Stealing ... And a Few Non-Illegal Ways to Plant a Garden

fall gardening
Divide those rudbeckia!
Have your plant catalogs started arriving yet? Mine sure have. And in the next few weeks, you’ll start to notice that local nurseries and plant sellers are stocking up -- and prominently displaying -- fall plants.

There will be the usual annuals. And the bulb bins, which are look-but-don’t-touch for me. If I get my hands into those, I’m instantly transformed into Augustus Gloop, diving into the bin, rubbing bulbs and dirt all over myself, and eventually being sucked up into that tube for clean … oh wait … Lowe’s doesn’t have those.

Nope, I look but I don’t touch. Same with the catalogs. I use them for inspiration -- for color, height, shape -- because I can’t afford that award-winning, ultra-rare dahlia, but I might be able to find something close for FREE.

In fact, in the fall, I plant my spring garden for almost nothing.

Want to know how I do it?


Beg -- You know how apartment complexes change out their plantings every few months? Well, those pansies that are being thrown out have found great homes in my fall garden. And the geraniums winter over inside the house. The crew are usually more than happy to let me help myself to plants (though I usually get at least a few quizzical looks). This is usually how I fill in with annuals in fall -- the rest of my garden is made up of perennials that are already planned to bloom in fall.

Borrow -- My mom, stepmom, and countless neighbors all have wonderful gardens -- full of plants that need splitting or seeds that need collecting. From lilies to hosta to rudbeckia, even lilacs and butterfly bushes, they graciously allow me to borrow from their gardens. All of those, and I borrow from myself, dividing and replanting everything I can.

Steal -- I steal. I totally steal ... Elephant ears in a ditch on the side of the road. Wild lilies edging the forest. A unique fern. I’ll go out with my shovel and bring home a few specimens. And if I happen to spot a compost pile (or trash heap behind Lowe’s) with a few plants laying on top, well ... they were trash anyway, right?

One caveat: Do not dig up plants from state parks or from other protected areas. Those plants are protected for a reason, and you don’t want to disrupt the ecosystem by digging them out.


Image via Megan Van Schaick/Silver and Chalk

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