My garden beds have all been prepared and I’m eager to fill them with lots of vegetables, herbs and fruit plants! I also want to fill up my ornamental gardens with more plants.
I could easily create plenty of waste if I were to order plants and seeds online or drive to garden centres and buy potted plants and packets of seeds, but I don’t do that.
I use more rewarding methods to get my plants, methods that continue the themes of reducing waste and the use of resources, as well as self-reliance, frugality, and building community connections, because in my mind, these are things that matter!
So how do I do it?
1. Buy bareroot
Bareroot plants are plants you can get with bare roots, that is, not in a pot. You can buy nearly all deciduous plants bareroot – everything from fruit trees to roses and ornamentals, and they’re available during winter when the deciduous plants are dormant. Bareroot trees often come with tags; I choose to keep these so that I don’t forget which varieties I have.
I actually spent a number of days this winter moving my fruit trees from the old house to our new house while they were dormant (originally purchased bareroot), so I haven’t spent any extra money or created any extra waste in establishing my orchard.
2. Propagate from cuttings
Propagating your own plants is a great way to get package free plants. One easy way for home gardeners to propagate plants is by taking cuttings. A cutting is a length of plant material taken from the plant to start a new plant. Many perennial herbs and shrubby plants will grow well from cuttings, for example I have grown mint and rosemary well.
You can propagate cuttings from the plants you already have in your garden, but if you are looking for new plants, simply ask friends, family or people in your neighbourhood if it would be okay to take some plant cuttings. They shouldn’t mind because you really don’t need a lot of plant material to get started.
3. Root division
Another easy way for home gardeners to propagate plants is by dividing clumps of plants by the roots. It works well for strappy-leaved plants like native grasses or plants which have multiple stems coming from the ground. Simply dig up the large parent plant, then cut through the roots and replant the separate pieces. Propagation by division does differ in timing for different plants so when you are becoming familiar with which plants can be divided, try to become more familiar with when it can be done too.
The previous owner of our garden left behind a rhubarb plant. I cut through the roots with a knife and now I have three rhubarb plants in a better position in the garden. Other plants that can be easily divided from parent plants include strawberry runners and raspberry suckers.
Again, you can multiply the number of plants you already have for free and without packaging, or you can get them from other home gardeners – we’re a generous bunch so just ask!
4. Let your plants go to seed
I deliberately let my plants go to seed so that I can collect seed for the next round of planting and so that I get lots of baby plants popping up in the garden without having done any work at all. You will have an abundance of seeds and plants just from doing this once with your best plants.
The great thing about collecting seed and propagating the best performing plants in your own garden (or neighbourhood) is that you will have plants specifically suited to your conditions and microclimate. This means they will be stronger and healthier and will require less work. Some seeds can also be eaten and many plants, including vegetables have large beautiful flowers which attract beneficial insects. You can store the dry seeds in jars or in paper envelops and bags. Don’t forget to label them and keep them in a cool, dry location.
Just did my final seed collection from the vegetable garden. These babies are all ready to move house with me and bloom in a new place. I'll be back in the garden at some stage to see what else can be moved. I think I'm also going to dig up my fruit trees in Winter. I've moved fruit trees before successfully but it was labour intensive! —- #seedcollecting #vegetablegarden #zerowaste #zerowastegarden #zerowastehome #zerowasteaustralia #jarporn #growwhatyoueat #eatwhatyougrow #seasonalfood #eatlocalgrown
5. Seek freebies and give freely
Hopefully after reading up to this point you will see how you can generate an abundance of plants – probably a lot me than you actually need. The best way to use this abundance is to share it! You could use your excess to start trading / swapping / bartering for plants you don’t have but would like.
How? There are heaps of options ranging from just talking to and sharing between friends and family, to joining a garden club or produce swap to make new friends, learn new skills and share excesses. You could start a sharing table at your workplace, playgroup, or community hub. Olive At Loch Cafe is one example.
You could join a seed swap group like South Gippsland Seed Swap and Save or your local ‘buy, swap, sell, give away’ group. Here are some Gippsland examples: Gippsland Swap and Sell Natural Produce, South Gippsland, Bass, and Surrounds Good Food Collective, Gippsland Community Produce Market Sale or Barter. If you know of others, go ahead and provide links to them in the comments.
I am constantly surprised at how many of my needs are met simply by asking through forums like this. But don’t expected great results every time, or to have your needs met immediately. Think ahead about what you require and start the search earlier than the day you want to plant plants!
6. Reuse and recycle
If you have to buy packaged plants, make sure the packaging can be reused and recycled, and don’t forget to take your own bags, boxes, or newspaper to carry them in.
Pots can often be returned to growers who will reuse them (they’ll appreciate the cost savings). If you can’t return them anywhere, trade them for plants or give them away on social media. As a last resort, put them in your recycling bin.
This will be the year I grow enough tomatoes to last all year! That's the plan anyway. Just picked these babies up from Cheryl at @yarragoncraftproducemarket but before I bought them I asked if I could return the pots and labels to be reused and she was more than happy to take them back so there will be no waste. Last year I got some seedlings from a friend's garden but I left transplanting them too long and only two survived. Amazingly those two plants have also survived Winter and even produced tiny fruit! Surely this not normal for tomatoes growing outdoors in Gippsland?
Similarly, when propagating your own plants, think about what can be reused, repurposed, recycled and composted. You don’t need to use new plastic pots and seedling trays, why not try:
- Direct sowing into the garden
- Egg shells as seedling pots
- Egg carton seedling trays
- Toilet roll plant pots
- Repurposed plastic containers, and
- Soil blocks
Feel free to share more ideas in the comments.
So, over to you. Have you found other ways to get package-free plants? You know I want to read about it, so please share in the comments. 🙂