If you’re serious about saving money in your garden and still want beauty and abundance without it costing the earth, there are some clever ways you can grow your garden for free.
Frugal gardening is about ‘thinking outside the square’ – with some basic skills and knowledge there’s no need to spend a cent at the nursery to grow your edible or ornamental garden!
Five Money $aving Tips for New Plants
1. Grow with local or open-pollinated seed – The best seed is from your own garden or from locally grown varieties – even growing plants from commercial seed is 10 times cheaper than buying seedlings! You can save a ‘packet’ (sorry for the pun!) by saving your own seed. That’s an average saving of $2.95 – $3.95 for each variety! PLUS you don’t have to pay for more than you really need.
Or, join a seed saving group. You’ll get some seeds for free in return for helping process seeds – it’s fun and even better, often accompanied by caffeine and food!
If you do want to buy seed to get started, check out the best places to source open-pollinated varieties and learn why this is important.
2. Propagate from plants you already have in your garden – you don’t need horticultural skills to do this … it’s brain dead easy!
If you need to prune a shrub or tree you’d like more of, it’s the perfect time to strike cuttings as well. If you visit an open garden or know a keen gardener, ask them when the best time of year is to take cuttings for what you’d like to grow in your area.
You can increase your success rate with a few other techniques like planting into sterile soil; taking cuttings at the best time during the month; dipping cuttings into a seaweed (kelp) solution or some honey to stimulate root growth (no need to buy expensive chemical powders & rooting hormones) and adequate warmth. Watch this video to see how simple it is to take herb cuttings.
3. Swap or trade with a friend or neighbour – You can save even more by sharing your surplus and adding new varieties to your garden. I talk to one of my neighbours regularly and we share cuttings and seeds. One of the bonuses of sharing is it’s an opportunity to learn about a new plant variety and how to grow it in your own area.
If extra plants self sow in my garden, I pot these up and sell or trade them for something I want to grow so it’s a great way to earn an income too!
4. Allow plants to flower and self-seed – This is one of the most economical ways to grow your garden for free. Just let plants do what comes naturally! For example, many edible varieties of veggies, herbs and perennials will go to flower, attracting pollinators and forming seed heads where the flowers used to be.
5. Bury your food scraps – This is one of the easiest ways to allow edible seedlings to sprout and raise themselves. Instead of adding your household food waste to your compost or worm farm, rotate digging them into a little pocket in your garden bed. I sprinkle with a little bokashi (fermented grain) so the microbes are already present to start breaking this food down quickly.
“Just so long as the soil is moist, seeds from fruit, herbs or veggies will germinate at the right time and you’ll have freebies for your garden.”
The food scraps provide food for the worms and the castings they leave behind create the perfect humus environment for seeds to germinate. I’ve had passionfruit, mangoes, avocado, herbs and heaps of veggies all volunteer to grow and it hasn’t cost me time or money!
Books on Propagating
I am a big believer in learning for free so use the knowledge base in your local library. There are loads of useful practical books that can help you start growing your own plants for free. Here are a couple of my favourites:
New Plants from Old: simple, natural, no-cost plant propagation by Jackie French. Jackie’s no-nonsense humorous writing style appeals to me and for those on a budget and want to start with the basics, this is certainly my favourite. It has simple instructions and illustrations to help you learn how to take cuttings, divide plants and use stuff you’ve got around your home or garage.
Growing Gardens for Free: a plant propagation guide by Geoff Bryant. This is a very informative book showing how to propagate over 1000 common plants, with detailed instructions and techniques for growing from seed and propagating with various methods. It’s got heaps of photos so if you like pretty pictures borrow this one too.
Learn New Skills
Like anything, the more you know about gardening (and particularly growing your own edible plants), the easier it is to save money. You can pick up loads of nifty simple techniques to empower you to grow your own food, propagate and save seeds in the Give It A Go DVD. It’s packed with ‘hands-on’ no-nonsense information on lots of other topics too including no dig gardening, worm farming, balcony gardens and composting. It’s a great gift for beginner gardeners too.
For more ideas on saving money in your garden, visit the Frugal Gardening category.
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