If you're looking for ways to save money in the garden, you're not alone. Though we all love to fill our backyards with new plants, flowers, and other backyard paraphernalia, the costs can start to add up.
One of the easiest cheap garden ideas is actually quite simple: don't buy things when you don't need them! But there's actually some more eco-friendly and sustainable approaches to saving costs, all of which we've explained here.
Whether you're reusing household items in a new way, or engaging with your local community to swap and source garden supplies, thinking outside the box is the best way to approach saving money in the garden.
Cut costs with these ways to save money in the garden
With the increasing cost of living, searching for quick, simple and effective ways to reduce your monthly outgoings can have a big impact on your bank balance. Not only are these 12 solutions great for saving money in the garden, but many will help you to reduce your eco footprint too. It's a win-win!
1. Make your own compost for free
Buying multiple bags of compost can quickly add up, so why not try making your own by composting at home? Once you know how to do it, you'll realise it's much easier than you might have thought.
'One of the best things you can do to save money in the garden is composting, which also helps improve your soil and reduce your environmental impact – a win-win,' says Jack Sutcliffe, co-founder of Power Sheds (opens in new tab).
All you need to get started is a compost bin or dedicated compost heap. Collect a few key ingredients that we all have at home or in the garden: dry fallen leaves, grass cuttings and plant clippings, crushed eggshells, coffee grounds, scraps of fruit and veg peelings. These are all quick to break down, providing moisture as well as nitrogen to your compost pile, which is important.
Jack suggests including cardboard egg boxes and used teabags too, but to avoid putting certain perennial weeds in there like dandelions, as well as any meat or dairy products.
Nature will take its course over a period of several months to a year or more, gradually breaking down the materials. The organic matter that's produced is your own homemade compost, which can be used for mulching garden borders and filling pots, boosting the growth of plants and vegetables.
It's worth bearing in mind that making your own compost is a relatively slow process, and may take up to a year. If the idea of waiting that long doesn't appeal, our guide to hot composting explains how to make compost in just four weeks by using certain techniques.
2. Go for cost-effective solar lighting
To save money on your electricity bills, why not use solar lights for your outdoor lighting ideas? This could be everything from solar lanterns, string lights, stake lights or even wall lights.
'Solar lights will simply soak up the sunshine during the day and automatically illuminate as dusk falls, keeping your garden aglow into the late evening without the need of a power source,' says Claire Bassett, senior product manager at Lights4Fun (opens in new tab).
'Position your garden solar lights in the sunniest spots of your garden, especially when the days begin to get shorter, as it will ensure the lights will glow for longer,' Claire explains.
Solar lights with an IP44 rating means they can withstand rainfall, but if you live in particularly cold region with harsh winters, you may want to consider storing outdoor lights away during the winter months so they're protected from harsh frosts that might lead to long term damage.
- Shop outdoor solar lights in the US: view at Amazon (opens in new tab)
- Shop outdoor solar lights in the US: view at Amazon (opens in new tab)
3. Reduce your water bills by using a rain barrel
Learning how to collect rainwater will quickly improve the quality of your plants: rain contains a less acidic pH than faucet water, and as it's a tepid temperature it's not as likely to shock your plant's roots, either.
'A rain barrel or water butt is a great way of storing rainwater for later use. Not only is it saving you money on water bills, but it also gives you that great boosted feeling of being self-sustainable,' says Sean Lade, director of Easy Garden Irrigation (opens in new tab).
Simply place a receptacle beneath your rain gutters to save the water that falls from your roof. You can also experiment with rain chain ideas too.
Nick Hamilton, owner of Barnsdale Gardens (opens in new tab), suggests not wasting bath water either, as this can also be piped into your water butt. He also recommends using a low pressure leaking pipe for watering plants, which can be fed straight from a water butt.
Rain barrels are readily available online at Amazon (opens in new tab), but if you want to try your hand at some DIY and save even more money, learning how to make a rain barrel is relatively straightforward.
