Saving money in the vegetable garden

Yesterday I had some very special visitors. BBC Radio Essex rolled up here with their outside broadcast van to broadcast live from our back garden on the Dave Monk Show, which was very exciting. A local pick-your-own-fruit outlet in Brentwood is sadly shutting down and so they were following the story around Essex to find out whether local people are interested in growing their own fruit and veg. They asked if they could come here to take a look at our vegetable garden and meet the chickens.

The reporter Marianne Bradley was very enthusiastic as she is a keen gardener and also keeps hens. “Now, that’s a buff Orpington hen, isn’t it?” she exclaimed as soon as she stepped outside the back door and spotted Marmalade, our pet chicken. I was pretty impressed by Marianne’s identification skills, I have to say. Jodie, who was on work experience and was helping Marianne, marvelled at how large Marmalade is, which happens a lot when we have visitors. Poor Marmalade!

I gave them a guided tour of the garden – I tried to get DJ downstairs to bask in the glory but he shied away from the limelight – and talked about how DJ likes to grow veg in the flower borders to make the most of the space. If you want to hear the interview, you can listen again here for the next few days – it’s about 2:44 into the show.

Marianne, who is herself saddled with 15 courgette plants this year, asked me what were the most effective things to grow in the garden, in terms of getting the most bang for your buck. I said I thought growing garlic was one way of doing so. We are now self-sufficient in garlic thanks to DJ’s efforts. Personally I think growing things that are expensive to buy or hard to find in the supermarket is a good idea, or varieties that aren’t popularly sold because they don’t keep their shape but are delicious otherwise.

Her questions got me thinking afterwards about ways to save money in the veg garden. Growing your own is often touted as something frugal to do, but regular users of this blog know that it isn’t necessarily the case. It’s easy to get carried away and spend a fortune in the garden centre.

Here are some good ways to save money on your vegetable garden – let me know if you have other suggestions:

– Make your own compost.

– Use rolled up newspaper as plant pots for seedlings.

– Make your own fertiliser from nettles and water (it stinks, so don’t get it on your hands, but it is worth doing).

– Invest in some water butts to save rainwater and save on your water bills. Water in the early mornings and evenings when it’s cooler and the water is less likely to evaporate quickly.

– Swap seeds and spare plants with other gardening buddies. Harvest seeds from your own veg each year to save cash and put them in labelled containers.

– Obtain cheap or free manure from your local stables.

– Keep an eagle eye on your produce to ensure that you notice when it’s ripe and it doesn’t go to waste (learn from our mistake with our peas this year!).

– Only plant produce that you like and that you’ll use. Store leftover produce effectively by freezing, drying and pickling.

Vegetable growing isn’t necessarily as cheap as people make out but, if you ask me, it’s not just about saving money but spending your cash on something worthwhile and rewarding. It’s a healthy, green hobby that will provide good quality food for you and your family, a beautiful garden to enjoy and it’s great fun too. I’m a convert and that’s talking as somebody who, as a 20-something, used to live on doner kebabs…


Got any other ideas for saving money in the garden or suggestions of ways that growing veg can save on your supermarket shop? Leave a message and let me know.

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4 Responses to Saving money in the vegetable garden

  1. Christine says:

    Here\’s a useful link about how long seeds will last if you store them properly – Most seed packets contain more than you need for just two of you (or even three or four) in a household so if you like something well make the most of the cost of one packet of seeds.

  2. Christine says:

    Be careful with getting manure for your garden. There was a problem some two years ago and I know at least two people who have suffered in the same way this season. takes about four years for the chemicals to wear out of the manure.

  3. Christine says:

    Join a good gardening forum online because they will always be aware of special offers for seeds and when seeds are on end of season sale. They will also compare experiences and save you making the same mistakes again. Also borrow gardening books from your library in order to learn about what you are doing. You can usually get the Vegetable Expert and it\’s sister ones on flowers, fruit and lawns. They are simple to understand and easy to follow. Good basic advice.

  4. Piper says:

    Borrowing books is a good idea. It\’s always a temptation to buy them nowadays as it\’s so easy to on Amazon. But I ordered a couple through my library this week and they were in stock in just a couple of days.

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