Posts Tagged ‘money saving tips’

Top 10 Money-Saving Crops

January 28th, 2020 | News | 0 Comments

Three seedlings in soil, growing on top of three rows of coins in ascending height

When cash is tight, growing your own nutritious fruits and vegetables is an empowering and rewarding way to stretch precious budgets that little bit further. But what are the highest value crops you can grow to save the most money? We’ve whittled the list down to 10 must-grow favourites, read on or watch the video to find out what they are.

1. Leafy Herbs

Packets of leafy herbs cost a small fortune in the shops because they are hard to store and don’t travel well. But gardeners don’t have to worry about any of that and can grow the likes of basil, parsley and coriander to harvest fresh, as needed. Leafy herbs take up very little room, grow profusely, and with more herbs on hand to liven up mealtimes, they go a long way to ramping up the tastiness of your cooking.

2. Salad Leaves

Loose leaf lettuce heads growing in soil

Cut-and-come-again salad leaves such as loose-leaf lettuce are incredibly compact and, when harvested little and often, a single sowing should continue to produce fresh leaves for months. Expect an abundance of high-value leaves from even just a few containers. For best results grow salads as individual plants, with clear space around them so they have all the sunlight and airflow they need to thrive for longer.

3. Quick-growing Salad Additions

Quick-growing salad toppers such as radishes, baby beets and spring onions offer prized pickings for the cost-conscious gardener, reaching harvest point in as little as four weeks. Make repeat sowings as you harvest, throughout the growing season, and a small patch of soil can yield a surprising weight of fresh produce. You can even grow them in gaps between slower maturing crops so they don’t take up extra space.

4. Climbing Beans

Beans are the epitome of plenty and once they start cropping will continue to produce their pods in abundance all summer long, so long as you keep on picking. Beans are healthy, filling and high in plant protein, making them a very valuable crop. Train them up some trellis or against a traditional A-frame support.

For the most striking effect, however, it’s hard to beat a handsome teepee made from bamboo canes. Plan now for a stunning display. Start seedlings off undercover in late spring then plant one or two per cane. Picking commences just weeks later.

5. Fruiting Vegetables

Like beans, fruiting vegetables that climb, or that can be trained to grow vertically, will produce a lot from a relatively small area. Tomatoes and cucumbers fit into this category, promising heavy harvests of flavoursome fruits from just a few plants. Give them the sunniest spot you can find and feed plants regularly to boost both yield and taste. Pick varieties suited to your climate and be prepared to keep plants well watered in hot weather.

6. Garlic

Whereas onions are cheap to buy and take up quite a lot of space, garlic is relatively costly yet efficient on space. Softneck varieties of garlic store really well too, making this crop ideal for spacing out the usefulness of a single harvest. In most climates garlic is done by midsummer, leaving plenty of time to grow a follow-on crop that will bring further homegrown value to the dinner plate later on in the season.

7. Celery

Celery is an important base ingredient to many soups, stews and salads. It makes our list thanks to its compact shape and the fact you can harvest it one stem at a time, meaning none of the waste associated with purchasing whole heads of celery. Self-blanching varieties are the easiest to grow. Start plants off in plug trays then transplant them leaving about 8 inches (20cm) between plants each way. Water well in dry weather and get ready for a superbly intense flavour.

8. Courgette

Courgettes are infamous for their heavy cropping habit. The courgette’s versatility in the kitchen – used in everything from stir-fries to cakes – makes this one vegetable worth making room for. Grow it in soil that’s been enriched with lots of well-rotted organic matter and you should enjoy a steady stream of fruits all summer long. Try growing companion plants such as marigolds nearby to attract more pollinators to ensure better pollination and even more fruits.

9. Soft Fruits

Three strawberry plants with fruits, in a row in black plant pots

Soft fruits such as strawberries, raspberries and blueberries require careful handling and packaging to keep them blemish-free, which makes them pretty pricey. But grow these fuss-free fruits yourself and you can save the pennies while enjoying some of the tastiest fruits you’ll ever experience. Pick fruits fresh, gently warmed by the sun, and enjoy immediately for a heavenly indulgent experience. Freeze any excess or turn them into jams or jellies.

10. Leafy Greens

Leafy greens such as chard and kale can give a steady supply of leaves for many months, making them very hard-working vegetables. While we’re always being told to ‘eat our greens’, sourcing field-fresh greens, without the wilt, isn’t easy. But with homegrown greens, you’ll always be sure of fresh leaves to twist off and enjoy steamed, stewed or blitzed up into your morning smoothie.

This is by no means a definitive list. It goes without saying you should concentrate on those fruits and vegetables you enjoy eating most, but get smart and start swapping expensive buys with delicious garden-grown replacements. Look for plants that make the most of space, that crop prolifically or that have a superior taste you’d struggle to find in the supermarket without paying over the odds.

