Cheap gardening tips for beginners

Garden frogAre you a beginner gardener on a tight budget? Here's a money saving guide for all green-fingered folk.

Around this time of year, I emerge from winter 'hibernation' and feel an urge to grapple with the great outdoors.

Since I only have a roof terrace, my gardening exploits are limited to whatever fits onto it.
I'm a total amateur, working on a tight budget, but I really enjoy pottering about planting seeds and generally getting covered in compost.

If you don't have much space - or money - or gardening know-how - the whole idea might sound a bit daunting. But it really doesn't have to be.

Here, I'm going to have a look at how beginner gardeners can get the ball rolling as cheaply and easily as possible.

I'm also going to highlight lots of flowers, fruit, vegetables and herbs that are relatively cheap and very easy to grow.

Getting prepared
Equipment: You can pick up second-hand gardening equipment (like pots and tools) quite cheaply - and sometimes even for free. People are usually keen to get shot of these bulky, heavy items just to make a bit more space.

So - before you buy anything new, ask for what you're looking for on Freecycle. Everything on this website is free, donated by Freecycle community members in your area. And don't forget to check out local charity shops and car boot sales.

And try and think 'outside the box' (or pot). For example, dustbins and compost bags with holes are great for growing potatoes.

A friend has an old Belfast sink which looks fantastic filled with flowers - and other gardeners I know also use tyres, apple crates and wellington boots!

If you do want to buy equipment new, high street stores are likely to be cheaper than your local garden centre. Lidl, Aldi, Wilkinson, Robert Dyas and your local pound shop are all worth a look.

Compost: The cheapest compost is the stuff you make yourself.

Seeds: I find eBay is a good place to look for specific seeds, because there are loads on offer and you won't have to pay much for postage.

And check out Garden Swap Shop, where you can swap your excess seeds and plants with other website members for just 20p.

Easy, cheap plants for beginners
If you'd like to have a go at growing something - but you don't know where begin - just start small.

Choose cheap plants that need the minimum of care and equipment - and are very hard to kill!

This way, if you decide gardening really isn't for you, you won't have spent all your savings on high-tech bits and bobs.

Do you fancy a little herb garden? What about having a go at home-grown food? Or perhaps you'd like some nice bright flowers and shrubs? Here are some ideas to get you started.

Mint and lemon balm are both good for beginners because they work well in pots, grow quickly and are difficult to kill.

If you don't have much money or space, thyme is also worth a try. It grows to fill small spaces (like paving stone cracks) and spreads well on its own - so you don't have to by lots of plants.
And rosemary and sage are good 'two in one' options, because they also produce pretty flowers which attract bees.

Visit The Herb Society for lots of good advice on how to grow and use herbs.

Fruit and veg
If you fancy yourself as a future Tom or Barbara:

Potatoes, kale, radishes and garlic are quite hardy and you don't need to buy much special equipment (like greenhouses or climbing frames).

If it's fruit you're after, currant and gooseberry bushes grow happily in (big) containers and produce year after year.

This sort of soft fruit is really expensive in the shops - so after your initial outlay, you could end up saving quite a lot of money on posh desserts!

And if you become really keen, you might want to think about getting your own allotment for a relatively small fee.

Grow Your Own is a great website with lots of advice on what to grow fruit and veg to grow, and when.

Flowers and shrubs
Growing flowers can be a great way to keep children cheaply entertained - especially if they're really colourful and can withstand some prodding and poking from little fingers.

Sunflowers, sweetpeas, crocuses and daffodils are all good in this respect.

If you don't have much space, lobelia and marigolds are quite cheap to buy and perfect for pots and window boxes.

And geraniums and fuchsia are particularly good for hanging baskets.

If you have bare ground, fences and walls - but don't want to spend much on 'covering' plants - ivy and campanula are good because they're resilient and spread like mad.

Finally, lavender is also affordable and a great way to introduce scent and colour. You could even save money on gifts for family and friends, by using it to make pot-pourri.

Still sound too ambitious?
You can even try some cheap and easy gardening indoors. Basil, coriander, parsley and chilli peppers can all be grown on a warm windowsill, from seeds costing a few pence.
I hope I've given you a few ideas. Now do excuse me - I'm off to talk to my radishes...

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