their grass clippings and yard waste for the trash service to haul away, the city may turn this raw material into compost at your local municipal yard waste facility. Bring your shovel and some buckets; because this free garden fertilizer is self-serve.

    Use your compost at planting time to help flowers settle in quickly, as it improves drainage, normalizes soil pH, and introduces beneficial microorganisms to nourish the soil. In established gardens, use compost as mulch to suppress weed growth and increase earthworm activity. 

  • 03 of 04

    Free Mulch

    A mulch pile in front of a garage
    Scot Hacker / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    Have you ever noticed a utility truck lifting a worker in a cherry picker up into the trees, allowing him to cut branches that threaten power lines? After all the trimming is done, the worker feeds these branches into a chipper, and then the company may have to pay a fee to dump these chips at the city’s waste management facility. Landscape companies and arborists face similar dilemmas when removing dead or nuisance trees from homeowners’ gardens.

    In many cities, you can ask these companies to dump their wood chips on your driveway, where you can use them as free mulch for your flowerbeds. There are a few caveats to be aware of here:

    • This mulch isn’t the pretty stuff; it may contain thorns and greenery (which will break down over time).
    • Uncomposted wood chips may attract wasps or ants.
    • You must wear elbow-length gloves to avoid potential contact with poison ivy.

    These are temporary challenges, and it's worth it to keep a three-inch layer of mulch on your flowers to prevent moisture loss and minimize soil temperature extremes. 

  • 04 of 04

    Free and Cheap Garden Supplies

    A collection of unused terracotta pots
    Corey Harmon / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    Estate sales are a fun way to get a peek into the way some people live their lives, and they are an opportunity for collectors and hobbyists to pay a dime on the dollar for gently used items. You will commonly find all kinds of flower gardening items at estate sales. After all, every homeowner needs a few basic tools to maintain his plot of land, and these are sold when the estate is liquidated.

    Even if you don’t need another shovel or pair of pruning shears, look for unique pottery items, gardening books, and even live potted plants. If you’re lucky, you’ll hit the sale of an avid flower gardener and pick up a cold frame or potting bench. Go early on the first day of the sale to snatch up hot items that sell quickly, and go on the last day of the sale for the 50% off specials. You may never pay full price again.

    If you strike out at garage sales, try your hand at making simple flower garden helpers like a seed dibber made from the sharpened handle of a broken trowel, which will create quick holes for transplants and seeds.

    Another helpful tool easy to make from leftover materials is the compost screen, which sifts chunks from finished compost to yield a fine material suitable for starting seeds. Make this sieve by attaching a piece of 1/16 inch plastic or metal mesh to a wooden frame. By using this sieve to screen compost, flower gardeners save even more money by avoiding expensive seed starting the potting mix. Don't discard chunks from the sieve unless they are rocks; toss uncomposted roots and stems back into the compost bin.