Growing a garden needn't leave a worrisome dent on your bank balance. Here are 10 money-saving tips for the garden, including how to get hold of free or cheap plants.
As we gardeners begin to busy ourselves with seed catalogues and bedding plans, it's easy enough to get over-excited and blow the budget in a single garden centre trip, which would be fine if there wasn't still plenty of space to fill! So, before you splash out on expensive, eye-catching blooms, read our advice on how to get hold of plants without breaking the bank.
1 Ransack the kitchen cupboards
A fun and free way to grow is to use what you already have. Try sprouting chia and flax seeds alongside dried lentils, chickpeas and marrowfat peas. Save the seeds from citrus fruits and pomegranates. Avocado stones will eventually (with patience and some luck) sprout into an attractive house plant. Additionally, extend the life of your kitchen scraps by popping chopped ends (celery, leeks, spring onions etc) in some water. Experiment and see what comes up - not everything will but it at least you haven't wasted your money.
Find out what you can re-grow from your kitchen leftovers below:
2 Choose the multi-taskers of the plant world
Make the plants you do buy earn their spot. Nasturtiums, for example, are edible (flowers, seed pods and all) and double up as companion plants. Mint and Coriander can repel aphids from your tomato plants while also adding zing to mojitos and curries. Be selective, but make it count.
When planning your plot, think about what you enjoy eating, then think about what you like to eat that is difficult or expensive to get hold of in the shops. By successionally sowing salad leaves and herbs, you'll reduce plastic waste and save your pennies, but don't buy coriander seeds if you hate the stuff.
3 Grow from seed
Naturally, a 500 packet of seeds for £2.50 makes more financial sense than one £12 plant. What's more, you'll be able to create a more cohesive and biodiverse scheme with seeds. Plus, there's something magical about watching those first leaves unfurl. And you don't need anything fancy to get started, toilet roll tubes are perfect for peas, while plastic punnets and old takeaway containers can enjoy a second life as seed trays. Pop them in a plastic wallet or bag tied with an elastic band to create greenhouse conditions.
Join Helen at the potting bench and follow her seven quick and easy steps to sow seeds.
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4 Be a super seed saver
Once your plants are established, you can future proof your garden by collecting and storing the seeds. Additionally, consider allowing native wildflowers on your patch to have their time in the sun instead of ripping them out. Our writer @dogwooddays has outlined which ones work in a wildflower patch in this article on the importance of weeds.
5 Choose self-seeders
If you don't fancy collecting, storing and saving seeds, take the easy route and get more plants for your buck by selecting self-seeders at the checkout. That way you'll never be short on blooms, and, with a little help from the wind and the birds, any bare soil will quickly be carpeted without you having to lift a finger.
Full sun/ partial shade
Browse seeds to plant now here.
6 Choose perennials (plants that return year after year)
While annuals can give your space an instant facelift, the joy will be short-lived. Invest in perennials such as hardy geraniums and peonies for an extended cycle of colour. Choose your perennial hard workers in the article below and read up on how to care for them.
7 Swap plants and seeds with neighbours and friends
While you can nab bargain bulbs at supermarkets and stores such as Wilko or Poundland, there is less certainty around their provenance. As Alice Fowler has pointed out, they will have likely been grown with peat or pesticides. And there's always the chance plants may give up the ghost when you get them home if they have been kept on the shelf for a while. Always check bulbs are firm before buying.
Where possible, visit local plant sales and markets and put call-outs on Facebook groups and sharing sites such as Freegle, Freecycle and Gumtree. Local gardening groups are likely to be full of friendly faces with seeds and plants to swap and knowledge to share. I've picked up a Passion Flower, Bamboo, spring bulbs and an unrescuable cactus from my local Freegle group.
8 Give your plants the best chance
It might sound obvious, but providing the right conditions and care will reduce your trips to the garden centre, thus leaving you money to spend on good quality compost. Ensure you have a good organic fertiliser to hand and mulch new additions to keep moisture locked in. To cut costs further, make your own comfrey feed, get a compost heap on the go, start a leaf mould pile and ask local tree surgeons if they have wood chip to spare. A DIY cold frame or bubble wrap job will protect your plants from frost.
9 Shop off-season and shop for every season
By planning ahead you can make your planty purchases when they're at their cheapest. September is a good time to find deals as garden centres will be making room for holiday stock. And when garden centres do reopen, seek out the sale section (usually a neglected corner at the back). Newsletters will alert you to flash sales (although in our experience email alerts mean we end up spending more rather than less).
Additionally, think about plants that will provide year-round interest, so you're not left with gaps to fill as summer ends. Think autumn flowers and structural foliage during winter as well as the usual spring bulbs.
Use our plant collections to plan a garden that looks good in every season.
10 Don't fall for flowers
Every seasoned gardener knows you pay a premium for flowers in bloom. Instead, look for healthy plants with lots of foliage, shiny new shoots and a strong root system. Divide new purchases by splitting with a sharp, sterilised tool before planting. Don't forget you can ensure bountiful blooms by dividing and replanting the bulbs you already have.
Look out for bargain prices on quality seeds, plants and tools on the Candide.
Do you have any money-saving gardening tricks? Share them with the Candide community in the comments.