Now you may have made your mind up to cut back on or even cut out some of those money consuming hobbies or pastimes, and you may well be looking for ways to make your whole lifestyle that bit less expensive. But before you even start to consider giving the garden a miss, check-out my top tips for Credit-Crunch Gardening.

Apply for an allotment. In some areas you may have to join a waiting list, in others you might be able to get started straight away. An allotment opens up a whole new opportunity to grow almost unlimited food at very little cost, get exercise without paying for the gym, and learn a lot from your neighbouring plot holders.

Save seed from favourite garden flowers and vegetables. If there are some runner-beans that have turned to cricket-bats, or your pretty summer border plants have gone over, rather than just confining them to the bin, save the seed. Collect it when it hasn’t been raining, allow it to dry completely away from artificial heat, then store in old envelopes, labelled clearly.

Gardeners are a very generous bunch, so don’t feel embarrassed to ask, friends, neighbours, or fellow allotmenteers for cuttings or seedlings of plants that you have admired. It is part of what gardening is all about.

Leafmould is free soil improver. Choose softish, deciduous leaves for the best leafmould, avoid leathery and tough leaves or those with very chunky mid-veins as they won’t rot down so well. Just make a ‘cage’ from galvanised wire with posts at the corners or cram the leaves into bin liners, puncture a few holes and you’ll make great leafmould.

Make the most of every bit of fruit and veg that your garden or allotment produces. Make jams, chutnies, jellies and of course bottle or freeze just about anything else.

Make your own wasp trap. Use a jam jar part filled with stale jam, mixed with water and topped with tin foil with a few holes in it made using a pencil. They’ll trap the wasps at virtually no cost.

Many local councils offer really good value composters and compost bins so give them a call and see what they have on offer. Better still, if you’re at all handy with the hammer and nails, create your own from old pallets or floor boards.

Fill a flowerbed with colour by sowing it with hardy annual seeds – some can be collected from existing plants, others from packet seed, often at under £1 per packet. Hardy annual flower seed is best sown either in the autumn or in spring.

Make your own plant supports. Tree and shrub and even large hedge prunings can be really useful as ‘pea-sticks’ to support not only garden peas, but also many herbaceous perennials which otherwise do tend to flop over if left to their own devices.

Ask your local pub to give you any stale beer from the driptrays and use it as slug bait. Use an old plastic beaker part filled with beer and placed so that the rim is about 1cm above soil level in a slug and snail prone area. You’ll be amazed at how many you catch.

Enjoy some wild food. Many garden plants are edible, and so are many of the weeds such as dandelion. Blanch them first to reduce the bitterness and they make a good addition to a salad. And don’t forget the old favourites such as hedgerow blackberries – great for crumble, stewed with some apple or for making into the breakfast delight, bramble jelly.

Many fruits sold in the supermarket come in smart, clear-plastic trays, help the planet and save yourself some money by using these as miniature seed trays. Some already have holes in the base for drainage, other may need you to make the holes…..and most even come with a clear plastic top, the perfect mini propagator lid to help to keep the compost moist and allow the seedlings that bit of extra warmth.

Growing your own vegetables really can save you a packet. Right now you can order in seed for crops, and onion sets and garlic for crops early next summer. Then early in the year start planting potatoes and sowing seed.

Look after your garden tools. Store them in a dry shed or garage, wipe over any metal parts with an oily rag to keep rust at bay and they’ll last years longer.

Invest in a few raspberry canes. This has to be the best money saving crop, as they are expensive in the shops. Once established autumn fruiting varieties yield heavy crops and can give you ‘posh’ fruit….for just pennies.

The garden furniture is probably the most costly item in your garden and statistics show it’s what gardeners spend most money on replacing. Remove washable seat-pads and cushions first, wash and dry these and then cover the furniture up or move it into a shed or garage if possible.

By Pippa Greenwood – Visit her website here.

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