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The dirty secret about gardening is, it's expensive. Ever think you'd pay for manure?!

Before you overspend on astilbes, here are some quick store-by-store tips on what to buy, where - and sometimes even when. From garden center to big box, asters to shovels, consider these tips and share your own.

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First, two general rules of green thumb. Bring a digital camera as you pre-shop to decide exactly what you want, where, and compare prices - way easier than a notepad. Then, be patient – very-end-of-season makes perennials, pots and furniture a steal.

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Fancy Specialty Garden Center
  • For major buys, like trees, due to their guarantees.

  • Window shop here to leverage the great service and advice, gratis.

  • Splurge on hard-to-find plants and pots, especially perennials.

  • Skip the rock and pavers here – overpriced.
  • Neighborhood Nursery

  • Older, smaller, unsexier nurseries are great for mulch and standard plants, like geraniums.
  • (Image credit: Apartment Therapy )
    The Big Box
  • Standard plants, pots and mulch on sale
  • Otherwise unexciting pot or container en masse for affordable impact
  • Check it: Martha Stewart for Kmart
  • Farmer’s Markets

  • Great for plants. Shop closing time for best bargaining power.
  • The Estate Sale

  • Shovels, shears, pots and other staples
  • Other

  • Anything can be a container if you drill a hole in the bottom

  • School and charity sales are great for annuals

  • Plants are tough – fearlessly divide, move and take from friends