Thursday, 5 March 2015

Ten thrifty garden tips

Want to add to your garden without purging your purse? You’ve come to the right place!

1 Make your own seed pots. Newspaper, a glass and some string is all you need to make a whole batch of seed pots for your nursery. They’ll decompose in the ground, too, so when you transfer your littl’uns outside you won’t need to disturb the roots.

2 Propagation and patience. I saw a spider plant priced up at £4 today. £4! Spider plants can be so easily propagated if you have a friend or family member with a spawning plant. Cut off a young plant from the main, and place in a glass of water. Leave to root, which normally takes around a fortnight, and transfer to a pot of compost. Before you buy more plants, think about what you could do with your existing ones. You could even do a swap with someone – giving away a lavender (Lavandula spica) cutting for your neighbour’s jade (Crassula ovata) cutting, for example.

3 Eggshell goodness. Pass on that pricey feed and add some crushed eggshells to soil for a nutrient boost. They’re a good source of calcium, and are particularly useful for fast-growing plants. Wash and finely crush the eggshells before mixing them into the soil.

4 Veggie goodness. When you’re gorging yourself at the Sunday roast, think about your plant folk. Put aside the water you’ve cooked your veg in, allow it to cool, and water your plants with it for a kick of goodness.

5 Trellis? Ain’t nobody got time to buy that! Planting a climber and planning on buying trellis? Learn a new skill and save money at the same time, by making your own trellis or supporting frame. All you need is string and bamboo canes, and a little ingenuity. Position your canes in the design you would like – for instance, in a V shape with bars, or a # shape. Then tie the string around each joint by running above and below each cane, and knot every several wraps, to ensure a tight hold.

6 Love your charity shops. I’ve bought most my pots and glass containers from charity shops – and at no more than £3 each. My best buy was perhaps a cut glass bowl for £1, which is now home to my succulent display. If you’re looking for a larger container for an indoor plant, you can find a wicker basket or small bin (the kind you’d put in a bedroom or office) in a charity shop and adapt it. Line the bin or basket with a black bin bag (double-layer if not very thick), shovel gravel into the bottom to allow for drainage (three inches should do it…) and fill with compost and the plant of your choice.

7 Linger, then meander a little, too. Keep an eye on the plant sections in supermarkets and non-specialist shops for reduced products. Retailers don’t water the plants once they’re on the shop floor, and are forced to reduce their price when they show the effects of the negligence. It means you can find some bargains, although they’ll need a little extra watering and attention for the first week or so.

8 Size isn’t everything. Garden centres up the price for plants as they get bigger, unsurprisingly. So you might find a small thyme (Thymus vulgaris) for £3, while a more mature plant is £7. The resolution is clear: spend within your means. Although a larger plant may give you instant gratification, a smaller one can be much more satisfying to train and watch grow.

9 Tap into local resources. Local coffee shops often give away their used coffee grounds, which can then be used to invigorate your soil. A valuable source of nitrogen, as well as magnesium, calcium and potassium, the grounds can be added to the soil in the same way as eggshells – mixed in with, or added on top of, soil. Pebbles from the local beach can be used in trays to increase humidity for potted plants (by placing them in a tray, filling with water, and placing the potted plant on top).

10 Just ask. Need some storage for your tools or pots? Ask at the local supermarket to have a couple of the cardboard boxes they receive vegetables in. They’re attractive, free and practical – how great is that?! Wondering whether your local café throw away their eggshells and coffee grounds? You know what to do.

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