There are plenty of money-saving ideas we can use when creating and maintaining a garden. Fortunately, many of the steps that we can take to become more sustainable as gardeners allow us to save money too. So these steps can be a win-win-win for us, other people, and our planet as a whole.
Table of Contents
As a garden designer and sustainable gardening consultant, I am often asked how ideas can be implemented by those on a restricted budget. These money-saving ideas for gardeners should make it clear that creating an abundant, beautiful and sustainable garden need not cost the earth:
1. Saving Money Making a New Garden
Making a new garden, a new garden area or simply a new bed or border does not need to cost a lot of money.
2. Buying Less – Buying Wisely
The first key thing to remember is that you do not need to rush out and buy anything at all when making a new garden.
Before you buy anything at all you should certainly consider its cost – both financial and in other terms – and you should also think about whether you really do need to purchase anything at all.
Not only buying less in general, and reducing consumption, but also buying wisely can be important. Try to think about longevity and sustainability when making any garden purchasing decisions.
3. Taking a DIY Approach
Taking a DIY approach is one way to reduce the amount of new items that you might need to buy for a garden.
For example, buying materials to create a garden wall, fence, bed edging or other garden structure can be a lot cheaper than purchasing something more ready-made.
4. Using Natural and Reclaimed Materials Wherever Possible
Another way to make sure you buy less and save money when creating a new garden is by using natural materials from the garden itself, or nearby. Using natural stones and rocks, branches and twigs, wood chip, dried leaves, grass clippings, hedge trimmings etc.. you can do a lot in your garden for free.
Certain naturally available materials might be used for construction projects, such as wattle fences, pebble paths, natural bed edging and more.
Organic materials will of course come in handy to improve the soil of new growing areas, build up no-dig beds like hugelkultur mounds or lasagna beds etc…
You can also make use of reclaimed materials from your home or neighbourhood that would otherwise be thrown away for a range of different garden projects. To save money on making a new garden, reuse and upcycling can also be important strategies to employ.
5. Working With What You Already Have & Finding Synergy in Design
It is a good idea to have a design in place for any new garden before you begin work. This will help ensure that you have a holistic idea for the whole of the site, and that you can bring all the elements together.
To save money, this design should always factor in what is already present on the site, and how existing plants and elements might potentially be used. In other words, save money by working with what is there already, and don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.
It is also important to think about how, as you create new growing areas or other elements of your garden design, you might be able to find synergy and use the output of one project as the input for another.
For example, rather than buying in topsoil for a new raised bed or growing area, you might use earth excavated during a project such as the digging of a basin for a rain garden, or of a wildlife pond. As you clear stones from a new growing area, you might use these elsewhere in a different part of the project.
6. Money-Saving Ideas to Fill New Growing Areas
Creating your garden’s main growing areas and adding its main elements is just part of the puzzle. Of course, one of the main expenses in creating most new gardens is sourcing the plants to fill new growing areas. So many money-saving ideas for a garden will have to centre around obtaining the plants to fill garden spaces.
7. Propagating Your Own Plants at Home
You can save money filling new growing areas in a garden if you think about taking plant propagation into your own hands. By taking cuttings or divisions from existing plants, and collecting and sowing your own seed, you can often populate a garden for far less money than you imagined.
This is especially true if you are able to take advantage of friends, family or neighbours willing to share propagation material with you from their own outside spaces.
8. Working with Nature
Another important thing to remember is that often, when it comes to creating vegetative cover on bare soil, nature will often do a lot of the work for us. While we might not always be absolutely thrilled about the plants that naturally grow in an area when we leave it to its own devices, wild plants can often be far more attractive and useful than many people imagine.
Weeds are, in essence, often useful plants in the right setting. And we can embrace wildflowers and other wild plants that grow naturally in our gardens to create lush, rich and inviting spaces. Letting nature fill in gaps in a garden often means that we need a shell out a lot less on plants or seeds for the space.
9. Finding Freebies and Great Garden Deals
One way to proceed, when you do need to source plants or seeds, is to look for freebies on online sites, or in your local neighbourhood. Often, it also pays to simply ask around family or friends to see who may have plants or seeds that you need.
You can also look out for sales or special offers from garden centres or plant nurseries near where you live. But don’t be tempted to purchase cheap options if these are a short-sighted choice. Often, you get what you pay for and may not get what you hoped for.
10. Embracing Perennial Plants
The types of plants you choose can also have a big bearing on how affordable a garden will be. Embracing perennial plants will mean that you only need to buy them once and can then enjoy them over multiple years – unlike annuals that will only grace your garden over a single season.
Trees and shrubs cost more than seeds, of course. But buy them once to enjoy them for years to come. And save by buying bare root, and choosing smaller specimens that will grow over time. Many perennials can also, of course, be cultivated from seed, which, though it will take longer to create a mature, established garden, will cost less.
Make sure to learn which crops will save you the most money.
11. Choosing Heritage Annuals & Biennials & Self-Seeders
Where you do want annuals or biennial plants, consider heritage or heirloom varieties that will come true from seed, rather than hybrids.
And think about choosing options that will self-seed readily and give you new free plants in your garden each year.
12. Saving Money on Garden Maintenance
When thinking about money-saving ideas for a garden, it is also useful to consider how to reduce any ongoing expense. Maintenance costs can and should really be minimal in any established, sustainable garden.
13. Setting Up Sustainable Water Systems
One area where those on metered water can save is in water use. Setting up sustainable water systems in your garden is something to think about from the very beginning.
Whether you are growing outside in your garden, or undercover in a polytunnel or other garden structure, catching and storing, directing and using rainwater is key.
14. Fertility for Free
Another important area to look at is how we can create closed loop systems and avoid the need to import any materials for fertility (or for pest control or weed control) in an organic garden.
Taking an organic gardening approach is of course very important and many money-saving ideas for a garden centre around how we can successfully garden in an organic way.
15. Making Things Last – Care, Cleaning & Repair
Last but not least, money-saving ideas for any garden involve thinking about how we can keep everything in the garden going strong for as long as possible.
That often means, when it comes to polytunnels, tools or other gardening items, taking care of those things through cleaning regularly and, where necessary, through repair to return those things to working order and give them a second lease of life.
Using everything we have carefully and wisely can help us to keep them in use for as long as possible, so that we do not even have to think about buying anything new.
For more info about gardening, make sure to learn about preparing for summer in a polytunnel.
Waddington, E., (2021) How to Fill Raised Beds More Affordably. Treehugger. [online] Available at: https://www.treehugger.com/fill-raised-beds-more-affordably-5119435 [accessed 27/07/23]
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.