A beautiful garden needn't require a huge budget. You don't need to break the bank to have billowing borders or a productive vegetable patch. Simple practices such as saving and sowing seed, propagating plants and buying second hand can ensure you have a beautiful garden without a hefty price tag.
More on saving money in the garden:
Browse our list of 10 ways to cut gardening costs so you can save money to spend elsewhere, below.
Grow plants from seed
Established plants from nurseries and garden centres come with a hefty price tag – save money by raising plants from seed instead. Most plants are easy to grow from seed, simply follow the instructions on the back of the seed packet and away you go. It's true plants grown from seed won't bulk up as quickly as those you buy from the garden centre, but in time you'll have plenty of stock to supply your garden, with more to gift to friends and family.
Grow plants in the right place
If you've ever made an impulse purchase at the garden centre and taken the plant home to find it's not suitable for growing in your garden, you're not alone. While impulse purchases can be fun, it's worth doing a bit of research before you buy plants, to make sure they will thrive in your garden. Choose sun-loving plants for sunny borders and shade-tolerant plants for shady areas. Make sure the soil type is right, too – there's no point growing camellias and rhododendrons if you have chalky soil, or planting half-hardy perennials that will struggle in winter on heavy clay.
There's nothing more satisfying than raising new plants from cuttings. You can take cuttings of plants to make more of them to fill your borders or give to friends and family as gifts. Some perennials live for only a few years before they need replacing. By taking cuttings of them when they're young you can replace like-for-like in the garden. You don't need any fancy kit for taking cutttings, just some gritty compost and a pair of secateurs. Softwood cuttings are best propagated in pots, while hardwood cuttings can be planted straight into the ground.
Look after your tools
Looking after your tools will help keep them in good condition for longer, meaning you have to replace them less often. Always pack tools away at the end of a gardening session, keeping them somewhere dry, such as a shed. Wipe down spades, trowels and forks after each use, ensuring there's no soil residue on them, which can lead to rust. Keep secateurs sharp and well-oiled. Maintain power tools, such as lawnmowers and hedge trimmers, annually.
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If you do buy plants from the garden centre, you may not need to buy as many as you think you do. The rootballs of many herbaceous perennials can be divided into two or even three plants, giving you up to three times as many plants as you paid for. Fibrous-rooted plants can be divided using an old bread knife, while others can be separated by gently pulling them apart. Make sure each divided section has a good set of roots attached, repot into fresh compost and water well. Each plant should quickly bulk up and will soon be the size of the original plant you paid for.
Grow your own bird food
Bird seed can be expensive to buy but there are plenty of ways to provide food for birds without breaking the bank. A packet of sunflower seeds costs around £1.50 but will result in several large heads of sunflowers that develop seeds, which you can either harvest, dry and use to fill bird feeders, or leave standing so birds can feed from them naturally. Other seed-bearing plants to grow include teasels and knapweeds, which are loved by goldfinches. Leaving seeds on lavender and other herbaceous perennials could attract house sparrows, while growing berrying shrubs and trees will provide an annual feast for thrushes, robins and blackbirds. Don't forget that most garden birds feed caterpillars to their young. By letting a few weeds grow at the back of your borders, and growing other caterpillar foodplants, you will provide plenty of natural food in your garden for birds and their young.
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Make compost and mulch
Composting your kitchen and garden waste results in a wonderful organic matter you can use for mulching, top-dressing and potting up. Simply gather an even mix of green and brown waste, chop everything up and pile it together, either in an open heap or a closed compost bin. Making leaf mould by gathering autumn leaves into a bespoke leaf mould cage or plastic bags will give you a wonderful medium to mulch and top-dress your plants, but you can also mix leaf mould with home-made compost and a little sharp sand, to make your own seed compost.
Let's face it, a packet of seed goes a long way. And, while some seeds will remain viable until you need to use them the following year, others, such as parsnip seed, won't. Instead of buying whole packets and only using half, why not save money by sharing and swapping seed with friends? Attending seed swaps in spring can also save you money – simply take your own surplus seeds and swap them with those other attendees have brought with them.
Most plants produce their own seeds, which you can harvest, store, and sow again without having to invest in new plants every year. Biennials like foxgloves and honesty, annuals like cosmos and field poppies, and perennials such as astrantias and Verbena bonariensis are easy to save seed from, saving you money to spend on other plants. What's more, saving vegetable seed from open pollinated varieties (not F1 types) of crops such as carrots, parsnips, peas, beans, sweetcorn and tomatoes will enable you to grow the same crops year after year without spending a penny.
Buy second hand and from discount stores
There's plenty of bargains to be had on websites like Freecycle and Facebook Marketplace, where you can pick up second-hand items for a fraction of the price they're available when new. What's more, discount stores such as Aldi and Lidl often have garden-themed sales, with discounted prices on anything from seeds and small plants to fruit trees and power tools. Most garden centres and nurseries have seasonal sales and poorly plant shelves where you can pick up plants cheaply – try shopping for herbaceous perennials in late summer and spring bulbs in January – there's a lot of money to be saved if you know where to look.