Senior Resources » 9 Thrifty Gardening Hacks for Retirees That Will Save You HUNDREDS

9 Thrifty Gardening Hacks for Retirees That Will Save You HUNDREDS

thrifty gardening concept

For many, gardening isn’t just a hobby – it’s a lifestyle! As such, it can be easy to get carried away and spend a little too much on things like tools, planters, and fencing. Of course, it’s fun to have the latest and greatest equipment, and gratifying to see your hard work come to fruition! But, let’s get real – with the prices of just about everything going way up recently, it won’t be long until all of our favorite things become too expensive to really enjoy. But, that’s why we’ve put together these thrifty tips! Read on for our favorite gardening hacks so you can keep on growing.


1. Snag discarded pots from garden centers.

discarded pots

Have you ever been to your local garden center or Home Depot and noticed a huge pile of dirty, discarded pots somewhere in the store? They’re not lying around by mistake. The stores save used or damaged pots to recycle! Next time you come across one of those big piles, take a moment to look through them and see what you like. Most stores will just give them away (of course, you should ask first)!

Garden centers and home improvement stores often accumulate a surplus of used plant pots over time. Rather than throwing these pots away, many stores will collect and save them for recycling or reuse. Oftentimes the pots are dirty or have minor damage, but they can still function perfectly fine for plants. The next time you see a pile of old pots at one of these stores, dig through it to find hidden treasures! With permission from the store, you may be able to take home some great pots for free. Repurposing and recycling help reduce unnecessary waste.


2. Propagate plants when you can.

propagated plants sitting in the sun

Propagating is when you take part of a plant to make a whole new plant. There are a lot of indoor and outdoor plants you can do this with! The most common way to propagate is by cutting a piece off at the stem, then placing it in water until roots begin to grow. Once roots are visible, you can transfer your plant to a pot with soil.

There are so many different plants out there, and they all have their unique ways of propagating. So, before you get started, it’s a good idea to look up what your specific plant needs. When you do it right, plant propagation can be an easy and affordable way to make your plant family bigger. Plus, it’s a great way to explore the world of gardening and watch new life sprout from your plant clippings.

3. Take care of your tools.

gardening tools

Maintaining your gardening tools might seem like a no-brainer, but even the most experienced gardeners can sometimes overlook this crucial aspect. It’s not uncommon for someone to finish a day of hard work in the garden, tired and sweaty, and decide to postpone cleaning and caring for their tools until later. However, this delay can lead to a common problem faced by many gardeners: rusty tools. These might include your trusty shears, essential shovels, handy snips, and even the reliable lawnmower. The consequences of neglecting proper tool upkeep can quickly add up in terms of costs. If you continuously let your tools deteriorate, you’ll eventually find yourself constantly replacing them, and that can quickly add up to hundreds of dollars over time.

Taking a little time to clean and maintain your gardening tools can pay off significantly in the long run. It not only saves you money by preventing the need for frequent tool replacements but also ensures that your equipment remains in top working condition. By keeping your tools clean, sharp, and rust-free, you’re extending their lifespan and making your gardening tasks more efficient and enjoyable. So, the next time you’re tempted to put off tool maintenance for later, remember that a little care and attention today can save you both money and frustration down the road.


4. Protect terracotta pots from frost.


Terracotta pots are versatile and popular choices for various gardening activities, whether it’s creating beautiful crafts, upcycling projects, or nurturing plants both indoors and outdoors. However, these unglazed clay pots, while beloved for their natural and rustic charm, can face a formidable adversary when left exposed to the elements during the harsh winter months: snow.

Terracotta pots are porous, which means they can soak up water readily, especially when subjected to the significant amounts of snow and rain that winter often brings. This water absorption can lead to waterlogging, where both the pot and the soil within it become saturated with moisture. As temperatures drop, the trapped water can freeze, causing the water within the terracotta to expand, and this can result in the pots developing unsightly cracks. What’s more, if the soil remains waterlogged, the plant’s roots can rot, potentially harming or even killing your beloved greenery.

To safeguard your terracotta pots from these wintertime woes, it’s a good idea to take preventative measures. You have a couple of options: either bring your terracotta pots indoors for the winter, where they can stay cozy and dry, or provide them with some insulation if they must remain outside. Surprisingly, bubble wrap can come to the rescue as an effective insulator for your terracotta planters. Wrapping your pots with bubble wrap provides an extra layer of protection against the cold, helping to prevent the freezing and cracking of the pots and maintaining a more stable environment for your plants. If bubble wrap isn’t readily available, you can also use old plastic bags filled with shredded paper or straw as makeshift insulation, offering your cherished terracotta pots the warmth and protection they need to thrive throughout the winter season.

