Growing vegetables from seed can make a limited budget go a long way. Some crops, such as maincrop potatoes and onions are fairly cheap to buy in shops, so growing your own might not save you a lot of money. But runner bean, cherry tomato and courgette plants are extremely productive, so you'll harvest generous amounts from a smallish space. Salad leaf seeds are another good investment, as they grow fast and give useful crops from the tiniest patch, or a container.
Early and late crops are another good bet, as they crop when fresh veg and salads are at their priciest in the shops. 'Exotic' or unsusual crops, such as mangetout peas, celeriac, golden courgettes or yellow tomatoes are expensive to buy, but easy to grow from seed. Although crops such as peppers, chillies and aubergines do best in a greenhouse, they'll grow well in tubs on a sunny, sheltered patio.
Learn more about growing four money-saving veg crops, below.
This trendy veg is a great bet as you can rarely buy it in the shops. cook the leaves like spinach and eat the braised stalks with cheese sauce. Seeds are cheap and it’s a foolproof crop that’s highly productive in a small space. Sow from spring until late summer. Summer-sown plants will give a second crop the following spring.
This delicious, versatile, bulbous-rooted veg tastes a lot like celery. Try it grated raw in salads, cubed and roasted, mashed or added to casseroles. You’ll find there are lots of seeds in the packet and that it’s not difficult to grow, although it needs rich soil and regular watering. These tasty roots can cost around £1 each in the shops.
Mixed salad leaves
Never be without the makings of a thrifty side salad, sandwich or garnish. Sow seeds evenly all over the surface of a trough or tub of compost in a cool, semi-shady place. This crop is also good on windowsills indoors from autumn to spring. Snip leaves like mustard and cress when they are big enough.
Tuscan black kale
Although fashionable, this is not a vegetable you often see sold in the shops. Use tender young leaves in salads and cook the full-sized leaves by steaming or in a stir-fry. Make several sowings each season for a constant supply in summer, autumn and winter. Seeds are cheap and it’s easy to grow.
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Save your own seed
Collect traditional non-F1 hybrid varieties, but only when they’re grown at least 250 yards away from other varieties of the same veg which might cross-pollinate them. Don’t save F1 hybrids: the resulting plants are too varied.
Save part-used packets of seed
Roll down the tops of the packets each time you use some, and store any left over at the end of the season. Keep packets in a glass jar with a sachet of silica gel in the salad drawer at the bottom of the fridge. Don’t bother saving parsnip seed – they need to be bought fresh each season.
Sow seeds thinly and evenly
Sow sparingly to make a packet of seeds go further. It also saves a lot of thinning out for direct-sown seeds, and means easier pricking-out when you sow in pots. Mix small seeds such as carrots with sand if it helps to sprinkle them thinly.
Share seeds with friends or neighbours
Give away or swap surplus veg seedlings among yourselves. This is ideal when each of you wants just a few plants of several varieties. Suggest the gardening club sets up a table so members can sell their spare plants. This helps to cover the cost of seed.