Grow your own veg and save money – seems like a very simple concept, but it’s more complicated than you might think and it’s entirely possible to spend more than you save! We’ve already seen how to get the most value from what you grow in Part 1, and now it’s time to look at how to keep your growing costs down (the second half of the equation).
Keeping expenses to a minimum
There are five main things to do if you want to grow your own food and save:
- Set a budget (and try to stick to it)
- Find as many freebies as you can
- Shop around and find discounts
- Reduce, re-use and recycle
- Check plants regularly
Set a budget
Getting into kitchen gardening can become almost addictive. You have some success, the food tastes great, and then you want to grow more and more varieties. You start looking at fancy garden websites, wander around garden centres when you don’t really need anything, and pick out so many interesting seeds and plants from the commercial catalogues that you don’t even have space to grow all of them.
Or you can set yourself a fairly sensible budget to start off with, and remind yourself of the spending limit if you’re tempted to buy too much stuff. There are so many beautiful but pricey gardening products available now, and you could easily end up spending a small fortune unless you’re strict with yourself. We’re also constantly being marketed to, and many of these products are unnecessary.
There are all kinds of projects and promotions to look out for, you can get help from other friendly gardeners, and mother nature can provide useful things for free too.
If you’re starting an edible garden, mention it to people. Friends, colleagues, neighbours and family members could all surprise you with their generosity. You could be given old or new pots, garden equipment, seeds, seedlings, books and more. You can look for people giving things away on Freecycle and Freegle, and the free sections of sales sites such as Gumtree and Preloved as well. Also, if you move to a new house, you may find that lots of plants and equipment have been left behind by previous occupants.
Sign up for charity and commercial newsletters and join local community gardening schemes – there are regular giveaways of free seeds that you might be able to benefit from. Gardening magazines regularly have plenty of valuable freebies too, although of course you have to buy the magazine to get the seeds.
Nature can help you in many ways: fallen twigs and branches can serve as free supports for your plants and seedlings, you can use comfrey to make liquid plant feed for free, and fallen leaves can be turned into leaf mould to help mulch plants and make up potting compost.
Shop around and get discounts
If you have a specific purchase in mind, it usually pays to check out its price in a few different shops, either in person or online. When comparing prices to find the best deal, remember to factor in postage and packaging fees as these can significantly affect the final price.
At various points throughout the year, the big seed suppliers, garden centres and DIY chains will all have special offers. Sign up for their emails and you’ll soon be sent money-off codes, sales of discounted packets of seeds, offers for multi-buys on seeds and plants, and codes for free delivery. It’s also worth checking money-saving websites, freebies websites and bargain-hunting forums to find extra deals.
You may also be able to get money-back deals if you buy your seeds and gardening equipment through cashback websites. For a full discount guide, please read our separate article about how to save money when buying seeds.
Reduce, re-use and recycle
One of the best things you can do for your garden is to create a compost heap or a worm farm. It uses up garden waste and vegetable scraps, etc, and it feeds the soil like nothing else can.
Most pots and tools can be re-used again and again if you take reasonable care of them, and you can also buy them in second hand or get them free via recycling initiatives. You can also give old takeaway containers and yoghurt pots a new lease of life by starting your seedlings off in them in the Spring.
A lot of plants produce seeds at the end of their growing season that you can save and sow the following year.
Check plants regularly
Keeping a close eye on your crops can be very cost effective, as you’re likely to lose fewer of them. You can make sure they’re getting the right amount of water, and enough support, or protection from too much sunlight or frost.
In addition, it is far better to spot pests, infections and deficiency diseases early on, and prevent the problem from spreading. It’s much easier to squash a few early greenfly than it is to try to treat a whole infested plant, and pulling up and burning the first tomato plant to show signs of blight can prevent the disease spreading to other plants.
You may also like to read Part One of this two-part article.
Do you have any money-saving tips for new gardeners who are starting a kitchen garden on a budget, and trying to cut their grocery bills for fresh produce? Please share them if you do.