Shoestring Jane blogs about living a fun and frugal life at http://www.shoestringcottage.com. and is here today to share her best tips for budget gardening with us. She writes about healthy eating on a budget, frugal gardening and growing your own food, making extra money and finding the best bargains. You can also find Jane on Twitter on Instagram and on Facebook
Make the most of your outdoor space without spending a fortune
We are so fortunate to have a lovely big garden here at Shoestring Cottage. It is the perfect place to relax and unwind. We have a patio and seated area, a vegetable patch, a greenhouse, lawns, various flower beds and some wild flower areas. What more could you possibly need?
However, we rarely spend much money on the garden. It would be very easy to bust the budget at the garden centre! It is more than possible to have a beautiful garden on the tiniest of budgets with a bit of hard work and creativity. Here are my tips for budget gardening.
Budget gardening tips
Grow from cuttings and seeds
Cuttings can be from your own or friends’ gardens. Seeds are usually cheap and occasionally free if you attend garden shows.
Share plants and seeds
We have made the mistake of sowing too many of the same type of plant in the past. Before you buy any seeds, check what your green-fingered friends and family members are sowing first. Maybe you can do a swap?
I always collect the seed heads from lovely cottage garden plants such as foxgloves and hollyhocks in particular. I store them in an old envelope to use the following spring.
Buy second-hand furniture and refurbish
This is a fundamental budget gardening tip. Garden furniture can cost a fortune! However, it is perfectly possible to pick up good quality furniture second-hand or even free. We bought our greenhouse on eBay and our wooden table and chairs from the charity shop. Our best bargain, though, was a completely free bench left outside by a neighbour. We walked it down the road, Mr S repaired the slats of the seated section, we rubbed it down and painted it a lovely green colour. It gets lots of compliments!
Make your own compost
It is pretty easy to make your own compost for free using lawn and hedge clippings, for example, as well as raw scraps, eggshells and tea bags from your kitchen. There is plenty of advice on how to do this on-line. It is miraculously powerful stuff! Also, look out for free manure to add to the heap or to use as a mulch, but make sure it is well rotted if you plan to do that.
Make leaf mould
We have a lot of trees around us and a kind of wind tunnel effect that sees all of their leaves blowing into our front garden come Autumn time! We take advantage of this and make leaf mould to use as a soil conditioner and mulch. Again, there is lots of advice on how to do this online.
Sow grass seed rather than buy turf
We decided to get rid of one of our flower beds and turn it back to grass. I was surprised at how expensive turf was in comparison to grass seed. OK, you don’t get instant results, but it looked pretty good and blended in a month or two later.
Make your own fertilizer
Stinging nettles make excellent plant food. All you have to do is soak them in water. This powerful brew absolutely stinks though, so be warned. This clip from Gardener’s World shows you the technique with comfrey (it is exactly the same). This is hard core budget gardening!
Any container can become a planter
As long as you make some drainage holes in the bottom, you don’t need to spend lots of money on fancy containers to grow your flowers and plants in. Old car tyres, teapots, buckets…I have even used an old toilet to make a bit of a feature!
Shop at the discount stores, not just the garden centre
Stores as diverse as Aldi, B&M, Home Bargains and Lidl have great deals on plants, compost and tools. It is worth keeping an eye. They tend to be much cheaper than garden centre prices, but you need to get them soon after they arrive as they aren’t looked after as well.
Check out the reduced section in the garden centre
I have bought tons of stuff from the discounted sections in the past. A perennial plant or shrub that is looking a bit sorry for itself can be coaxed back to full health and last for many years.
Look for plants and tools at the boot sale
Boot sales are increasingly good places to find great value plants. You can often find decent second-hand garden tools as well.
Make do and mend
Mr Shoestring is generally reluctant to throw anything away! This can be a pain as I am a minimalist at heart, but it does mean he repairs rather than throws away and has a part for most occasions when something needs a repair. He repaired a small hole in a plastic watering can with bath sealant and welded a spare piece of metal to the bottom of a rusty wheelbarrow. Both are still in use years later!
Sow wildflower seeds
Obviously, if you sow wildflowers the birds and bees will love you for it. However, a wild approach also saves money. A small wild flower patch in your garden will cost very little to create initially and then self-seed forever.
You can read one of my blog posts on wildlife friendly gardening and its benefits here.
Think of your garden as an outdoor gym
Digging, lugging heavy pots and compost bags about, pruning and weeding are really good exercise. Who needs to pay for a gym membership? If you have children, they will likely be happy for your company and will either join in or run off to play. Small children love to plant seeds and see them grow, so this is a cheap form of family entertainment.
Grow your own to reduce your grocery budget
We are far from self-sufficient, but we save a lot of money each summer growing some of our own food. We have courgettes, tomatoes, runner beans, spinach, chillies, cucumbers, pumpkins, black and redcurrants, apples and plums this year. Sometimes we grow more, depending on our free time. We store a lot in the freezer too.
Keep yogurt pots for seedlings
Or any little pots you have! You don’t have to busy special plant pots and will accumulate them anyway. If you make little holes in the bottom for drainage, an ice cream container will make a good seed tray too.
Cut up plastic containers to make plant labels
Similarly, you don’t need to buy special plant tags. Invest in a permanent marker pen and cut up any old plastic container to use instead.
Avoid the hose pipe
Collect rainwater, especially if you are on a meter. Local councils often have very cheap deals on water butts to dot around your garden. You can also use grey water – the water from your bath and washing up – to water your plants.
Read more about our frugal garden and my budget gardening tips here.