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The good life: how your garden can save you money

Red sweet peppers growing out of containers

Gardens are generally used for relaxing or entertaining – think family BBQs, evening drinks with friends, and somewhere to let the kids blow off steam. But with the rising cost of living, isn’t it time to put your garden to work? 

Whether you have lots of space or just a few square metres of lawn, you can save money by growing your own fresh produce. Squeeze a few crops in amongst your flowers, create a small veg patch, build a raised bed or fill patio containers with fruit and veg. No outside space? Don’t worry, there are plenty of healthy things that can be grown on a sunny windowsill. Browse our wide range of vegetable seeds for inspiration. 

How to decide what to grow

Cherry tomatoes growing out of container
Grow cherry tomatoes at home instead of buying them from a store
Image: Tomato Seeds ‘Tumbling Tom Red’ from Suttons

Homegrown produce often tastes much better than anything you can buy in the supermarket, and whatever you can grow yourself reduces your shopping bill. Plus, you can choose to grow expensive or unusual varieties that you wouldn’t normally be able to buy. 

Producing your own food allows you to grow the things you like best, but consider growing ‘good value’ crops too. In other words, crops that deliver the highest yields from the resources you provide, whether that’s water, time, or the amount of space they take up. It’s also worth looking at the ‘shelf life’ of the fruits and vegetables you want to grow, especially if you don’t have the time to devote to making jams, pickles or chutneys. 

Although it takes a little longer, growing from seed is by far the cheapest way to get started, and you’ll have the satisfaction of raising your own fresh, seasonal produce from packet to plate. Plan what you want to grow each season and you can enjoy fresh crops all year round.

Food to grow indoors

Winter salad leaves growing out of windowsill container
Why buy salad leaves from the supermarket when you can grow them easily at home?
Image: Speedy Veg Seed ‘Leaf Salad Winter Mix’ from Suttons

For those looking to make the most of a small space, there are plenty of crops that grow well indoors. Herbs like sweet basil can be grown on your kitchen windowsill so it’s easy to reach when cooking. With around 500 seeds per packet, you can keep sowing and growing all year-round at a fraction of the cost of buying it in the supermarket. And herbs aren’t just great for cooking – why not sow mint or lemon balm and make your own refreshing herbal teas? 

Fast-growing salads are another good choice for windowsills. Sow your lettuce and leaf seeds throughout the year for cut-and-come-again crops. Ready to harvest in just a few weeks, you can pick the leaves as required which helps to reduce food waste too. Microgreens such as cress, kale shoots and bean sprouts are also quick and easy to grow, and very nutritious. 

Visit our full range of windowsill crops to find the best varieties to grow indoors. 

Food to grow in containers

Broad beans growing out of container
Broad Bean ‘Robin Hood’ is suitable for summer and autumn cropping
Image: Broad Bean Seeds ‘Robin Hood’ from Suttons

Producing your own fruit and veg doesn’t have to take over your entire garden. It’s easy to grow a few tomato plants in a growbag and soft fruits like strawberries and blackberries are happy in hanging baskets. Prefer fruit with a longer shelf life? Why not create a mini-orchard by planting patio fruit trees in containers? 

Many crops can be grown in pots, bags and containers, and some, like potatoes, are actually easier to harvest this way. Lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes and spring onions are all excellent container crops, but you can also grow things like beans, aubergines, peppers, courgettes and carrots. 

Plants grown in containers will benefit from regular feeding to ensure they have access to all the nutrients they need. You’ll also need to keep an eye on the weather and water them more often than those planted in the ground. 

See our full range of patio gardening crops for varieties that thrive in containers. 

Food to grow in a small garden

Harvested and clean spring onions lying on wicker basket
Spring onions are quick to grow and can be planted among other crops that are slower to mature
Image: Spring Onion (Organic) Seeds ‘White Lisbon’ from Suttons

If you intend to convert part of your garden into a veg patch, it’s important to prepare the soil before planting. Choose a sunny, sheltered area, remove weeds and dig in some good quality compost to enrich the soil. It doesn’t have to be a huge area to be successful. The trick is to plan well so that you have new crops ready to go in as soon as the previous ones are over. 

To make the most of your growing space, sow slow-growing crops a little further apart and interplant faster-growing plants among them, extending and varying your harvest. For instance, radishes and spring onions can be grown and harvested in the time it takes for squash to get established. Intercropping also helps to keep down weeds, provides welcome shade for other plants and reduces pests and diseases – all good news for getting the most out of your garden.

See our full range of square metre crops for a succession of vegetables to grow in a really limited space. 

Food to grow in a large garden or allotment

Red skinned apples growing on a tree
Apple trees can be grown in a number of ways to restrict their size while maintaining a good harvest
Image: Apple Dwarf Fruit Tree ‘Discovery’ from Suttons

With more space to dedicate to growing your own food, you can devote whole sections to specific produce. Concentrate on the most expensive foods to buy such as asparagus, kale, purple sprouting broccoli and gourmet potatoes. Large gardens and allotments also lend themselves to fruit trees, although growing them as cordons, stepovers or espaliers can give you bumper crops without taking up too much space. Consult our article on how to grow fruit trees for more ideas and advice. 

If you have space for a greenhouse, you’ll be able to get seedlings started much earlier in the year and reliably grow fruit and vegetables that may not otherwise do so well in our unpredictable UK climate. Tomatoes, sweet peppers and chillies all thrive in a greenhouse environment, along with aubergines and cucumbers.

If you’re planting up a larger space or allotment, be sure to include a series of paths that are wide enough for a wheelbarrow to manoeuvre easily. These will help you to move around to weed and harvest your crops, as well as deliver compost or mulch to the areas that need it. 

Other ways your garden can help you save money

Woman kneeling next to compost bin potting on plants
Making your own compost saves money
Image: Green Johanna Compost Bin from Suttons

Aside from growing your own fruit and veg, there are many other ways you can get your garden to work for you. Here are just a few tips to help you become more self-sufficient or reduce your outgoings in the longer term: 

  • Invest in a wormery or make your own compost bin. 
  • Install a water butt to catch rainwater for watering the garden – money-saving and environmentally-friendly! 
  • If you have space, consider keeping chickens or ducks for eggs or bees for honey. You could even sell any excess produce.
  • Look into installing alternative energy solutions such as ground source heat pumps, air source heat pumps, solar panels etc. Not a short-term money-saver but an interesting long-term investment idea.
  • Do you live in a city? If your driveaway is empty during the day, consider renting the space to someone who works nearby.

If you put your garden to good use, it has the potential to save money on your supermarket bills and even earn you a little extra cash. And let’s not forget that spending time in the garden is also great for physical and mental wellbeing – cheaper than the gym! For more advice on when to sow veg seeds, see our month-by-month calendar. Happy sowing!

Lead image: Pepper Sweet Seeds ‘F1 Redskin’ from Suttons

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