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11 money saving tips for gardeners

19 February 2020

Find out how you can get a beautiful garden or vegetable patch for practically no money with these money-saving tips.

Senior woman holding vegetable box
Growing veg is a great way to avoid industrially-produced foods and save some cash

1. Swap unused and unwanted seeds

Seeds are expensive and you often end up with too many – so why not swap the excess with other gardeners? You could end up with some great new plants for nothing but the price of postage or a cup of coffee.

There are gardening groups across the country, try using local Facebook groups or Nextdoor, a social network that allows you to connect with your neighbours. If you have a Transition Town group in the area you’ll probably find they might be interested in arranging one as one of their key goals is encouraging self-sufficiency in urban areas.

If you can’t any local gardening groups why not try setting up one yourself? Posters in local cafés, the library or garden centres are sure to draw out other gardeners. Find a friendly local café happy or community hall to host your small group and you could even end up making friends for life.

Give your garden a makeover and save money at the same time with a special Thompson and Morgan offer of 10% off.

2. Get a vegetable patch going

Flowers look great, but growing veg is a great way to avoid industrially-produced foods and steer some cash away from supermarket giants.

An additional tip is to grow unusual and often tastier versions of fruit and vegetables that would have a premium price in the supermarket.  

By freezing your surplus produce, particularly soft fruits, you can enjoy them all the year round – if they last that long! Fruit like apples, rhubarb and pears can be stewed down and frozen for use in apple pies and crumbles when they’re no longer in season. Berries can be frozen whole or pureed and are great to use in smoothies and desserts.

3. Talk and share with other gardeners

Getting to know like-minded gardeners is particularly important if you are one of the growing band of more than 300,000 allotment holders in the UK (contact The National Allotment Society for advice on getting one). 

Many crops ripen around the same time, which can mean a glut of runner beans, green beans and broad beans, for example. 

If a group of plot holders were to agree to plant one each of this crop and then share harvests, it would avoid waste and still allow a share of all three seasonal crops.

If you get a glut, you could also contact the organisers of local farmers' markets, who sometimes target plot holders for their excess produce (please check that the terms of your allotment lease allows this first). You might even have independent foodie shops happy to sell homegrown produce.

You could even opt to take part in some co-operative bulk buying. It's not uncommon to see huge amounts of plug plants being sold at bargain prices, often with special offers such as 'double up for 50p'. If you spot a bargain but don't really want 100 pansies ask around and see if you can split the cost with a friend or neighbour.

4. Garden organically

Don't reach for expensive and harmful chemicals if there is a pest invasion – find a natural solution.  

Prevention is often better than cure too, so pull out any weak plants that look like they're already infected and may attract predators, and regularly clear the garden area of debris and weeds which are breeding places for insects.  

When we put a call out to Saga Magazine readers to find out their savvy gardening tips reader Trisha Ryan said she had been successfully surrounding tender plants with holly clippings to keep nibbling rabbits at bay, and reader Sandie Bay said she uses old freezer baskets to protect young green shoots – the baskets are heavy enough to not get blown away by gales or upturned by rabbits.

Or you could try companion planting to deter pests and improve pollination.  

Learn more about the clever technique of companion planting

5. Recycle your food waste

Every time you pull the leaves off a leek, peel a potato or chop the ends off a courgette, don't throw them out; there's still plenty of goodness there that you don't want to waste.

Even if you only have a small garden, you've still room to make compost if you invest in a mini composter to make plant feed, or a ‘Dalek’ composter with a lid that can sit in the corner of your garden.

If you have the space you can make your own leaf mulch too, simply gather autumn leaves in black sacks and pierce holes in the side, then leave to sit for a year.

6. Save water

Plants are usually happier with rainwater than they are with tap water, so by investing in a rainwater butt, you'll save money on your water bills in the long term, and be rewarded with happier flowers in the short term. 

