Photo courtesy of Getty Images/aluxum
Read on or watch our video to find out how to plan a low-cost vegetable garden that won’t break the budget…
Budget Seeds and Plants
Try local seed and plant swaps. Remember, you’ll need to have something to swap in return.
Look out for special offers on seed supplier websites, both before and towards the end of the growing season.
Save your own seeds from heirloom (open-pollinated) varieties of vegetables such as tomatoes, beans and lettuce.
Feed Soil for Free
Make your own compost. Set up a compost pile in a sunny, sheltered, out-of-the-way corner of the garden. Use recycled pallets to make sides to keep it tidy.
Collect leaves in fall to make leaf mold, which is a fantastic soil amendment. Ask friends and neighbors for theirs too – most people will be delighted to let you have them!
Approach farms and stables to source manure. Make sure the animals haven’t been feeding on plants treated with herbicides that could damage your plants, and make sure it’s well rotted down before using.
Grow Plant Supports
Bamboo canes are free if you grow your own!
Hazel, buddleia and any other trees or shrubs with strong, straight woody stems make excellent poles for climbers such as beans.
Free Crop Protection
Use old clear plastic bottles to make mini greenhouses, polythene stretched over homemade hoops to make mini hoop houses, or recycled glass doors and windows to make cold frames.
Use old tulle, laid double thick for extra protection, to provide shade for crops that can’t take the heat in summer.
Shade newly-sown beds of cool-season crops like lettuce with cardboard until the seedlings germinate.
Protect transplants with upturned pots for one or two days until they settle in.
Cut down plastic bottles to make collars to protect seedlings against cold, drying winds earlier in the season.
Natural Pest Control
Grow nectar-rich flowers in your plan to attract pest predators such as hoverflies and ladybugs. Try coreopsis, cosmos, poached egg plant and alyssum.
Flowering herbs such as dill, fennel, parsley and coriander are loved by beneficial insects too.
Leave some carrots and onions unharvested to flower early the next season and feed beneficial bugs.
Use your imagination to select containers for plants – just make sure to punch holes in the bottom for drainage.
Start seeds in old yogurt pots, soft fruit trays or mushroom trays.
Make your own pots using toilet tissue tubes or newspaper. Toilet tissue tubes are great for deep-rooting seedlings such as corn or beans.
Inexpensive Boundaries and Paths
Lay thick cardboard and cover with bark chippings to create a path fast and inexpensively. You’ll need to top up the bark from time to time.
Opt for salvaged slabs, bricks or cobbles instead of new. You can make hard landscaping go further by infilling with cheaper materials such as gravel.
Buy bare-root hedging plants in winter, as they’re cheaper than potted plants. Make it productive too – plant trained fruit trees or fruiting hedgerow plants so you get a return on your investment.
Get More Tips with These Great Gardening Resources
Our popular Vegetable Garden Planner can help you map out your garden design, space crops, know when to plant which crops in your exact location, and much more.
Need crop-specific growing information? Browse our Crops at a Glance Guide for advice on planting and caring for dozens of garden crops.
Watch more videos on gardening techniques and other self-reliance, DIY topics on our Wiser Living Videos page.