5. Use your kitchen scraps as soil amendments.


Soil amendments play help maintain and enhance the quality of your soil, and the EPA emphasizes their significance in this regard! These amendments are essentially like the nutrients that our bodies require to stay healthy. Just as we need a balanced diet, your plants’ soil needs the right mix of elements to flourish. Soil amendments come to the rescue by balancing the soil’s pH, infusing it with organic matter, improving water retention capabilities, revitalizing microbial communities, and alleviating compaction issues. In simpler terms, they act as the nourishment for your garden, ensuring that your plants receive the essential building blocks for robust growth.


You might be familiar with the idea of providing proper nutrition to your plants, but here’s a delightful twist: you can actually feed your garden using kitchen scraps. Think about it – ground-up eggshells or banana peels aren’t just waste; they’re fantastic organic sources of essential nutrients for your soil. For instance, coffee grounds have proven to be a favorite among some gardeners, producing lush and vibrant houseplants. It’s worth noting, though, that not all kitchen scraps are suitable for every plant species, so a bit of research might be necessary to match the right amendments with your particular plants. Nevertheless, there’s no denying that utilizing kitchen scraps is a straightforward and cost-effective approach to nourishing your soil, and it exemplifies how sustainability can start right in your own kitchen.

6. Learn how to preserve the food you grow.

canned food from gardening

Growing your own fruits and vegetables in your garden is a rewarding endeavor, but what makes it even more gratifying is being able to enjoy the bounty of your harvest not only in the present but also in the future. Learning the art of preservation can be a game-changer for any gardener. While it may require a bit of patience and effort, the dividends are not only the delicious taste of homegrown produce but also substantial savings at the grocery store.

The process of canning, for instance, allows you to seal the freshness and flavors of your garden’s treasures in jars, ensuring that you have a supply of tasty and nutritious options well beyond the growing season. And let’s not forget the joy of opening a jar of homemade jam on a cold winter morning; it’s like capturing the essence of summer in a little glass jar!

The financial benefits of preserving your garden’s produce extend beyond just the satisfaction of enjoying your homegrown goods. By canning or otherwise preserving your fruits and vegetables, you reduce the need to purchase these items from the store, helping you save hard-earned dollars and cents. It’s not just about self-sufficiency; it’s also a sustainable approach that reduces food waste and promotes a deeper connection with what you eat. So, whether you’re canning, freezing, or dehydrating your garden’s treasures, the effort you put into preserving your harvest is an investment in both your wallet and your well-being, with the added bonus of savoring the flavors of your garden throughout the year.

7. Get friendly with other gardeners.

three older women gardening outside together

If you don’t already have a buddy or two who also enjoys playing in the dirt, then join a Facebook group or check out your local community center for gardening clubs. The people that you meet can swap seeds and their sowing secrets with you! You could also even propagate from a friend’s plant.

8. Buy used gardening tools.

gardening shovel

You don’t always need to have the shiniest, brand-new pruners or the latest hand rakes to get the job done. Well-maintained, second-hand tools can be just as effective and might even come with a bit of history and character. The important thing is that these tools have been cared for properly, ensuring that they’re still in good working condition. After all, it’s not about who used them first, but how well they serve you in cultivating a thriving garden. So, don’t hesitate to explore the thrifty side of gardening by considering the tools that others no longer need.

If you’re in the market for some gardening equipment and want to save a few bucks, there are numerous avenues to explore before heading to your local hardware store and paying top dollar for new tools. Garage sales, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist are excellent places to scout for pre-loved gardening tools. You’d be surprised at the quality and variety of gardening equipment you can find at these sources, often at a fraction of the cost of brand-new items. By taking this more budget-friendly approach, you not only save money but also contribute to recycling and reducing waste, making your gardening endeavors not only thrifty but eco-friendly as well. So, next time you’re looking to add to your gardening tool collection, consider the treasure trove of options available in the second-hand market.

9. Use rainwater.

rain barrels

Collect rainwater for watering your plants and garden. You can easily go online and buy a rain barrel. A decent (and pretty) one will range anywhere from $100 to $250. It’s an upfront cost, but in the long run, it will save you hundreds by not needing to use your hose! If buying a rain barrel isn’t an option right now, you could also make one yourself. Here’s a tutorial from Better Homes and Gardens on how to turn a garbage can into a rain barrel.


Looking for more Thrifty Tips?

thrifty gardening concept photo

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Originally published April 24, 2024


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