Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Money Saving March: Nine ways to save in the garden!

I'm on a mission to save money in March! I'll be posting three times a week with ideas and challenges. Free free to join in! :)

I love gardening! Growing your own food is a fun hobby with the added reward of being able to eat whatever you produce. I find that food you've grown yourself tastes infinitely better than the stuff sitting in the shops. Of course,  growing your own is not without its costs; compost, seed trays, tools, fertiliser, perhaps pesticides, etc. But if you can keep your outgoings low, you could save a lot more than you spend!

Challenge 7 is to save money on gardening!

This year I am living in a flat with a pebbled garden, so I've decided to grow veggies in containers. I used some gift money to buy some tubs and compost, but everytime I turn around there's some new expense looming; propagator lids for larger seedlings, pots for transplants, labels for different plants, etc. etc.

This year I'm trying to keep things as cheap as possible. Here's how:

1. Grow from seeds! I remember my Nana buying some tomato plants for £1.50 each last year. You can buy a pack of seeds for that and grow tens of plants! It pays to grow a few more than you think you'll need, since not all of the seeds will germinate. Of course, if they do you'll have to find some friends to fob them off to kindly donate them to. :)

2. Don't buy pots! If you're growing seedlings up for later transplant outside you can get away with free alternatives to pots. Just fill 'em up with compost and grow seeds and seedlings in them until the plants are ready to move into your garden.

- Margarine tubs: poke drainage holes in the bottom, lid can be used as a saucer to catch water.
- Milk bottles: cut in half, poke holes in the bottom. Top half can be used as a cloche (see below).
- Toilet roll tubes: can be directly planted into the soil once seedlings are hardened off.
- Egg boxes: these are awesome! The top half can be used as a seed tray, whilst the bottom half is handily separated into individual sections! These can also be planted directly into the soil and will break down to allow your plants to grow.

3. Alternatives to cloches. Some of my seedlings have outgrown the little propagator lids, but it's still a bit cold for them to fend for themselves. I am using bottles cut in half (soda bottles, milk bottles, shampoo bottles, squash bottles - anything that lets some light through!) and placed over them at night, to protect them from the worst of the cold.

4. Grow things you'll actually eat. It's tempting to grow stuff because it's easy or you have been given some seeds. The problem is, if you're not going to eat brussel sprouts, don't grow them! You're wasting valuable time and space that you could be using for other things!

Last year's tomato plants!
5. Grow the most expensive stuff. I only have a few large containers to grow my plants in, so as tempting as it is to grow potatoes, I know that would be fairly dim when I can buy a massive bag of them for £1 in the supermarket! I'm better off growing something that takes up less space and produces more valuable products, for example spinach beet (spinach costs quite a lot for a small bag, whilst the easier-to-grow spinach beet will keep me in leafy greens for most of the year!).

6. Recycle water. Don't use fresh, clean water to water your plants. During the summer, you'll need to water at least daily in hot weather, so make sure you're re-using water from both your shower and washing up bowl to reduce your water consumption. 

7. Use coffee (but not as a pesticide!) - Coffee grounds are often espoused as being great for your garden. They enhance the soil, making it easier for plants to grow. They are often recommended (including by me before I knew better!) as a pesticide to repel slugs, but this is actually illegal because their effects as a pesticide haven't been officially tested. You can get free coffee grounds from most coffee shops (or perhaps your own kitchen!).
8. Make your own fertiliser. Last year I made fertiliser out of rotten stinging nettles! All you need is a bucket, some stinging nettles and water, and you can make nitrogen-rich fertiliser that is perfect for giving leafy veg a nutritious boost!

9. DIY compost! I've written before about how to make your own compost. All you need for a rich compost is some old vegetable peelings, grass cuttings, or even shredded paper! Unfortunately I don't have anywhere to make compost in our flat's garden, but it's something worth doing if you have a bit of space!

So far I've got a few seeds planted, with more to come when the weather gets warmer. I have lots of milk bottles, toilet rolls tubes and egg boxes under the sink ready to get started! What other top tips have you got to save money in the garden?


Pamela said...

These are great tips! If I soak beans overnight, I save the water and use it to water my plants or water the garden. The same with water I rinse dishes in. And I compost everything now. I'm going to open up those infernal K-cups in my office and put the grounds into a container and put it into my compost.

For mulch, use cut up leaves or grass clippings. My father kept it in a pile and would put it around the plants to keep the weeds down. The mulch feeds the soil nicely as well. And if you're near the ocean, you can use seaweed, but just make sure you don't take gobs of it from one place (the gulls and other seabirds need to eat, too).

Frugal in Bucks said...

We use the egg boxes too, they are perfect for planting directly in the soil as you say. Did lettuce last year as was buying bags of it. They grew very well and easily.
Good luck, will also be planting soon.