4. Upcycle and repurpose household objects
Why not try repurposing common household items into useful garden tools and accessories before you recycle them? Jack Sutcliffe from Power Sheds (opens in new tab) says that plastic milk cartons, yoghurt pots, and egg boxes are examples of items that can be put to good use in your garden.
'Any container can be used to grow plants in, just so long as it has sufficient holes for water to seep out,' he says. 'Milk cartons can also be used as watering cans with no effort needed. Puncture a few holes in the lid with a skewer or nail and fill it with water!'
There are plenty of other ways to put these everyday household items to good use too:
- Reuse egg cartons to house newly planted seedlings – or even plant in the eggshells themselves.
- Chipped and cracked drinking mugs can easily be repurposed into plant pots, and shards of broken crockery like plates and bowls can be used as 'crocks' to assist with drainage at the bottom of larger garden planters.
- Make a bug hotel from recycled tins tied together with twine.
- Give empty, clean tin cans a second life and use them to hold flowers and herbs.
- 'Make your own pots using newspaper, which will rot away into the ground after planting,' suggests
- Nick Hamilton, owner of Barnsdale Gardens (opens in new tab), recommends using discarded pop bottles as mini cloches for tender plants, or to protect young brassica plants from pigeons.
5. Save seeds from flowers and plants instead of buying them
One of the easiest and best ways to save money in the garden is by collecting seeds from flowers and plants you already have. You already know you like those plants, plus you know they'll grow well in your garden too.
Nick Hamilton suggests collecting seed from dried seed cases of annual and perennial flowers, and saving in envelopes for sowing in early spring. Hybrid varieties may or may not come true to type, he says.
Local plant swapping communities are a huge trend now, popping up everywhere from yard sales to church fundraisers. You can take packets of your saved seeds to swap with your friendly neighborhood plant fans, and perhaps make some gardening friends in the process. A fantastic way to get free seeds!
6. Make your own cost-effective plant fertilizer
If you've steered clear of how to make fertilizer, it may surprise you to hear that it's actually pretty easy to make your own. Tim Marshall, head gardener at Raby Estates (opens in new tab), explains that the two plants particularly well-suited for fertilizing plants are comfrey and nettles.
'For comfrey, I tend to use a less invasive variety called Bock 14,' Tim says. 'Collect a hessian bag full of foliage of either the comfrey or nettles, then submerge the bag in a large container or vat of fresh water for around three weeks. After this time, you will have a rather smelly container of brown liquid. Between half to one litre of this mixture, diluted in a large watering can of water to the color of weak tea, makes an excellent nitrogen and nutrient feed for most garden plants.'
Green manure is a useful crop which often grow over winter to give coverage of flower and vegetable beds. Tim tells us that a plant often grown for this purpose is Hungarian rye grass. 'The plants should be cut down and dug into the ground before they are allowed to flower and the green stems break down rapidly, releasing lots of nitrogen into the soil,' he says.
7. Get news plants for free
Learning how to take cuttings from plants is a fantastic way to increase your pre-existing plant haul – and it's totally free. You can do this with both hardwood and softwood plants.
For softwood plants, carefully cut the soft new growth from the top of the plant, then pot them up and cover with a clear plastic bag to encourage new growth.
For hardwood plants, cut a healthy shoot below a bud and dip into hormone rooting powder, then pot up and keep them sheltered outside until the following autumn.
'Divide perennials in your garden and swap with friends and neighbours, or ask friend and relatives for permission to take cuttings of the plants you like in their gardens,' says Nick Hamilton. 'Always pop them in a plastic bag to keep them fresh.'
Propagating succulents is easy to do too, and so are many of your indoor plants. For instance, Pilea Peperomioides (Chinese money plant) and pothos (devil's ivy) are extremely easy to propagate – they're essentially free houseplants!