Alternatively, you could keep a couple of empty milk bottles under the kitchen sink or in the bathroom and fill them up as you wait for the water to heat up each time you wash the dishes or run the bath. If you're planning on using this tap water in a garden pond be sure to leave it outdoors for a few days to allow the chlorine to evaporate. 48 hours should do it.

7. Give generously

If you're going to someone's house for a meal, a thoughtful gift from the garden can often be more appreciated than a bottle of wine or box of chocolates bought in a hurry from the supermarket. 

Giving your hosts a bunch of beautiful flowers just picked from your garden, along with a selection of fresh vegetables thoughtfully chosen with the recipients in mind will not only save you money, it will make your gift stand out from the crowd. You could even bake a cake using some of your produce, such as a courgette cake or raspberry cake.

8. Recycle creatively

Lots of things that get thrown away can be used creatively in the garden or allotment. For example large water or milk bottles can be used as cloches to protect delicate plants, and reader Wendy Strathdee uses large water cooler bottles found in offices across the country which she cuts the bottom off using a hacksaw. They are particularly robust and last many years. Using bottles the same size means they can even be neatly stacked away in winter. Stick a garden cane through the hole in the top to hold them in place.

Old shower scrunchies can find a new lease of life brushing off mud and dirt on your tools, and plastic punnets from shop bought veg can be used when harvesting and storing your own produce, and yoghurt pots can be used for growing seedlings and empty spice jars can be used as cane toppers.

Simply take a stroll through your nearest allotments to see some of the weird and wonderful uses gardeners have come up with for everyday items.

9. Learn some simple propagation tips

Some plants are all too eager to spread, so use it to your advantage. Wanting to fill a space in the garden? Look for the plants you can take green cuttings from, or the plants that spread via runners underground, such as strawberries. Lots of climbing plants, such as honeysuckle, can have a spare stems weighed down in the soil until they take root and can then be severed and relocated.

10. Make the most of freebie sites and preloved items

If you haven't used them before you might be amazed by how many garden products are given away on freebie sites or sold very cheaply on online marketplaces. Facebook is one of the best ways of finding these - search your town name and 'freebies' or 'freecycle'. Alternatively, Nextdoor can be used too - and that's particularly good if you don't want to travel too far to pick things up.

What you find on these sites will depend on the time of year - in winter people might be digging up more established plants such as roses, in summer you might find perennials people have ended up overrun by. At the beginning or end of the season you'll often find garden furniture being given away as owners replace with brand new at the start of summer or in autumn when they spot a bargain in the shops.

Plant pots are one of the main things you'll see come up, often in bulk, so you should never have to buy plastic pots - freecycling is better for the environment too. Even large containers often become available for free.

The main things to remember about using freebie sites is be quick and be kind. Be quick because it's usually first come, first served, and be kind because no one appreciates a bad attitude when they're giving away items for free, so always say please and thank you and don't start making demands such as expecting plant pots to be cleaned for you.

It's always appreciated when people using freebie groups to get a lot of free items return the favour when they have something to dispose of, and it's an absolute no-no to get something from a freebie site and then try and sell it on in a for sale group, chances are it will be noticed and you could end up banned from the freebie group.

11. Take time to enjoy your garden

As well as the fresh air, exercise and bags of delicious, homegrown fruit and veg, remember that every hour spent working on your garden is less time spent on expensive retail therapy, or a gym membership.

Having a beautiful garden can provide a therapy of its own and can feed into multiple hobbies. Have a camera you barely use? Why not try some flower or wildlife photography. A watercolour set gathering dust? Dig it out and dry sketching your spring blooms. Love the idea of flower arranging? Start a cutting garden.

There are so many ways the garden can entertain you, and they don't always have to be solo pursuits - invite friends over to sit in your beautiful space and enjoy a cup of tea and a freshly baked cake at a fraction of the price a trip to a coffee shop would cost. Want to host an al fresco dinner, but can't afford to splash out on ingredients? Suggest a pot luck picnic where your friends each bring a dish of their own and you can enjoy a communal meal - if a sudden British summer rainstorm doesn't get in the way!

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.