Gardening on a Budget

No matter what reason your budget is tight, it doesn't mean you can't build a decent garden!  I started gardening as a student and now I am self-employed so am reverting back to some older, cheaper methods instead of impulse buying everything I want each time I walk into a garden related shop/website.
DISCLAIMER: I have not been endorsed or gifted any items by the shops mentioned here, this is simply my personal account of how I feel items are priced, and whether or not they are worth the investment.

To be added.

  • Outline your budget - I can't stress this enough.  Its likely you'll be budgeting more than just the garden so make sure you factor in your garden/hobbies allowance.
  • Stick to your budget!  This is always harder than it seems, because there's always unforeseen expenses.  Perhaps budget 10% above what you actually want to spend just in case.  If you're tech-savvy use an app to help you keep track on the go - I use "simplebudget" for android, which is free in the Google Play store (it has a slightly askew open envelope with some money inside as the logo).  It uses the envelope budgeting system, which I like because I can colour code it, making it super simple to keep track of things.  I have one envelope for gardening costs, but you could easily use it for just gardening and have separate envelopes for seeds, soil products, equipment etc.  This is also a good way to observe what you spend and work out where you need to cut down from now on.
  • Consider where you buy.  I can't stress Poundland enough for pots.  Plastic is not eco to produce, but honestly you can re-use plastic pots for years on end, almost indefinately.  I find Poundland's to be surprisingly good quality for such a cheap shop, plus while you could go to Dobbies and spend £6 on one pot you can often get 2 the same size for £1 at Poundland.  My favourite buy was getting 10x 20cm pots for £1, and I bought absolutely loads of them.  The only issue with Poundland is that they often don't repeat the same things the next year, and their stock isn't consistent between stores, so if you see a good pot bargain, grab it while you can.
  • In terms of seeds, plants, tools etc I would recommend you steer away from Poundland's offerings.  In fact I almost never buy seeds from a physical shop.  Try to avoid the "sale 15p seeds!" that Poundstretcher and Dobbies tend to offer.  The reason they are so cheap is that they are out of date.  This means that although you might get lucky and get good germination, its more unlikely that your seeds will in fact germinate, and also the plants themselves can often be a lot weaker.  This is something I discovered when I first started.  My broad beans would germinate but the seeds were too old to keep supporting the seedling past a certain point and they died every time.  You are better going online and having a look at selected shops. (see my tab on seeds for a list of recommended suppliers) Yes, you'll probably want to buy everything you see, but try to restrict yourself to your budget.  In my opinion, investing a little more in buying a better quality, in date, seed from a reputable supplier is worth it.  Very specialist suppliers may have less seeds for more money, but you will find a lot of this is due to the rare varieties.  Many seed websites also have sales of seeds for about 49p-99p each.  For these it can vary to whether or not they are viable.  Often they are not market down because they are out of date but instead because they are on a cycle similar to fashion - new styles have come in for the season, so the old ones are discounted.
  • Recycle.  Instead of throwing your empty yoghurt tub in the recycling bin, wash it out and use it as a seed starting pot.  Keep cardboard egg trays for chitting potatoes or starting seeds.  I personally drink a lot of chocolate milkshake, and I got hubby to drill some drainage holes in the empty containers so I can use them as pots.  I can use them as either tall, narrow pots, or since they have a good lid, I can cut them in half and use the lid as a base for a second pot.
  • Start composting if you can - it may take some time to be usable, but its recycling a lot of your waste anyway, and in the long run it will be cheaper than having to drive to B&Q for more bags of soil.
  • Consider what products you're using.  Are you fertilizing your plants?  Often the ones you can buy are specially formulated but full of chemicals.  If you want to be more organic/cheap in your gardening you can make your own version.  Not all of them will be as effective as some of the name brands, but they will certainly be cheaper.  I will be adding some recipes for fertilizers and the like soon, but google them, look on pintrest, look through your gardening books.  Find out what your specific plant needs and then find out what other plants you can use to make a fertilizer for them, and you can grow these too.
  • Research your plants.  If you research what your individual plant or variety needs, you won't be wasting money buying a bigger pot when you don't need to, or on a fertiliser than won't do much for your plant.
  • Sign up to every free seed/supply catalogue you can!  Yes it can make it more tempting to buy when your monthly/quarterly fix of seed porn arrives but if you keep a list of what things your looking for in terms of seed and equipment you can compare offers and decide if its worth it.  Often as a subscriber to the catalogue you are able to access discounts they don't offer on the website.

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