Gardening on a shoestring

Geraniums in tins. PA Photo/Handout
Geraniums in tins. PA Photo/Handout

I’m the first to admit I’ve made costly mistakes in my garden over the years.

I’ve planted specimens in the wrong place, made impulse buys at the garden centre of impractical plants which weren’t going to survive in the frost pocket where I live and bought pretty pots that didn’t go with my house or my existing collection.

But now I’ve opened gardener Alex Mitchell’s new book, Gardening On A Shoestring, which gives budget-conscious gardeners some ideas on how to save money, all that waste is in the past.

“We’ve all done it - stumped up on plants, tools and endless bits of plastic kit and then thrown them at the garden in the hope that they will miraculously organise themselves into something beautiful,” she says. But you don’t need all that clutter to be a successful gardener.

Here’s a few of her tips on how to create a garden on a budget:

Make seedy savings: Many plants grow easily from seed, including sweet peas, cosmos, flowering tobacco, cornflowers and Californian poppy. A packet containing around 100 seeds can cost you a fifth of the price of one plant. From mid-spring to early summer, just scatter them directly on to finely-raked garden soil in a sunny spot, rake them in and water well.

Club together: If you’re buying online, group your purchases with friends to save on postage costs and look out for bargains if you order a multiple of one specific plant.

Garden centre or car boot?: Don’t rule out cut-price pound stores and car boot sales, which often have good plants for much less. When buying plants, don’t buy the ones already in full flower. Look for those with unopen flower buds or wait until the end of summer to buy shrubs and perennials, when garden centres discount their stock. Autumn is also a good time for planting.

Pots for a pittance: Use your imagination. Upcycle old containers such as tins, bowls and colanders to give your garden instant character. If you want to go big and brazen, brightly coloured plastic tub trugs can make good flower and fruit containers. Alternatively, ask your local deli for huge empty tins which have held olive oil, or other vintage tins, taking off the labels and letting them rust naturally. Just drill holes in the bottom of them.

Be waterwise: Instead of investing in an expensive automatic irrigation system for your potted plants, save your old one-litre plastic bottles, discard the lid, cut off the base of the bottle and push it lid end down into the compost beside your plant. When the bottle doesn’t fall over, it’s deep enough. Fill it with water and it will drip out gradually, direct to the plant roots.