Creating a vegetable garden can be a great way to save money in response to rising costs of the everyday shop. But there are some dos and don’ts if keeping expenses low is important when creating your garden. Here are some easy tips.

Image of two veggie patches surrounded by sleepers

Growing your own veggies can be a money saver, but not if you have to spend a fortune just to get your garden established!

We’ve compiled our top tips to help you create a cheap food garden.

Image with a sign reading 'my veggie garden' with a garden in the background.

1. Plan before you plant

Ever heard the saying ‘by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail’?

Well, this is true when it comes to food gardening too. Planning before you plant can help give your veggies the best chance at survival and make the most of money spent setting up your garden.

A good first thing to consider is the location of your garden. Lots of veggies – like tomatoes and eggplants – need at least 8 hours of sunshine, while your more leafy greens will be happier to be partially shaded, but will still need around 6 hours.

While looking at the right location for light, also have a think about picking a place that is protected from the wind – and also your pets.

While you are planning, have a look around the area of your garden, as it may be helpful to try and avoid somewhere with larger trees or lots of other plants that could compete with your veggies for water and nutrients.

Also have a think about establishing your garden somewhere that’s easy for you to see and access. This will help keep you motivated to go and tend to your veggies, rather than leaving them to wither and letting your hard-earned money and effort go down the drain.

When planning, think about the plants you would like to get into your veggie garden. Picking vegetables which provide a lot of food can be an economical option. These are plants like lettuce, rainbow chard, and tomatoes.

Image of person wearing gum boots placing seeds into soil

2. Sow seeds – not seedlings

Seeds are a much more economical option over seedlings, giving you plenty of bang for your buck!

Just one packet of seeds offers a greater quantity of potential plants, and is usually cheaper than even a single seedling.

While seeds may save you some money, they take a bit more effort to get going. We have also compiled some of the best vegetables to grow from seed.

Not sure if planting from seeds is right for you? Check out our simple steps for growing vegetables from seeds.

Image of soil in egg cartons

3. Start your seeds in household objects - like egg cartons

Several types of veggie seeds need to start in a smaller, separate pot before being planted out into your final veggie garden area.

This helps new roots establish in fresh soil, which provides the oxygen our plants need to grow. These smaller starter pots can also help create a cycle of wet and dry conditions, which is good for the developing roots.

You can save on starter pots by using household objects for your little babies.

Egg cartons are a great starter pot, and probably something you already have around your house. So save that carton from the recycling bin, poke a few little holes in the bottom of each cup for drainage, and fill each cup with some fresh soil – dropping a few seeds into each. Not all seeds will germinate, so don’t rely on just placing one into each cup.

And if you don’t have access to egg cartons – other household items like toilet rolls, rolled newspaper, ice cube trays, and even the rinds of citrus fruits, like lemons and oranges, can work too.

Image of compost bucket going into a heap of soil

4. Feed your soil for free

A healthy veggie patch relies on good quality soil. Luckily, improving your soil can be done cheaply – or even for free.

One option is adding compost – a collection of food scraps or green matter from your garden, which you collect and allow to start to break down, which ultimately adds nutrients to your soil. You can also purchase bagged compost, which often has added fertilisers for better moisture retention, but creating your own is a good way to save!

Chopped or fallen leaves are also good for providing nutrients for your garden, either added directly to your veggie patch, or added to your compost. A good place to start might be gathering any leaves that fell over winter, and have already broken down a bit. Just make sure that any garden clippings or leaves that you are adding haven’t been exposed to herbicides or pesticides.

Coffee grounds are another free organic material that can help feed your garden. If you don’t drink coffee at home, possibly your local café will even be happy to save some grounds for you, which you can place into your compost.

Manure is a way to add nutrients, but this method comes with some extra considerations! It is often free or available for a few dollars on the side of the road, but be cautious as sometimes these droppings contain seeds of weeds you don’t want to introduce to your patch – or even herbicide.

The best manure is that which you can source yourself and feel confident that it doesn’t contain anything it shouldn’t. If you are using it, try to avoid using fresh manure directly on your plants – add it to your compost so it breaks down first, or work it into the soil, water well, mulch and let rest for a few weeks before planting seedlings.

And if you are going to purchase compost or soil, try to buy it in bulk from your local garden centre, rather than buying the more expensive individual bags.

Image of veggies in a pallet raised garden bed

5. Garden accessories you might already have

When you’re starting off your food garden, you don’t need to spend lots of money on garden accessories. There are inexpensive alternatives that you may even have around the house already.

For example – there is no need to buy stakes and ties for your climbing plants… how about using old stockings or t-shirts, and tying them to a branch, old plastic pipe or broken broom?

This is not only a good way to save money, but can also give a second life to items you might have otherwise thrown away.

While raised garden beds offer a range of benefits, like easier and earlier soil warming, less compact soil and better drainage – they can be pricey. You might have some items around the house that could do the same job. Perhaps an old bin or large container you’re not using, pallets, or if you’re handy you could even make your own raised beds from discarded building materials.

If your veggies need some protection, you don’t have to spend a fortune on extra items or garden structures. An old curtain can protect from harsh UV rays and wind, and a simple cut in half plastic bottle placed around newly planted seeds can protect them from slaters and the cold.

And, if you’re looking for free pots, Buy Nothing community groups (often searchable on social media) can be a good place to start.

Want to know more?

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