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banish the balcony blues big plans for small gardens by Sarah Goldstein | 1 2 3 4 5 6
continued from page 3

plants for free
Now that you know where to put your soon-to-be garden, you'll need some plants, and you probably don't want to spend a lot of money. There are reject plants all over the place if you know where to look, and they've usually been so neglected that some new soil, a splash of water and a drop of fertiliser make them feel incredibly pampered -- just what you want if your gardening skills are still, erm, developing. So where to find these free plants?

  • Compost. Seriously some great food plants have come up in my compost. For example, some tomato seedlings popped up a few months ago and are now over a metre tall. They haven't flowered yet, let alone fruited, but they smell amazing. Plus there's great snob value in showing off an herb garden complete with tomatoes.
  • Food scraps. One step before compost, is fresh off-cuts from the kitchen. My latest discovery: you can eat most of a scallion (spring onion), plant the bottom 10cm in the garden (i.e. the bit with the roots), and in a couple of weeks there's a whole new scallion. Genius! They just grow all by themselves, clever plants.
  • The side of the road. No, I'm not suggesting you pull plants out of other people's gardens. But when a horribly neglected houseplant sits amongst a pile of junk, there's a hardy new addition to your garden, just waiting to be taken home. Unless it's ugly, in which case, off to landfill it goes!
  • Around apartment buildings. For some bizarre reason, many discarded plants end up sitting around apartment buildings, waiting to die in their too-small pots. Obviously not all plants around apartments are abandoned, but when a friend in the block assures you that the plant has been all alone for all the years they've lived there, it's pretty safe to adopt it.
  • Freecycle. This is the coolest thing on earth: people giving away their old junk to others who desperately need exactly that thing. I've given away furniture, computer bits, lamps and a bunch of other stuff, and gained a 1.5m variegated ficus for my front yard, bush rocks for all the garden beds and a few non-plant things too. And they were all free!
  • Friends and family. There are a whole bunch of reasons your friends and family might contribute to your garden, none of which involve blackmail or theft. If anyone you know is an avid gardener, they may be thrilled to share their hobby with you. Ask them nicely to strike a cutting of one of their plants and see what happens! Alternatively, if you hear that someone's leaving town, see if they intend to take their plants with them. I've got a bunch of plants on loan from backpacking friends, and a couple more from people who've moved away. Or if you'd like something specific, mention it next time someone asks what you'd like for your birthday / Christmas / engagement present.

walk this way...


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