What are some of your favourite money-saving crops to grow? Comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

How to Plan a Low-Cost Vegetable Garden

December 18th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

recycle-materials-such-as-newspaper-for-a-low-cost-garden-solution

Seeds, plants, tools, soil amendments, row covers, supports – it all adds up. But if your pockets aren’t bottomless, or you simply don’t fancy forking out fistfuls of cash, there are lots of ways to grow more for less. Read on or watch the video for tricks and tips for planning a low-cost vegetable garden suitable for any budget.

Cheap Seeds and Plants

To grow a garden you need seeds and plants, but the cost of them quickly adds up.

Local seed and plant swaps are a great way to bulk out a new garden on the cheap – or even for free! Choice will be limited so you’ll need to be flexible, and as it’s a swap, you’ll of course have to have something to offer in return.

If you have to buy seeds, which you probably will, look out for special offers on seed supplier websites (like us!) both before the start and towards the end of the growing season. Remember, while most seeds keep for more than one season some will need replacing every year or two, including parsnip, corn and spinach.

Open-pollinated or non-hybrid varieties of vegetables open up the possibility of saving your own seeds. Tomatoes, beans and many leafy salads are very easy to save seeds from, which means you’ll only have to buy once.

Feeding Soil

Nutrient-rich organic materials are the best way to build soil fertility and structure.

Make-your-own-compost-heap-using-old-pallets-for-a-low-cost-garden-solution

You can make your own compost for free, and you don’t need a special container or compost bin to make it in. Set up a compost heap in a quiet, out-of-the-way corner, sheltered from strong winds, and preferably with some sun to help warm the heap and speed up decomposition. Keep the heap tidy by hemming in the sides with recycled materials such as old pallets, which can usually be acquired for free.

There’s never a shortage of leaves! Gather them up to make your own leaf mould, a great soil amendment. If you can’t get enough leaves, ask friends and neighbours if you can have theirs – most people will be only too pleased to get rid of them!

Farms and stables will often give away manure if you’re happy to collect, but check that the animals haven’t been feeding on plants treated with herbicides or you may unwittingly damage the plants you plan to grow in it. Also make sure it’s well rotted down or composted before using.

Grow Plant Supports

Climbing crops like beans and cucumbers need proper supports.

Bamboo canes aren’t that expensive to buy, but they’re free if you grow your own. In fact, any strong, straight, woody stems make excellent poles for climbers including stems cut from the likes of hazel and buddleia.

Cheap Crop Protection

Many crops need protecting at some point, whether from the cold, sun or pests.

For cold protection, make use of old clear bottles, polythene stretched over homemade hoops or recycled glass doors and windows. Improvise shade cloth with old tulle or net curtains. Newly-sown beds of cool-season crops like lettuce can be shaded with cardboard until the seedlings poke through, or protect recent transplants with upturned pots for a couple of days, until they settle in. You can also make collars against cold wind for earlier on in the season, since the drying effect of the wind is often more damaging than low temperatures.

Natural Pest Control

include-nectar-rich-flowers-like-cosmos-in-your-low-cost-garden-to-attract-pest-predators-in-their-droves

Don’t fork out on costly artificial pesticides, which tend to kill good bugs as well as bad. Leverage the power of nature to help you defeat pests on the cheap.

Include nectar-rich flowers in your plan to attract pest predators in their droves. Flowers such as coreopsis, cosmos, poached egg plant and alyssum will draw in hoverflies, lacewings, ladybugs and parasitic wasps that will make short work of pests like aphids. Equally effective are flowering herbs such as dill, fennel, parsley and coriander, or leave some carrots and onions in the ground to run to flower the next season.

Tubs, Pots and Baskets

Remember, just about anything that holds potting soil can be used as a container for plants.

Whatever you do use, make sure you punch holes into the bottom for proper drainage. For seedlings you can’t beat old yoghurt pots, soft fruit trays and mushroom trays, or make your own from toilet tissue tubes or newspaper. Toilet tissue tubes are especially suited to deeper-rooting seedlings such as corn or beans, encouraging a more extensive root system which will help plants to establish quicker once they’re planted.

Paths and Boundaries

Paths can be as permanent or ephemeral as you choose.

Make low-tech, cheap paths by simply covering the ground in bark chippings, you can add a double layer of cardboard beforehand to help smother any weeds beneath. You’ll need to top up the woodchips from time to time, or opt for something more substantial made from salvaged slabs, bricks or cobbles. You can make purchased hard landscaping go further by in-filling with cheaper materials like gravel.

A living boundary can also be a cheap one if you buy the plants bare-rooted in winter. You’ll need to be patient while it grows, but a hedge is always going to look better than a fence! And don’t forget, you can also make it productive by planting trained fruit trees or fruiting hedgerow species like blackthorn.

Don’t let anyone tell you you need lots of money to start a new garden – it’s perfectly possible to create a beautiful garden for next to nothing. If you have any tips or tricks for planning a low-cost garden, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.