It's now been just past the eighteen month mark of us living here now and it's pretty amazing to see just how much the garden has grown up in that time. For instance, the borders in this picture did either not exist till about nine months ago (in the case of the one on the right) or were full of weeds (the one on the left). The main thing though, is that we've learnt an awful lot about how to create a garden for relatively little cost, so I thought I'd pass on the tips that we've learnt along the way.
1) Firstly, assess your space, see what existing elements of the garden you'd like to keep and what you'd like composted or put in a brown bin (acquiring a brown and a compost bin is a good step too). Get to know your soil as this will save you a lot of grief later on. We've also inherited quite a bit of stone and plant pots too we've repurposed and up-cycled for free.
2) This relates to the point above, but do your research. It will save you a lot of grief and money, if you learn about a plant's soil and sun or shade preferences. When we're all allowed to visit gardens, then do so if you can, but in the meantime, look online, follow garden accounts on Instagram, read magazines and books, think about join the RHS but at least use their website, watch Gardener's World etc. All of this info will filter into your brain and you'll absorb it more than you think.
3) Sow from seed as much as possible. Not every plant will grow well from seed, but for those that do, you will save lots of money for instance, mature foxgloves in flower are regularly £10 or more from garden centres, but will die after flowering as they are biennials. However, a packet of foxglove seeds is tons cheaper and you get so many more plants from the seed packet (hundreds if not thousands) and they grow very easily from seed. Of course, seed sowing requires more time and patience but is worth the extra effort.
4) If there is a perennial plant that you really like the look of, then forget the 'buy and plant in threes or fives rule,' buy just one of them, then when they grow, you can very often either propagate from them from cuttings or divide them in the following Autumn or Spring. We have stuck by this rule and saved lots of cash by doing so.
5) This point relates to above in that use your existing plants to create more for free. Collect seed from plants like poppies, foxgloves and calendulas. Take cuttings from rosemary, lavender and curry plants, these latter plants are more important than ever to take cuttings from, because imports from Europe of these plants are to cease due to the xylella virus, so we could see a shortage in the UK in the future. Also, as mentioned before divide perennials like hardy geraniums, astrantia, bearded irises, grasses etc. All of these steps will ensure that you can fill your garden borders for no cost, aside from the initial outlay.
6) Always be on the look out for deals. Nurseries and garden centres often have sales online or in the actual venues themselves if you can get there. We have in the past picked up some real bargains from the off season sale table where the plants themselves look dead or dying but if they're perennial then they will re-flower and come back strong next year. Subscribe to e-newsletters from nurseries as they will often give you early access to sales and deals and money off vouchers.
7) When they come back post Covid, plant fairs, fetes, markets and flower show stalls are places where you can often find something rarer and at some of these events you can get great deals too. If you see a perennial you love but buying several of them would be too expensive, then just get one (see point 3). Also, buy the smallest type of plant, tree or shrub available (e.g. bare root versions) as they will soon grow up and this will also give them time to develop good strong roots.
8) Again, this may apply more to a post-Covid world, but in the future when it's safe, try to share and swap plants and seeds with friends and family. This way you are sharing the joy of gardening for free!
9) Get to know rough prices for plants, seeds and bulbs and then compare different websites for the best deals. I've just spent a Saturday afternoon doing this for our Autumn bulb order. With bulbs too, bear in mind which ones will naturalise (naturally multiply by themselves), as you can buy these in smaller amounts because they'll do the work for you! Also, if you get to know roughly how much plants should cost, then you can spot bargains and deals more easily. We recently bought a rose that was £12 cheaper than it would have been elsewhere!
10) Most of all be patient! Gardening on a budget does take longer and is a bit more effort than buying the biggest most mature plants (instant gardening) but that costs so much more, so budget gardening is more satisfying.
These are the tips that I have found most useful but am sure there are lots more! If you have any suggestions or advice then would love to hear them, so please leave a comment or contact me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.