15 ways to make your garden – and savings – grow

19 February 2018

Moneywise plants a few ideas to help keep your cash deeply rooted in your pocket

The combined area of the UK’s domestic gardens is the same as the whole of Somerset, according to the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA). That’s an awful lot of space to fill with your favourite plants, trees, veggies, wildlife areas and anything else you can think of..

The HTA says more than two-thirds of British adults visit a garden centre every year, spending around £1.5 billion on plants for their gardens.

We look at the best plants to choose when you’re on a tight budget and how to nurture, water, feed and protect them. Here are 15 ideas to get you started.

1. Bulk buying

This is one of the simplest ways to cut costs. Have a chat with neighbours and friends who are gardeners – you may all want similar things.

Bulbs, for example, are a real bargain when you buy large quantities. Buy 500 mixed daffodil bulbs for just £50, and you can save £100 between a few of you compared to buying them in smaller amounts. Similarly, see if you can find good deals on fertiliser and plant stakes.

2. Multiply your plants Rooting your cuttings or dividing perennials are quick and simple ways to spread wonderful flowers and save loads of money on favourites such as delphiniums, euphorbias, geraniums and primulas – you could easily save yourself £50 and more during a year.  

3. Organise a ‘plant or seed swap’ party

Everyone has too much of some plant or other. While friends or neighbours are dividing and redesigning their gardens in the spring, ask them to pot up some extras to bring along for an exchange.

For the very well organised, if you are buying seeds, you could set up a seed swap with your gardening friends. Growing perennial flowers from seed takes some patience, and it will be a few years before the plants are sizeable and flowering. However, you can grow dozens of annual flowers for a fraction of what you’d pay for fully grown plants. For example, you can buy 30 marigold plants for around £15 or a pack of 200 seeds for about £3.

4. Buy smaller plants

Plants are priced by size and although it would be nice to have an instant garden, if you’re trying to save money, buying smaller size plants can cut your bill by two-thirds. For example, you could save £35 by buying 10 small geraniums instead of 10 large (30cm-plus) plants.

Here’s another little trick: if there is a large, expensive plant with fibrous roots that you have set your heart on, buy it with a couple of friends and then divide it so that you each have your own plant. It’s so simple, but effective.

5. Grow insect-friendly plants

Bees, butterflies, flies, hoverflies, lacewings, moths, and even wasps are all an essential part of our garden wildlife, especially for plant pollination, so try to grow as many insect-friendly plants as possible. The money-saving angle here is that many of these plants are herbs you can use in cooking, meaning you don’t need to keep shelling out for dried or fresh varieties from the supermarket. Here are some useful examples:

  • Betony Chives
  • Common jasmine
  • Cornflower
  • Echinacea
  • Greater knapweed
  • Honeysuckle
  • Large thyme
  • Lavender
  • Poppy
  • Red campion
  • Red clover
  • Rosemary
  • Wild teasel
  • White clover
  • Viper’s bugloss

6. Protect young plants

Ask your friends and family for old plastic drinks bottles, cut off the bottom and use them as cloches to protect young plants until they are established and growing strongly – 10 of these can save you £40 compared to an equivalent shop-bought product.

7. Collect rain water

As water prices rise, what better way to save money and beat any hosepipe bans than collecting rain water from your roof in a tank, barrel or bin? You can save thousands of litres of water a year and use it to water your vegetables, flowers or lawn. For every 1,000 litres you save, that’s another £2 off your water bill [if you have a water meter]. During a single summer, if you have multiple containers you can save £50 to £100.

8. Use a watering can

How often do you see someone using a hosepipe to water plants? They are literally pouring water down the drain and adding to their water bills. The sensible gardener uses a watering can to deliver the desired amount of water to the right place – that is the roots. You can easily turn any old plastic bottle into a neat watering can with a Bottle Top Rose, which costs £2.50 for a set of four from Twowests.co.uk. Simply screw one on to your bottle and then use to water your seed pots or trays. It’s recycling and saving money at the same time.

However, if you still insist on using a hosepipe, attach a trigger nozzle, which will halve the amount of water used and more accurately direct the flow.

9. Cover soil with mulch

Help reduce water evaporation from the soil by using mulch on your garden. This will help the soil retain water, meaning you won’t have to water the garden as often. Mulch is any type of material that is spread or laid over the surface of the soil as a covering. It has multiple benefits as it can also suppress weeds, make the garden bed look more attractive and even help improve the soil’s fertility as it decomposes.

10. Compost household waste

Between 30% and 53% (by weight) of domestic refuse does not fi t under the headings of paper, glass, metals or plastic. The largest fraction is food and garden waste (grass cuttings, leaves and pruning waste). This can be composted and provide a constant supply of soil-enriching material. It also saves precious peat bogs and cuts the cost of buying fertilisers. Depending on the size of your garden, you could save £50 a year upwards.

11. Make a DIY compost heap

Here is a simple way to make your own compost heap: find four cast-off pallets, either from deliveries or check if there are any pallet-recovery schemes in your area. Nail three sides together (you could also secure them with wire or rope), like walls, with the fourth side for a gate, allowing you to access your compost by undoing the ties on one side and swinging it open. Hey presto, a compost heap! A nice little saving, bearing in mind a purpose-bought equivalent will cost you £40.

12. Fight off critters

All through growing, there is an army of critters determined to ruin your plants. Here are just a couple of cheap ideas to fight them off.

A smear of Vaseline around plant pot rims keeps slugs off – cheaper than copper bands. For 10 pots, this will save you around £15.

Citrus fruits have pest-repelling properties that can be used to make your own organic pesticides or insecticides. They have the added bonus of not containing any harmful chemicals or properties that can be dangerous to humans or other animals. The citrus oil may not directly kill various pests and insects; it will, however, make pests and insects avoid the treated area.

13. Make your own plant pots

Invest in a Paper Potter, a device to make your own plant pots from old newspapers, costing £11.75 from Ethicalsuperstore.com. When seedlings are ready to plant outside, transplant them straight into the garden in their bio-degradable paper pots. After the first 24, you will save 50p per plant and from then on, every 50 plants is a £25 saving.

Old egg-boxes are also great for chitting (sprouting) potatoes prior to planting.

14. Look after your tools

Make sure you sharpen blades on your tools and change the oil in mowers and they will last for years.

15. Grow your own veg and herbs

Try growing your own fruits, vegetables, salads and herbs; it is satisfying and money saving. They also seem to taste so much better than shop-bought produce. Just 10 tomato plants can provide you with more than enough delicious fruit for several months and any excess is great for producing soups and purees. My estimate at home last year was a saving of about £60 against supermarket prices.

If space is limited, concentrate on growing varieties that give the best value, either because they are expensive to buy in the shops, such as peppers and ‘gourmet’ potatoes, or because they give a high yield such as runner beans, perpetual spinach and tomatoes.  

Grow herbs, such as sage, rosemary, mint and thyme. You’ll be able to harvest them fresh for up to nine months of the year and if you dry or freeze extra herbs, you’ll have enough to keep you going through the colder months.

A recent survey by one large supermarket chain found that 68% of bagged salad is wasted and 35% of that was wasted in the home. Growing your own means zero waste as you only need to harvest exactly what you’ll eat, and you can guarantee it will be fresh.   

Tony Whittingham is director of EcoFrenzy.com, a noncommercial and not-for-profit organisation that helps you save money and the environment in everyday life by minimising waste, pollution and carbon dioxide output.

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