green-fingered savings

With summer finally here, there’s never been a better time to get out in your garden and grow your own fruit and vegetables. Cut the costs of being a green-fingered guru with these top 10 tips:

1) Don’t fork out for fertiliser
A large bag of fertiliser can set you back up to £10, but it’s really easy to make your own. Fallen wet leaves stored in bin bags for about two years will make a nutritious leaf mulch, and if you’ve got a pond, the algae growing on top can be used as a rich fertiliser. Grass clipping and kitchen food waste can also all be put in a cheap compost bin and will be ready to spread on your borders in just six months.

2) Lay off the hose
Around a third of UK homes are on a water meter, and excessive hose-pipe use will really rack up the bills. To keep watering costs to a minimum, invest in your own water butt. Just one water butt holds enough rainwater to fill a watering can 25 times, and the UK’s average rainfall can fill your butt up to 450 times a year. Plus, plants much prefer rainwater to tap water. Most water companies will sell butts on their websites, or you could try picking up a bargain butt on eBay or Gumtree. Waste water from the kitchen is also great for watering gardens. So, rather than wasting the cold water that runs first when you turn on your hot tap, save it in a jug and use it to water your pots.

3) Recycle rubbish
Reusing household rubbish as pots and planters is a great way to help the environment and save the pennies. Empty plastic baskets of cherry tomatoes or mushrooms can be reused to plant seedlings. And ask your local supermarket for wooden or plastic crates which can be used as planters or for winter storage. Old egg boxes are great for chitting potatoes, and old ice lolly sticks are perfect for labelling plants.

4) Grow more for reduced energy bills
A study by the Royal Horticultural Society found that plants can actually reduce your home’s energy costs in the winter by providing shelter and insulation. So if in doubt, go for more rather than less in your garden – your heating bill could be lower as a result.

5) Visit bargain shops and supermarkets
Pound stores, and low-cost supermarkets such as Lidl and Aldi often have fantastic deals on gardening sundries and plants, and the own-brand seed deals are well worth checking out.

6) Get swapping
Team up with your local friends and neighbours and swap plant and flower cuttings. You could also try visiting the Garden Swap Shop website Garden Swap Shop, where you can swap your excess seeds and plants with other website members from just 20p.

7) Find free online advice
The fantastic Plant Advice website is the perfect place to get all your gardening questions answered for nothing. Anything from which plants are suitable for your garden, how to care for cuttings and where plants will grow best in your plot can all be uncovered here.

8) Make your own insect traps
Don’t bother forking out for special slug killer to protect your greenery, just place a saucer of beer around your precious plants and the slugs will be powerless to resist. Similarly, an almost empty jam jar half filled with water with small holes pierced in the lid makes an amazing wasp-trap to safeguard your fruit crops.

9) Turn off the electricity
If you need light and heat for a plant that’s in the shade, there’s no need to pay out for special plant lights. Just use some aluminium foil and cardboard to make a light reflector and angle it to catch the light.

10) Get as much as you can for free!
Before you buy anything new for your garden – be it plant pots, garden tools or tomato plants – ask for what you’re looking for on recycling community website Freecycle. Everything on this site is free, donated by Freecycle community members in your area. And don’t forget to check out local charity shops and car boot sales.

Finally, did you know that getting out in your garden can also cut the cost of keeping fit? Just 30 minutes of digging will burn about 300 calories and it won’t cost you a thing!