Senior Resources » 9 Thrifty Gardening Hacks for Retirees Who Love to Play in the Dirt (that will save you HUNDREDS!)

9 Thrifty Gardening Hacks for Retirees Who Love to Play in the Dirt (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 in a garden center

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)!

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. Since there are countless species of plants this is possible with, you should always do your research first! When done carefully, this is an easy (and free!) way to get more greenery.


3. Take care of your tools.

gardening tools

This might feel like common sense, but even the greatest gardeners among us have said, “eh, I’ll clean them later,” after a long day in the sun. And, what does that leave you? Rusty tools. Proper upkeep on all of your tools – shears, shovels, snips, and yes, even lawnmowers, can save you hundreds, simply because you won’t need to run out and buy new ones!

4. Protect terracotta pots from frost.

terracotta pots

Terracotta pots are a staple in crafting, upcycling, and yep – growing greenery. It’s common to use them for plants both inside and outside. Unfortunately, Mother Nature isn’t always very nice to this type of planter. Terracotta pots are essentially unglazed clay. And, when left outdoors in the winter months, they can be subjected to their greatest enemy: snow. Terracotta pots subjected to lots of water (as opposed to the usual amounts you’d pour in there when taking care of its contents) can become waterlogged. Well, the pots and soil can become waterlogged. That’ll cause frost. And, this will lead to cracks in your pots and rotted roots. To protect your terracotta, either bring them inside for the winter or give them a blanket made out of bubble wrap. No, really! Bubble wrap is the perfect insulation for these planters. If you don’t have bubble wrap lying around,  old plastic bags filled with shredded paper or straw will do the trick.

5. Use your kitchen scraps as soil amendments.


According to the EPA, using soil amendments “restores soil quality by balancing pH, adding organic matter, increasing water holding capacity, re-establishing microbial communities, and alleviating compaction.” In other words: soil amendments are nutrients. And, like we humans need food, so does your plants’ soil. You probably already knew that. But, did you know you can feed your garden kitchen scraps? Ground-up eggshells or banana peels are wonderful, organic sources of nutrients. In fact, my husband adds coffee grounds to our houseplants – and they’ve never looked greener! But, make sure to do your homework before caffeinating all your plants as we do – some amendments work better than others depending on the plant species. Regardless, it’s undeniable that kitchen scraps are an easy and free way to get your soil fed.

6. Learn how to can the food you grow.

canned food from gardening

If you grow fruits and veggies in your garden, learn how to preserve them so they can be enjoyed both now and later. Canning may take some patience, but it will surely save you dollars and cents at the grocery store. And, besides, who doesn’t love homemade jam?


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

Who says you have to own the newest pruners and hand rakes out there? As long as they were taken care of properly (psst! Thrifty tip 3!), then who cares who used them first? If you are in the market for some gardening tools and want to save a few bucks, then look at garage sales, Facebook Marketplace, or even Craigslist before heading to our hardware store and paying twice the price!

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

If you’re looking for more thrifty tips, then check out these articles:

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Originally published April 04, 2023

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