Outdoor Living
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Create a garden on a shoestring

You don’t need to spend a fortune to create a gorgeous garden. From propagating your own plants to recycling old containers, we'll show you how…

Garden plant (© Cuprinol)

Love gardening but don't want to spend a fortune? Don't fret! Growing gorgeous plants and creating an attractive outdoor space to enjoy them in doesn't have to break the bank. To prove it, here are some inspirational tips that will leave your borders beautiful while making the most of your cash...

Find the bargains

Treat a garden centre as you would any other shop on the high street and only buy plants at sale time. Rather than snapping up flowering shrubs and perennials in spring or summer when they cost the most, hold off until the autumn or early winter when most garden centres begin to sell off their remaining stocks at a discount. Plants may not look their best at the end of the season, but come spring, they should be back growing and in flower again.

Sow to save

Another way to stock your flower beds without emptying your wallet is to grow your own plants from seed. Specialists such as Thompson & Morgan have thousands of varieties of seeds to choose from, ranging from childhood favourites, such as marigolds and sunflowers, to English cottage garden classics, like lupins and hollyhocks. Most are easy to grow. If you have a greenhouse, so much the better, though a sunny windowsill will do the trick.

Plants (© Ben Crystall)

Harvest your garden

An even cheaper way to stock your borders is to exploit plants and shrubs that are already growing in your garden by taking cuttings. Not all plants can be cultivated this way, but lavender, rosemary, geraniums, chrysanthemums, fuschsias, dianthus and many other plant types can easily be raised by taking cuttings early in the spring. This is best done by cutting a section a few inches in length from the top of the growing tip or from a vigorous shoot. Cut at a slight angle, just below the point on the stem where a leaf has developed. Pop the cutting an inch or so into a pot of moist, well-drained compost and cover with a clear plastic bag to create a mini-greenhouse. To help it take, dip the end of the cutting into rooting hormone. And voila - in two or three months you should have new, vigorous plants that will have cost you almost nothing.

Go for rot

If you use much shop-bought peat or compost, you'll know it is expensive stuff. One way to reduce the amount you buy from the garden centre is to make your own. Collect your garden plant waste, grass cuttings and uncooked veggie waste from the kitchen and chuck it all on a compost heap. This needn't take up much space or cost anything to build. All you require is a small corner in the garden and any container - even a pile of old tyres or just a couple of old wooden pallets on end - will be enough to hold the stuff in. The heap should be kept moist but not wet and to speed up the rotting process, cover it with old carpet to keep the heat in. Composting bugs and worms need plenty of air too, so give the heap a fork over once a month. Within a year you should have a rich dark material that can be used to supplement shop-bought compost for raising cuttings or to simply to spread on flowerbeds.

Homemade plant pots (© Not On The High Street)

Go potty

Pots full of flowers are a great way to create an instant splash of colour but terracotta pots are expensive. Rather than buying new, why not transform old pots with a coat of paint. Give them a good wash and a scrub first, then let them dry and finally use something like a water-based acrylic paint to give the pots a bright makeover. In addition, think about alternatives such as recycled tin cans, wicker baskets or even tough-but-colourful nylon bags.

Feed yourself

If you fancy growing your own fruit or veg, the best way to save a bob or two is to plant high-value edibles. One of the most expensive vegetables to buy in the shops is lettuce, yet this staple is extremely easy to grow, even during the winter months. You can plant seeds for several varieties such as Lollo Rossa, iceberg and butterhead during the spring and early summer and then sow varieties like winter gem lettuce in late autumn to produce salad leaves right through to spring. Make sure you stagger your planting and you'll always have a crop ready to harvest.

If you eat lots of salads, then growing your own cucumbers and tomatoes can also save cash over the summer months. Finally, consider heavy cropping veg such as broad or runner beans, which can be harvested, blanched and then frozen. Not only will you be eating healthily and cutting your food miles, but with all that gardening you won't have to spend money on gym membership either.

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