I was at the store today, and wandered into the garen section to window shop and get ideas. I've found that there are almost always free or inexpensive ways to duplicate some of the cool ideas I find there. Far in the back of the outdoor plants were small pots of tomato seedlings. The pots were originally $2.50, but had been marked down to just under a dollar.
Imagining my frozen tomatoes from a couple weeks ago, I found myself leafing through the pots. Near the back there was a single small pot with three seedlings growing in it. I looked carefully at the pot for tell tale signs of problems: rootbound, plants too close together. It looked good, so I gently plied the plants and dirt out of the pot and gently looked it over. The plants weren't rootbound, and digging a little into the dirt easily separated the plants. I carefully tucked it all back in the pot and prepared to spend my next dollar on the garden.
I purchased the pot for $1.01, and brought it home, gently teased apart the roots and plants, and now I have three independent seedlings resting quietly in their own pots that cost only 33.66 cents each. It's more expensive than the original tomato seeds were, since they were free. But, it's much less expensive than I would have spent before.
Each plant costs three times less than it would if I'd bought it on sale at $1 per pot, and seven times less than if I'd paid $2.50 per pot. In about two weeks the plants will be the large size, which I could have purchased for $3.50 each, or ten times more.
There is little more delicious than a fresh-picked tomato, so I'm excited to have plants again. I'm treating them gently as they nestle into their new soil and their roots recover from my unentangling.