Cut the cost of gardening

Last updated: Mar 23rd, 2010
Feature by Nathalie Bonney

Keeping your garden up to scratch can be a time consuming activity - it can also cost a bomb.

But it is possible to maintain your backyard to a standard the Chelsea Flower Show would be impressed with, without spending a fortune.

1. Growing from scratch

It’s no surprise that buying a packet of seeds will be much cheaper than buying plants from a garden centre, but it’s possible to cut costs even further if you look online.

You can find, swap and buy specific seeds from other green-fingered gardeners on the gardenswapshop.co.uk community, or try your luck on the auction site eBay.co.uk where bidding for seeds often starts at a penny.

2. Make your own compost

While an eight–litre bag of premium compost costs around a fiver, filling up an old bin with your kitchen and garden scraps won’t cost you a bean.

It should be a 50-50 split of ‘green’ and ‘brown’ waste, so throw in tea bags and old coffee grounds, grass cuttings, old flowers and vegetable peelings as your greens, and add fallen leaves, twigs and bark, sawdust, paper, egg cartons and cardboard as your browns. But avoid adding meat, cooked vegetables, diseased plants and weeds.

Visit recyclenow.com for further details.

3. Recycled plant pots

Instead of pricey garden centre seed trays and pots, why not re-use plastic meat trays from the supermarket, empty yoghurt pots and clear plastic bags.

You can even make plant pots out of newspaper sheets; see 4ormore.co.uk/rollyourown.htm for instructions.

4. Grow weeds

Not all weeds make for an English country garden, but bluebells and ox-eye daisies certainly look the part. If the thought of letting weeds or wild flowers have free rein is a little alarming, herbs such as mint and lemon balm not only spread quickly, they’re easy on your eye 
– and your nose.

5. Second-hand equipment

Before buying pristine garden gadgets from B&Q, check out freecycle.co.uk to see what tools you could get for free.

And although terracotta pots and fancy ceramics look nice, giving a new lease of life to some old household items such as wicker laundry baskets, retro watering cans and snazzy wellington boots will add a touch of individuality to your garden.

6. No garden?

If you aren't lucky enough to have your own garden, then don't despair. You could look into getting an allotment - contact your local or parish council, or if you live in London search in your area on The London Allotments website.

Allotments have increased in popularity recently so you may have to ask for your name to be put on a waiting list. A standard plot of around 250 square meters will cost you about  £30 a year to rent.

The Allotment Vegetable Growing website carries more information on running your own allotment.