Eight ways to a frugal vegetable plot

Thanks for all your comments this week about vegetable gardening. It’s been great to hear what you’re all up to and what you’re planning for your plots. As well as getting me all fired up and inspired for my own little L-plated veg plot this year – I’m a complete beginner but hoping to learn lots from my other half DJ – it got me thinking about ways to save money in the garden.


Among your comments, Christine made a valid point. Despite what you might read in the media, growing your own veg isn’t necessarily a frugal activity unless you put in place a few thrifty ground rules. It’s like any hobby – you can easily go to the nearest garden centre and spend a fortune on gardening-related paraphernalia: fancy wellies, books, plants, you name it. I even found an old-fashioned watering can for sale recently in one garden centre for £50!  Ouch!


So here are a few tips and suggestions I’ve gathered together for cultivating a frugal plot, either from friends who are gardeners, books and magazines I’ve read or ideas from your good selves over the past 18 months on the blog:


  1. Make your own compost. Buying compost from the garden centre can be expensive, especially if you decide to build raised beds. Build compost bins (ask your local building site if they have any spare pallets) or start off a simple compost heap. Add vegetable peelings, egg shells, teabags etc. but don’t add meat, dairy products, nappies, cooked potato or anything with woody stems. Don’t forget to turn it regularly.
  2. Save money on watering. In the summer watering your veg can prove very expensive. Install water butts and harness rain water to save cash. Be careful with young plants though as sometimes the bacteria in rain water can be harmful to them. Ask for second hand water butts on Freecycle or B&Q recently had a special offer on them. Water plants early in the morning and in the evening during hot months so the water takes longer to evaporate.
  3. Save your seeds! At the end of each season, collect the seeds from your produce, dry them on tissue paper and label them up ready for next year. Don’t forget you can also harvest seeds from some bought produce, such as tomatoes, peppers and chillis.
  4. Make friends with fellow gardeners and swap seeds, plants or produce. This is a great way to get new varieties for free as well as pool knowledge. We have swapped and received back courgette plants, tomato seeds and even a delicious jar of cranberry sauce once at Christmas. Contact your local horticultural society which may also organise seed swaps or sell cheap equipment.
  5. Don’t pay out for pots for young plants. Recycle what you have lying about – toilet roll inserts, egg boxes or even rolled up sheets of newspaper make good pots to grow seedlings in, or ice cream containers or plastic bottles with the tops cut off. Remember to add drainage holes though.  
  6. Plan what you need to grow. It’s tempting but don’t plant all your lettuce seeds at once, for example. My packet has over 4,000 seeds in it! Stagger your sowing so your produce isn’t all ready at the same time and think about how you’ll store excess veg (freezer, heeling in – putting in a trench -, root cellar etc.).
  7. Only grow veg you know you like and you’ll use! Sounds obvious doesn’t it, but it’s easy to get carried away when you find a gardening catalogue and order unusual varieties. If you haven’t eaten a vegetable before, buy some from the supermarket and see if you like it first before you plant the stuff and find you hate it and it goes to waste.
  8. Maximise your plants. Take cuttings in the autumn of fruit bushes such as gooseberries and raspberries – either of your own plants or ask friends if you can take some of theirs. Rhubarb crowns can also be divided every five or six years.


Got any more tips on how to garden frugally? Are you an expert thrifty gardener? Let me know by leaving a comment.


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8 Responses to Eight ways to a frugal vegetable plot

  1. Christine says:

    There\’s a smashing list of things to compost and not to compost at http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/organicgardening/compost_1.php – it\’s amazing how many things people don\’t think of using like newspaper and cardboard. Farmers in Bedfordshire used to use shoddy (waste cotton) when growing brassicas. So remember that if you have any worn out pure cotton sheets or clothes, you can add these to your compost heap. Also pure woollen worn out clothes. You do have to rip up and crumple the paper, rip up the cardboard (add both of these wet to the heap and mix in well) and you need to rip up cotton and woollen items (all tricks known to older allotment holders). You can also use "grey water" for watering the allotment. Collect bath water and washing up water if not too greasy. If you can put your water butt where you can run guttering into it, you will collect more water than if you just rely on the rain. My grandfather had his water butt collecting water out of gutters on his shed. Also be careful of collecting seeds from F1 hybrid seeds – they rarely germinate the next year and if they do will probably not grow what you expect at all. It will tell you on the seed packet if they are F1 seeds. That is a supplier\’s way of getting you to go back and buy more seeds from the specialists. You may find that your local gardeners association that runs the allotments locally has a collection of plant pots. Many associations allow people to join as members without being allotment holders and this allows you for a small annual sub to buy the seeds that their shops sell (as well as other fertilisers) at a cheaper rate than in the local garden centre. Keep an eye open for special offers on seeds at Wilkinsons if there is one near you – sometimes they have good offers on plants too. Lidl also do some special offers which can be good (at the prices, if they fail you are not out of pocket). If you can find a good gardening forum (for instance http://www.chat.allotment.org.uk/index.php or join Garden Organic at http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/index.php for advice, tips and training) you can often find answers to your questions from others who have been there, done it, made the mistakes and found their ways round things.

  2. Kerri says:

    Moving on a step further from frugal gardening… if you are growing your own produce, why not think about making some chutneys and preserves as presents for friends/family for Xmas etc. There are some easy recipies on the internet and you can smarten up jars easily with some cloth over the lid and ribbon.

  3. piper says:

    That\’s a great idea Kerri. DJ made some delicious green tomato chutney last year and we are still making our way through it. I didn\’t know you could add clothes to your compost heap, Christine, although I do add used kitchen roll and newspaper to it. Thanks for the tips. xxx

  4. Robert says:

    Always on the look out for a bargin a couple of years ago I found that Netto do packets of seeds for 19p. Both vegtable and annuals.We don\’t have trees in our garden but our garden is overshaddowed by 5 large ones. Unfortunatley we are in shade on the really nice sunny mornings but benefit from the leaves come the autumn as we compost upto 15 black bin bags worth. Good mulch for the garden

  5. Joyce says:

    One thing that I do that started as an accident was to use water that I had collected in my weeds bucket. I have a 20 litre bucket that I put the weeds in when I weed out my greenhouse. One day I forgot to toss it in my green bin and had left it out overnight. It rained and filled the bucket. The next time I went to use it, I used the water from the bucket. The weeds had started to rot so it was a little on the nasty side but my tomato plants loved it! So now that\’s what I do and once I\’ve used the water, I toss the rotted weeds in the compost pile. I have no waste! I fertilise with the nutrients from the weeds, and then the weeds compost and are used again in my green house.

  6. ecTuber.com says:


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