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How to make your garden grow – without overspending

gardenThe Chelsea Flower Show is in full bloom this week. It’s fabulous for inspiring gardening ideas – but possibly wallet-damaging for a skinted gardener.

I love gardening but I am rubbish at it. I can’t even grow mint, unbelievably. Last year I shelled out for new turf for the back garden. Half of it is already dead. But I do keep on trying: I just don’t want to spend much. Yesterday I bought a white currant bush from B&Q for a whole £1.50. If it dies (and yes, I know it won’t fruit this year and that I should have planted it months ago) then it’s not a great loss. I have also tried and had some limited success with filling in the patches on the grass: I bought the cheapest grass seed figuring there’s no point in paying a premium for it.

There’s a huge amount of advice online on saving money gardening including this from our pal Faith. But here are a few tips – some of which I’ve learned from bitter, money-wasting experience.
1. Don’t grow fruit or vegetables if you think you’ll save money: it’s cheaper to buy them at the supermarket. Do grow them for taste, however: home grown tomatoes are lush. And if you can grow them, soft fruits are also better.
2. Slugs will eat your lovingly-planted tomatoes/courgettes/salad. Slug pellets cost money and also may be bad for wildlife. You could try copper rings but they are pricey: more than £20 for six online.
3. Make your own compost. Chuck vegetable/plant trimmings on a pile in a dank corner of the garden. And shovel up leaves, put them in sacks and two years later, you’ve got leaf mulch for the garden. All better than chucking it away or burning it. But possibly too Good Life for me – and a bit stinky.
4. Growing from seed is cheaper than buying plants from the garden centre. But then you’ve got to go through the hassle of nurturing seedlings etc. Where seeds work is wildflowers and annuals such as cornflowers. You can buy cheap mixed seeds often at pound and discount shops. You just scatter on the ground and hope. Remember where you’ve sowed them – or you might later on accidentally weed them away...
5. If you want cheap plants, go to any local WI/craft market or watch out for keen gardeners selling them from their front gardens. And check out the local newspaper/website for plant sales at commercial nurseries: much cheaper than posh garden centres (the kind which have shabby chic tea rooms selling organic cakes).
6. Get cheap help in the garden: children love mucking around and getting dirty with licence. Put them to work. You might have to offer older children a financial incentive to mow the lawn/do the weeding. Worth it to save you the hassle, however.
7. Don’t buy new appliances. Check out sites for secondhand mowers/trimmers and the like. Make sure you keep appliances in a locked garage or shed. M&S Bank says that the contents of a typical garden shed are worth £550. Check your contents insurance to make sure you’re covered – and what security measures you need to take. And check out our guide to home insurance here.

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Wednesday, 19 December 2018