Despite what all the garden makeover shows would have us believe you don´t have to have expensive paving and decking, water features, statuary and state of the art lighting to make your garden a beautiful haven for you and the local wildlife to enjoy. Once upon a time it was the actual plants that were the stars of the show in a garden. Making a lovely garden can be very expensive and the initial preparation can be hard work, and it´s not something you can achieve overnight. However if you have the will to succeed, a little know how, a few ideas, a strong back and patience, it is possible to create your dream garden and I will give you some tips on how to do this and keep within a budget.
Learn the Basics of Gardening Before You Start
If you are new to gardening it´s important you learn something before making a start, to avoid costly mistakes. All the Information you need is out there. Another good way to learn is by joining a local gardening club. Good for learning from experienced gardeners and with the added possibility of some free plants or seeds or cuttings.
Taking on a New-to-You Garden
If you are taking on a new-to-you garden for example after moving house, you may be faced with what looks like a jungle or even a building site. Instead I would advise that you give the garden a good tidy and cut back anything overgrown, and then sit back and see what the garden produces in your first year, or even just wait to see what pops up in the spring.
Give yourself time to get a feel for the plot and what you think would work well for you, and then start drawing up your plans.
Grow Your Own Plants
Growing from seed, taking cuttings, and dividing plants is not rocket science, anyone can do it and the beauty is you can then increase the stock in your garden at no or very little cost. If you really get into it, and I´m sure you will once your first cuttings strike or your first sowing of seeds appear and flourish, then you can start swapping with friends or even sell some. If you are friendly with other gardeners and you see something in their gardens which really takes your fancy just ask them if they wouldn’t mind saving a few seed heads or a few cuttings or a portion of root when they are doing their autumn or spring tidy up. Of course producing your own plants does take time, but the whole point of this page is to save you money and growing your own plants will save you a fortune.
Looking for Bargains When Buying Plants
If you are looking for an instant garden, if such a thing does indeed exist…I´ve been gardening for 20 odd years and still haven´t managed one!! Then you need to buy large specimens to fill it, this is expensive, and it´s amazing how much bare soil you still have showing even when you have been out and spent an absolute fortune on plants.
Mighty Oak´s From Little Acorns Grow
Normally plants are priced by the size of pot they are in, in other words a plant in a 3 litre pot costs a lot more than a plant in a 1 litre pot so the 3 litre plant has been grown on until it´s bigger. Hence the increase in price. But once you have bought and planted the 1 litre pot sized plant (and specially if you have done a good job of preparing the planting hole and you keep it watered until it gets its roots established) unless it´s something renowned for its slow growth, such as box hedging for example, it will soon attain the size of the 3 litre pot plant anyway.
Hassle For a Good Deal
Another way to buy plants cheaply is to look around your local Garden Centre or the garden section of your DIY shop. You will often come across plants that have been neglected and therefore the price reduced. Most of the time all these sickly looking individuals need is a good water and feed. If you think the price of these bargain basement plants is still too high, do a bit of haggling with the sales assistants, you never know.
I bought 2 hardy geraniums this way, both looked very sorry for themselves and one had no label so I didn´t know what to expect when it flowered. Both bloomed their hearts out after a little TLC and became real show stoppers.
Car boot sales and gardens open to the public can also yield some great bargains, and you could be picking up some real rarities too.
If you live in the UK look out for a copy of the NGS (National Gardens Scheme) “yellow book of gardens open to the public for charity,” not only will you pick up some great ideas for your own garden, but there will be loads of plants for sale too. Many of these gardens contain national collections, so if you are in to a specific type of plant, go along and have a real feast.
Look Out For Plants With More Than One Season Of Interest
It´s also worth considering what seasons of interest your plants, shrubs and trees will give you. E.g. will they just give a nice show of flowers in the spring and that´s all, or will they give you a nice show of flowers, gorgeous autumn colours, and a reasonably good structure when the leaves eventually fall?
Borrow A Neighbours Tree
Another crafty and free trick you can use is to borrow a neighbour’s tree!!!! Figuratively speaking that is. If you find somewhere near your border or even in the distance, a tree you particular like the look of, plant some shrubs at your side of the fence which would look well as a contrast and in time your fence will not be visible and so it will be hard to tell that your neighbours tree isn´t in fact growing in your garden. Likewise you can also borrow a nice vista.
Grow Some Veggies
Create a vegetable patch or grow some in pots or a green house, or you could go old cottage garden style and just plant some in your flower borders. If you do the latter check up which plants will actually protect your food plants from attack by garden pests. It´s called companion planting.
4 Golden Rules About Planting
- Always prepare the planting site well. Make sure it’s been well dug and conditioned. Dig a nice big hole…I once heard it said the best way is to dig a half crown hole for a six penny plant…for those of you too young to remember money before decimalisation..It would equate these days to digging a 50 pence hole for a 5p plant. Sprinkle some plant food on the soil you have removed and this will go into the hole when you in fill. Give the site a good water, puddling it around the base of the plant and then water regularly until the plant has spread its roots a bit and become established.
- Always take account of the plants needs and eventual size. Many plants labelled as requiring some shade will do perfectly well in an open sunny position…specially in the UK and cooler climate zones. But there are some plants that will not tolerate the wrong soil conditions so it´s worth investing in a soil testing kit to find out the ph of your garden, and it´s important to do this in a lot of different areas as you could have acid in some places and alkaline in others. Again it´s not rocket science and you don´t need a master degree to carry it out. Don’t despair if there´s a particular plant you like but your soil wouldn’t..You can always grow it in a pot.
- A common mistake especially when you are new to gardening is to plant things too closely together…read the label and give plants and particulay shrubs the room they need to spread. It will save you a huge amount of hard work in the long run. You can sow annual seeds in the spaces which have been left for the shrub to fill out, or even stick in some cane´s and grow some sweet peas or even runner beans for a year or two. If I wasn’t advocating creating a garden on a budget I may suggest you fill in the gaps with bedding, but this can be a costly way of going about things as they will only last one season and I much prefer perennials anyway.
- Make sure you plant at the correct time of year. Some plant´s, for instance trees and shrubs will not do well if planted in summer, whilst other plants will die very quickly if planted in the winter.
Make Your Own Compost and Plant Feed
Making and using your home made compost is easy and a real treat for your soil. Compost bins can be easily made using fencing posts and chicken wire or an old dustbin perforated with holes, or your local council may provide them free or for a reduced price. Remember to layer what you are putting on the compost heap, basically just layer it up with woody stems and things that break down slowly followed by vegetable household waste, eggshells, coffee grounds and trimmings from garden plants.
Compost heaps do need turning occasionally and keeping moist…and here’s a money saving tip for those who dare, don’t waste money on expensive compost accelerators, urine does the same job and cost’s nothing!!!