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 my mind is very much focused on being cost-effective and quality. 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.


Low-Cost Gardening Equipment


Compost Bins

The compost bin is central to many successful gardens. It recycles our waste, stops garden waste going to landfill and gives great satisfaction to many gardeners.

Better still, composting is a natural process and makes our gardens more sustainable. and compost bins are easy to construct .. indeed at its basic level, it needs no equipment, just a heap of organic matter left to rot in a corner of the garden.

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.

Large plastic compost bin for the low cost garden
My large plastic compost bin which consumes huge amounts of green waste in my low cost garden

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.

Small compost bin in the low cost garden
A smaller barrel-shaped compost bin with a large bottom opening to retrieve compost through

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.

As you see I’m not a great fan of hotbox composters. Sure, they work, and I can see the attraction. But at the end of the day, they are just well-insulted plastic bins that cost a lot of money. Composting is a natural process that is impossible to stop. It’s possible to buy well-priced bins without spending a fortune. I prefer my low-cost gardening solution.


Growing Seeds in Modules

Starting seedlings off in modules is an established way to get seedlings germinated in the best conditions. Garden soil is often cold and wet early in the year whilst modules mean the seeds can be germinated in a propagator, on the kitchen windowsill or similar. Germination rates are then much higher and, once the seeds are hardened off, they can be transferred outside when conditions dictate.  

The question is what sort of modules to use.

Some people recycle toilet roll inners and that sort of works but are cumbersome and the tube tends to break down if you keep the seeds in them too long. That’s not great if planting out is delayed. 

Pots can be used as can seed trays. Both have their merits, depending on what you are growing in them and how quickly you can plant them out. For example, commercially I used to grow lettuce seedlings in seed trays and transplant them into the greenhouse soil at the cotyledon stage. Its a meticulous process but saved us a lot of money at certain times of year, when we had enough time to do it. We would get 800-1000 seedlings in a thickly sown tray and the losses in the greenhouse were usually zero. If we lost 0.001% it was a bad year! Celery seedlings were also grown like this then transplanted to compost blocks. The blocks were made through a blocking machine and looked a bit like a chocolate bar. One seedling was placed in each square and when we went to plant we just snapped that plant from the bar!  

Garden centres sell plastic modules but they tend to be wafer-thin and single-use. That makes them relatively expensive.

Mixed modules, injection mouled multiple use modules on the bottom and wafer thin, but expensive, plastic modules on top.
Mixed modules, injection mouled multiple use modules on the bottom and wafer thin, but expensive, plastic modules on top.

Much better are the injection moulded plastic modules. They are made from recycled polypropylene and last 15-20 years of multiple uses per year. The costs are only slightly more expensive than the single-use types sp this makes them incredibly lower cost per use.

Injection moulded polypropylene modules that will last 15-20 years before recycling
Injection moulded polypropylene modules that will last 15-20 years before recycling

Check out the Gardening Dictionary for any terms that are new to you.


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