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Nine ways to cut gardening costs this spring

Cultivating your own crops from seed is just one way to cut down on household expenses

As if all the stresses and strains of living through a global pandemic weren’t enough to truly test our powers of resilience, the surge in the cost of living now has many of us looking for practical ways to cut down on household expenses. Cultivating a much more self-sufficient approach to gardening is part of the solution. With that in mind, here are nine planet-friendly, enjoyable ways to keep those rising costs down.

1. Grow from seed

Rather than buying expensive trays of young transplants from garden centres, raise your own plants from seed. Better again, share seed orders with a few gardening friends. This way you can share the expense and then divvy up the packets among yourselves, with each person in the group taking charge of raising a few key crops (for example, lettuce, tomatoes, beetroot, French beans, runner beans) as baby transplants to share out later in the growing season for transplanting into the garden or allotment.

Recommended Irish specialist seed suppliers include;;; and as well as all good Irish garden centres. The very same approach works well for many other kinds of routine gardening expenses, such as bags of compost, top soil and horticultural fleece with many suppliers offering substantial discounts for customers buying in larger quantities.

2. Choose easy grow options

Focus on growing the kinds of food crops that are expensive to buy but very space-efficient, quick and easy to cultivate. Examples include leafy greens such as lettuce, oriental leaves, baby kale, perpetual spinach and chard, all of which can be treated as cut-and-come again crops that are harvested over an extended period of time rather than as a once-off glut.


The same goes for herbs such as coriander, parsley, chives, sage, marjoram. All of the above can be grown in tubs, pots and window-boxes, making them a great choice for even the tiniest kitchen plot.

3. Get cutting

The joys of seed-sowing aside, growing your own plants from cuttings and division is a wonderful way to raise lots of new plants for next- to-nothing, especially if you’re trying to stock a new garden or upgrade the planting in an existing one on a small budget. At this time of year established clumps of many kinds of ornamental grasses and perennials can be divided and then potted-on or transplanted quickly into their new growing positions, while others – for example, dahlias- can be started into early growth under cover so that you can take numerous cuttings of the tender new growth to use as propagation material.

Later in the season, you can also take cuttings of lots of different kinds of woody plants, from fruit bushes and hedging to ornamental shrubs and trees. So if you do spot any covetable plants growing in the garden of green-fingered family members, friends and neighbours, ask them very nicely if they’d be happy to share a cutting, a small division or even some seed. Most gardeners will be only too happy to agree.

4. Find your community

Join your local community garden or allotment group. Not only will you get to meet lots of like-minded, knowledgeable, experienced gardeners who share your passion for plants and are happy to share their knowledge and expertise, you’ll also get to enjoy a generous share in the harvest.

Ireland’s community gardens have become a flourishing part of the GYO (grow your own) movement over the last decade and now come in all shapes and sizes, from giant award-winning urban plots like Santry Community Garden in north Dublin, which is located in a series of Victorian walled gardens that includes a polytunnel, vegetable beds, giant flower garden and productive orchard, to secret little gems such as Borris Community Garden in south Carlow.

For more details plus an interactive countrywide map of many of these Irish community gardens, see

5. Join a club

Join your local gardening club. Not only is this a great way to meet fellow gardeners but these local clubs also typically hold regular plants sales, workshops and garden open days where the loveliest of plants can often be found for sale for a fraction of what they’d cost in a garden centre.

Of course, during the pandemic most of these events didn’t physically take place but now that restrictions are finally easing, they should be starting up again soon.

The same goes for nationwide gardening organisations such as the Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland (, the Irish Garden Plants Society (, the Alpine Garden Society ( and GIY (, which also offer lots of practical hands-on growing support and are a great way to link up with other gardeners. The Irish Garden magazine, another brilliant homegrown resource for Irish gardeners, also hosts its own very active online garden club (see

6. SOS

Save your own seeds, a brilliant way to save money as well as to support biodiversity. For best results, focus on open-pollinated varieties rather than highly-bred hybrid varieties (the latter won’t come true from home-saved seed), which you can also swap/trade with other gardeners.

For more detailed advice, check out the Cork-based organic seed producer Brown Envelope Seeds's seed-saving booklet (€5 plus pp from, the Irish Seed Savers Association ( and websites such as for great general tips on seed-saving.

7. Stop mowing the lawn

Reduce the amount of lawn that you cut, a fantastically simple way to save you time and money (all that costly fuel) while helping to support garden wildlife and reduce emissions.

8. Make your own compost

Forget costly artificial fertilisers and make your own nature-friendly, health-boosting garden compost from kitchen leftovers and garden waste, your own leaf mould (great for adding to seed and potting composts) and your own liquid plant feeds from nettles, comfrey and seaweed (just make sure to harvest these responsibly). For step-by-step instructions to all of the above, see

9. Reduce, reuse, recycle

Cultivate a permaculturist approach by re-using and upcycling wherever possible; not only will it save you money but this much more sustainable approach to your garden means you’re also helping to reduce the amount of discarded goods going to landfill. For example, old glass doors or windows can be transformed into cold frames that will allow you to cosset baby seedlings under cover, plastic drinks bottles can be made into temporary plant cloches, while loo-roll inserts and empty yoghurt containers can be recycled as plant pots.

Likewise, shabby garden furniture can be transformed with a fresh coat of paint while you'll also find great bargains on garden furniture, tools and equipment on websites such as and in salvage yards.

This week in the garden…

Sow tomato seeds for early-cropping plants to grow under cover of a frost-free glasshouse, polytunnel, sunny porch or conservatory. Bear in mind that these heat and light-loving plants won’t tolerate any degree of frost, so do take extra precautions with the young seedlings during any chilly nights and always protect them from cold draughts. Tomatoes also need good heat to germinate well, so place the seed trays on a heated propagator or in a warm room (underfloor heating provides the sort of bottom heat that they love) and keep the compost damp. To create the kind of humid conditions favourable to germination, use a lid, or cover the pot with an upturned, clear plastic bag. Gradually remove these once you spot signs of germination.

Early-flowering species of clematis such as Clematis alpina are now in active growth so make sure to start training the young shoots on to some form of sturdy support, spreading the stems outwards in a fan shape and gently tying them in with garden twine so that they don’t end up in a messy tangle of growth.

Dates for your diary:

Until the end of February, "Snowdrop Month in Carlow", a month-long celebration of the county's snowdrop gardens is at Altamont, Huntington Castle, Burtown and Shankill Castle. See for details of opening times.

February 26th: The 2022 GLDA Seminar "PLAN Trees, PLANT Trees, PLANET Trees; Creative Design with Trees in our Landscape, Streetscape and Gardens" takes place online as a livestreamed event with a range of guest speakers. Tickets from €45-€ 70 can be booked online at