4 Ways to Grow Plants for Free
If you’ve been at this gardening thing for any length of time, you know that it isn’t the cheapest hobby, and that the desire for new, exciting plants is strong. But, those gorgeous, expensive, plants at the nursery are not the only way to add new color and life to your garden. Seed saving has always been a huge part of gardening, but the free plants I’m talking about here are ones that do not come from your own gardening work.
Cuttings & Propagating
Many plants, like succulents, grapes, and berries, can be propagated through easy (i.e. not expensive or weirdly technical) ways. Succulents can be reproduced through pups (babies), cuttings, or even from a single leaf. Grapes and berries can be grown from cuttings.
To get cuttings or pups, join community online groups like NextDoor and Facebook to see people offering cuttings for free or ask. Someone trimming back an unruly grape vine or giant agave may not have realized anyone would want the cuttings. I sometimes see piles of plants folks leave at the base of their driveway just in case someone might want them. I have gotten several agaves and succulents this way. I have also just found broken pieces of succulent plants on the street. They break easily, so it is inevitable–and to your benefit!
Growing Succulents from cuttings instructions
Berry propagation instructions
Grapes from hardwood cuttings
From Your Food (that you didn’t grow yourself)
Some seed and plant companies recommend you do not use your food to grow your plants, but I’m a rebel and do it anyway. I have never looked back. The companies say that the plants you grow may have diseases or not grow true to seed, but the threats are not that extreme.
Some plants I have grown from my food include potatoes, borlotti beans, and pumpkins, but you could try popcorn, whole barley, tomatoes, celery, etc. You might get a dud pumpkin that wasn’t true to seed, but you might also get a huge harvest of purple potatoes. Garden experiments be are always fun. My next experiment will be growing a persimmon tree from seeds.
Grow Potatoes from Your Pantry
Local Seed & Plant Exchanges
If you join local garden clubs or online groups, you may get invited to seed exchanges in the spring, where you can ditch some seeds or plants that just don’t spark joy, and pick up some awesome free ones. I’ve found that people with the same hobby just want to help each other, usually with great generosity.
The Ecology Center in Berkeley Hosts an Annual Seed Swap
The Plant Exchange Oakland
Many local libraries have seed libraries within, where you can basically borrow a packet of seeds and use a bunch and return what’s left. You might even be able to donate your own unused seeds. There are also dedicated seed libraries in the area.
Bay Area Seed Interchange Library (BASIL) Project
Great list of local Seed Libraries