Gardening Can Be Expensive. But Low Cost Gardening is Not Only Possible, It’s Also Easy to Undertake If You Follow These Simple Rules. Low Cost Gardening Is Very Satisfying And I Often Find The Gardens & Environment Benefit From The Extra Thought That Goes Into Them.
Having spent years as a commercial grower I love Low Cost Gardening and my mind is very much focused on quality and being cost-effective. There are times when we need to spend money on our gardens, it can be money well spent. But often we can achieve better results by spending less. That might sound strange but it’s true.
For example, when planting trees, it can be tempting to buy bigger trees rather than smaller ones. But smaller trees are not only lower cost, they also tend to establish far quicker and can quickly outgrow the “bigger” trees that struggle to establish. This applies to both decorative trees and fruit trees bought for their ability to provide us with fruit.
Another tree trick is to buy bare-root trees. Bare root trees planted in autumn or early winter have months to settle in and grow roots below ground before leafing up and romping away. Bare root trees are also much cheaper to buy. Pot grown trees and shrubs often struggle to grow out of their rootball and growth is then restricted for a season or more.
Low Cost Gardening Basics
I often see gardeners starting to plan their gardening with a list that includes all the equipment they think they will need. It tends to be a huge list. And the first job they do after clearing the weeds in their new garden is to build raised beds. Both of these are likely to cost a lot of money.
So first think about what you really need. And this comes down largely to the gardening techniques you intend to employ and what you intended to grow. For example traditional gardening will mean digging the soil so a fork and or spade will be needed. And maybe a rotavator. At this stage you are beginning to think about spending big money unless you can buy second hand and at low cost.
So check out Facebook Marketplace or Freecycle and see what’s available. Or, if you have an allotment, check if anyone wants to sell or share equipment.
And if you want raised beds think seriously about how much you need to spend on timber or whatever you need to build the sides. Can you get it free? And once built you are going to have to fill them with soil or compost.
Calculate the volume of your beds BEFORE building them. Can you afford to fill them with compost? What are the beds going to cost? Is this an economic way to garden? Or will you be growing the most expensive veg in the UK?
When I had my market garden we used to smile when people told us they didn’t need to buy tomatoes any longer and they had a new greenhouse and could grow free toms. We knew they had often spent four figures on their greenhouse and the few plants they grew were going to produce extremely expensive fruit!
But of course we don’t only garden to save money. It’s about flavour, exercise, self sufficiency and enjoyment. The thing is none of these mean we have to spend a lot of money.
Low Cost Gardening Techniques
Based on my experience one of the lowest cost gardening methods is No Dig. You’ll need compost, a wheelbarrow, some cardboard and a fork to spread the compost … plus a dibber to plant your crops. You’ll also need to grow the young plants, but you can use recycled fruit trays for this or even toilet roll centres (though I don’t like using cardboard centres as they can break down before planting).
None of the above need be expensive. For example a dibber is just a pointed stick! You can make one of those from a piece of scrap timber or even a piece of branch. And you can get wheelbarrows etc on Freecycle. Farmyard manure (FYM) is also often available at very low cost. Don’t forget FYM includes thing such as stable manure. This is often free as its a problem for horse owners who have problems getting rid off it. By taking it from them you are doing them a favour.
One bonus of going No Dig is the fact that you don’t need a rotavator. That can save you £400-600 if you were considering buying new. Even second hand ones are expensive. Anything decent is going to cost three figures. If it’s cheaper its probably problematic. Anything you save by not buying a rotavator can be spent on more essential items such as seed.
Thats some of the basics of Low Cost Gardening. Below I go into more specific ways to save money but still get good healthy and nutritious crops from your fruit and veg.
Low-Cost Gardening Equipment
Sieves are often either hard work or expensive. I see people buying rotary sieves, that look hard work and often cost upwards of £40-50. My answer is to the a piece of recycled wire mesh, staple it to a frame and sit it on top my wheelbarrow. The sieved soil drop through into the barrow and it’s all soo easy.
I often see people waiting ages for water to run out of a water barrel into a watering can.
There’s a simple solution. Use a Dip Tank.
The Victorians used galvanised dip tanks to dip their watering cans into. It’s significantly speeds the job up.
Today I use a recycled plastic dustbin … it does the same job.
Compost bins can be very low cost .. or you can spend a fortune on them. They can be decorative .. or scruffy. Whichever, they don’t take up much space.
But of course, unless you have a large garden, with a hidden corner to heap up your compost, most of us want something that is presentable if not beautiful. Four pallets tied together with string or wire will make a workable bin, but still doesn’t look great in many cases.
In my case, I use a large plastic compost bin that sits in the corner of the veg patch, under my cherry tree which benefits from the seepage of plant juices! It’s well made, measures one metre x one metre at the base and is one and a half metres high. It was quite low cost and subsidised by my local council many years ago when I lived in Warwickshire. They wanted to limit green waste going to landfill and my bins have dealt with many tons of garden waste.
Smaller Compost Bins
Smaller bins exist, often barrel shaped with a top lid and removal port at the base. Costs are around £25+ each unless you buy the tumbling barrel type of bin which will set you back around £130. In my book that’s a lot of money to undertake a natural process!
Then there’s the Hotbox Composters that can retail at as much as £229.99 PLUS delivery (smaller and cheaper ones are available).
Retailers claim that Hotbox composters offer a wide range of benefits.
Apparently, they reach 40-60°C which makes for fast and effective composting. So do well-made compost heaps.
They also claim to produce compost quicker. In 30-90 days is the claim. I’ve seen no evidence of the 30 day claim but know a well made compost heap can match the 90 day claim.
They also claim they are cleaner and simpler. I’ve never found putting weeds and other garden waste particularity difficult to put in a compost bin. It’s very simple to do.
The next claim is that they compost all food and garden waste. So will any compost bin system if you put it into the bin. But beware, rats can chew their way into any type of bin, including plastic and metal bins.
Smell is claimed to be another problem that hotboxes overcome. I’m not sure why smell is a problem! My compost has no discernable smell unless you put your nose six inches from the compost.
Retailers also claim that hotbins only require only 2.5-5 Kg of waste per week to maintain temperature. A well insulted or well-maintained compost heap can match these claims.
Finally, retailers say the bins are compact and take up little space. I think what they really mean is that they are small and don’t take much waste. The comment I hear from gardeners is that, though they work reasonably fast, they soon fill up.
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Tag: Low Cost Gardening Techniques