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Gardening On A Budget

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The spring weather lured enthusiastic punters to garden centres nationwide, to snap up a plethora of gorgeous plants, containers and other sundries to make their garden dazzle this year.

Yet research shows that in a tough economy, gardens are a low priority among householders. The current average spend on a UK garden is £482.16 a year with 42% of people spending nothing at all on their outdoor areas, according to research by woodcare manufacturer Ronseal.

But you can have a lovely garden without spending a fortune. When money’s tight, there’s a crop of prudent measures which can be taken which will save you a lot of cash.

Before visiting a garden centre, make a list first and only buy what is on that list. Work out what you really need, list the plants and other essentials and stick to that list.

Walk up your garden beforehand and see where the spaces are, how the plants you want are going to work and where you will put them.

If you have a stack of containers to fill, consider using permanent plantings rather than annuals which will need replacing each year. Check in your own garden to see what you may be able to use. Overgrown clumps of ornamental grasses and other perennial plants such as hostas can be lifted and divided and divisions of the plant can be used to fill pots and other containers.

Longer-term, scan the discount shelves for sale plants which have finished flowering but should be absolutely fine next season. You can often save quite a few pounds on perennials which will bloom year after year if you’re prepared to wait a while for the results.

If you’re buying shrubs, buy smaller plants which are cheaper, as the space in-between can be filled with hardy annuals grown from seed that you directly sow into the flower beds. They are easy to grow, great value for money plus they give lots of colour all summer. Try poppies, corn flowers, calendula, larkspur and candytuft.

If you want annuals, sow them from seed, which is a much cheaper option. Biennial seeds such as foxgloves, hollyhocks and sweet williams can also be sown to give you colour next year.

Look for seed bargains on eBay and at discount stores such as Poundland, Lidl and Wilkinson. Cut costs further by going halves with fellow gardening friends, as you often won’t need to sow the whole packet. Alternatively, swap your unwanted seeds and plants for some you do fancy from a number of websites including www.gardenswapshop.co.uk or free forums through organisations such as the National Gardening Association (www.garden.org/seedswap).

Hostas in particular look great grown in pots, their lush green leaves making any shady corner of the patio look exotic.

If you don’t have time to sow seed, visit your local car boot sale to pick up plant bargains as well as cheap garden tools. Bargains can also be found in the free classified ads on Gumtree, while you may pick up something for free that someone else doesn’t want if you join your local Freecycle group (www.freecycle.org/group/uk).

To increase your stock for the lowest price, take cuttings from plants such as fuschias, marguerites and pelargoniums.

And if you haven’t yet started to make your own compost, there’s no time like the present. There’s a variety of website guides, but choose the more reliable ones such as www.gardenorganic.org.uk. Also contact your local authority to find out if it supplies subsidised bins in your area.