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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.).
- 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.
- 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.