8. Use DIY insect repellents and traps
Before shelling out your cash on expensive products, try out some of the best tried-and-tested methods for how to get rid of slugs, snails, and other invasive garden critters.
There are plenty of natural ways to do this. Scattering coffee grounds or scrunched up eggshells around the base of your affected plants will create a gritty barrier that slugs and snails don't like to slither over, while sticking strips of copper tape around the lip of your pots gives slimy slugs a tiny electric shock.
You can also use the best slug repellent plants: once established in strategically appropriate places, strong smelling plants like lavender and rosemary will really help keep slug populations at bay.
If all else fails and you're still facing a slug onslaught, a good old-fashioned beer trap is the ultimate solution. Just half-fill a shallow dish with some beer and wait for the slugs to fall in.
Rachel Morgan from YouGarden (opens in new tab) also swears by a really easy and cost-effective spray for getting rid of aphids: 'Take a spray water bottle and add 3 tablespoons of washing up liquid, dilute with a pint of water and shake. Spray directly onto the infected areas once a day until clear. No more aphids!'
9. Save money by switching to reusable plant labels
More often than not, it’s the small things we buy a lot of that can quickly add to our garden expenses. If you grow loads of seeds, chances are you use up lots of plant labels for everything from your favourite herbs to seedlings for your veg patch. What's more, as many labels are made from plastic, they're not particularly environmentally friendly.
Look out for reusable alternatives instead, such as these attractive wooden tags, which will easily withstand the weather and can be used time and again. You'll find more ideas on how to create an eco-friendly garden in our guide.
- Buy wooden plant markers in the US: view at Amazon (opens in new tab)
- Buy wooden plant markers in the UK: view at Amazon (opens in new tab)
10. Make budget-friendly seedling pots from newspaper
Not only will this idea save you money, it also means you don’t need to buy plastic pots or trays for your seedlings. All you need is a newspaper or newsprint and a handy wooden pot maker. This set by Burgon & Ball, available at Amazon (opens in new tab), comes with different sized moulds so you can make various sized pots to suit your seedlings needs.
Then pop in some compost and your seedlings to the finished paper pot. Once the seedlings have hardened off and are ready to be planted outdoors, you can plant them straight into the soil in the newspaper pot and it will naturally biodegrade.
11. Turn thrifted pallets into useful planters
Pallet ideas for gardens are all the rage at the moment, and it's easy to see why. Often available for free, with a little bit of DIY know-how you can transform pallets into everything from outdoor sofas and tables to planters and even pallet garden walls.
For a simple and cheap herb garden, use thrifted pallets as vertical planters by creating troughs that are lined with thick plastic, then filled with compost. Add in your chosen plants and voila – a perfect kitchen herb garden at minimal cost. Vertical planting is also an ideal way to make the most of the space in smaller backyards, so take advantage of every wall, door, shelf and fence and fill it with edible plants.
12. Clean and repair garden tools
Garden tools can be some of the most expensive things you'll buy for your garden, so it pays to look after them to ensure they last you for years to come.
Learning how to clean rusty tools properly will get them looking their best again, while cleaning pruning shears will help to keep them sharp as well as prevent you spreading diseases from one plant to another when pruning.
It's worth building some proper garden tool storage too, so that everything has its own place in your shed and you can tidy tools away after a day working in the garden. 'This doesn't have to be expensive,' says Beth Murton, editor of Gardeningetc. 'In my own shed, I've just got a simple piece of timber attached to the side wall, and then a series of nails, hooks and wooden dowels along the length of the timber so we can hang everything from secateurs and trowels to rakes and spades from it. I'm terrible for losing gardening gloves too, so I now make sure I have a small basket in the shed to keep them tidied away rather than having to buy a new pair each year!'
Freelance writer and author Flora Baker is a keen amateur gardener and houseplant enthusiast. Her small garden in South London is a constant work in progress as she gets to grips with snail prevention, DIY trellises and what to plant in shady spots overrun with ivy.
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