Thrifty January: Gardening on the cheap

I am addicted to two things: seeds and dungarees. And while dungarees tend to hurt my pocket more financially, seeds have a way of slipping in those pockets without me even realising. A couple of pounds here, a couple of pounds there…

But that’s the thing about gardening. It doesn’t have to cost the world to get involved. I frequently find myself peering into skips for treasure, eyeing up pallets left by the road and buying the reduced plants in the garden centre that are otherwise left to die.

However writing this coincides with what Him Outdoors is calling ‘the age of frugality’. With a wedding to pay for and debts to settle, a day spent gardening doesn’t incur further costs. So this post is me celebrating the joys of thrifty gardening, and sharing some of the things we’ve done on the cheap.

  • Shop the sales. If you haven’t been running up and down the aisle of Homebase or Wilkinson’s throwing 10p bean netting into your basket, where have you been?! At the end of the season, lots of shops do mass clear-outs as they get ready for Christmas. We bought SO many seeds at 75% off – just check the expiry dates to make sure they’re good value. We picked up things for 10p which had a date of 2022 – so plenty of time to find a home for them somewhere! Big chains had clear-outs in January so check stock online and shop around.We got some growing cages, obelisks and these Birdies planters, below, for £10. The first one excited me so much we made another mission to get two more for extra space in our garden. Once put together, the obvious question was ‘what on earth (wahey) are we going to fill these with’. We lined the bottom with plastic, and then put in rubble etc we had lying around for drainage – clearing the garden and filling the planter. (I don’t know about you but I love achieving two jobs in one!) We then emptied our chicken run for the next layer of mulch. I appreciate not everyone has chickens but ask around – we use horse bedding and it decomposes into the most amazing mulch. We then topped them with compost, and ta daaaaaa. The whole bed filled up set us back about £14. Ca-ching!

  • Buy bare root fruit plants. As the Walrus once said, the time has come (to buy fruit). Buying fruit is expensive, so I’m on a mission this year to grow more of my own. So many websites have deals on at the moment. I got 12 good-sized Polka raspberry plants for my new fruit bed for £12 for example. I’m also experimenting with bare root strawberries for the first time – on first inspection the plants appear to be really healthy with excellent roots, and were less than half the price of buying plants later on. When they arrived I popped them in some water for a good soak and they’ve now been planted up, so we’ll see how they do later in the year!
  • The joy of pallets. If I was perhaps feeling more creative, I’d write an ode to pallets. Because you can make SO many things out of them. I write this as someone who normally watches other people make things from them – but it’s virtually the same thing, right?!

Here’s our top three pallet makes:

Our garden furniture. You may have seen this in our garden blog, but my talented father-in-law (to be) made all of our garden furniture for about £6. I’ll ask him if he has any plans – but there are quite a few guides online of people making furniture from pallets. It’s comfortable and personal, and I might be biased but I think it looks excellent too!

A new brassica/fruit cage. In my bid to take on whitefly this year, I asked Him Outdoors to make me a frame for a brassica cage. He dismantled a pallet and created the below – which I can move around different beds each year as I rotate crops. It’s light enough I can move it when needed, but sturdy enough that it should be able to take on some storms and I’ll attach rope and tent pegs to keep it down. I’m going to invest in some good quality meshing I can attach to the frame, which should last a few years. Watch this space to see if it works!


A raised bed. Of all the makes, I think this was the easiest. (Once again, I say that as someone watching not actually making!). But using a pallet and some nails, Him Outdoors put together another raised container in which to grow crops. Lots of garden centres have excess pallets you can usually take – just ask around.

(Turns out I can’t really find a good photo of this so I’ll upload one going forward!)

What I would say is preserve any wood where possible – oils are good for waterproofing the wood but still has the ability to dry out after April showers.

Moving on from pallet love…!

  • Don’t forget you can grow in anything. Seriously anything. My kitchen containers have become trays to hold little pots and recycled tin cans can look really sweet hanging up. I think back to the time we lived in flats and I didn’t want to move pots around with me, I’d grow seeds in anything. The general rule was, if it has a bottom, it’s bound to work. I didn’t always know how to grow fruit and vegetables then mind, and once became very protective of the world’s tallest tomato plant to produce not a single fruit!
  • Make your own compost. I appreciate that you need space for compost, but the joy I get when we bag fresh compost up is one of life’s simple pleasures. I’ve had a few people say to me ‘doesn’t it smell’ (and not in a good way) – but fresh, earthly compost, well it’s a natural high. Good compost is admittedly down to a perfect blend of ingredients, and there are many experts out there celebrating their compost as we speak. But a good general rule is roughly one thirds of green stuff (grass/leaves/plant leaves etc) to two thirds of brown stuff (twigs, cardboard, straw etc). A note on compost, don’t cut up your bindweed and put it in. It will haunt you for eternity. I’m so wild, I might write a whole post on compost going forward…

Right, that’s about all from me. My next mission is to brew my own fertiliser. This is something I’ve been reading about a lot, and is going to be one of my summer projects – so any ideas are welcome below!

Thanks, Rach x

  1. We are just about to buy a few tonnes of soil to fill five raised beds and it’s making my eyes water. I’ve been stockpiling our chicken run mess and thankfully we knocked a wall down in our house when we moved in and had the foresight to save all the rubble to fill the beds with! We’ve halved what we need to buy but it still seems lots!! X

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Homebase’re doing 50l bags of peat free gro-sure for £2 – worth checking stock in your local store if you want to bulk buy on the cheap. I’ve already filled my raised beds, but planning to no-dig my quarter allotment plot..


  3. I share your philosophy, and am enjoying reading about your plans and progress – I’ve made netting supports for my allotment crops from an old snooker table and a bed:, and compost bins from pallets – glad to see you are being equally frugal – though your woodworking skills are way better than mine! Look forward to seeing more of your ideas!


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