5 Cheap Ways to Brighten Your Garden for Autumn & Winter

Now that Autumn has really set in, the bright annuals of summer have faded and it’s time to look at where we can fill the gaps with some winter colour. Of course, as I’m living on a tight budget I’ve got to be very thrifty about the plants that I purchase. If you’re looking to brighten your front garden with cheap plants this winter, this is the post for you!

Pansies

Let’s admit it – when it comes to the kerb appeal of our houses, many of us feel compelled to “keep up with the Joneses”! I hate to admit that the older I’ve got, the more I’ve wanted to feel a sense of pride when considering how my little tumbledown semi-detached cottage looks to the rest of the world! And in our case, there are a fair few “Joneses” down our road who have beautiful front gardens. It’s a good thing really, as I think many front gardens are so utilitarian and sterile these days. I love seeing a tiny patch of garden that really makes an impact – it’s like a little lift that brightens your day, especially when it’s buzzing with wildlife. This year I’d like to brighten our front garden in winter too, so that it serves as a little beacon of colour and fun in our street. 

Here are my recommendations for 5 Cheap Ways to Brighten Your Front Garden for Autumn & Winter – get planting now and you can enjoy colour through until next Spring, without spending a fortune:

1. Pansies & Violas
The number of pansy and viola varieties now available is stunning! Whatever your colour scheme, there’s a cultivar for you. If you’re a fan of frills and like a splash of frou-frou, there are also frilly and frizzle pansies to enjoy in a selection of heady mixes and colour combinations. And if the budget allows, they also make great hanging basket plants, when teamed with the likes of cascading, trailing ivy and variegated euonymus and skimmia. 

2. Winter-Flowering Wallflowers (Erysimum)
There are many bold, bright and beautiful winter-flowering varieties of winter-flowering wallflowers to enjoy. Hardy and perennial (although they often need a good haircut once they’ve finished flowering, and should be replaced after about three years), wallflowers are really great value for money and should last through to spring time. October or a mild November is really your last chance to get them in for a winter display, though. And if you want to continue sharing the wallflower love, autumn is also a great time of year to plant wallflowers for a spring display. Buy them bare root in bunches, to save lots of pennies and pounds! But be sure to get the plants in the ground quickly and give them a good water once in situ.  

3. Sweet Williams
If you’re a fan of delicate cottage garden flowers but long for some bold colour, then try Sweet Williams. Strictly speaking, these hardy plants won’t provide colour over winter, as they can flower until late Autumn once established. But you’ll be rewarded when they give another burst of colour again in the spring. 

Pink heather in autumn

4. Winter Flowering Heather
Hardy winter heathers add delicate waves of colour in any garden, are hardy, relatively cheap to buy and pretty fuss-free. Purples, pinks and whites can be planted to complement a whole host of cottage winter-flowering plants. Fiery reds, oranges and yellow varieties can also create a striking display, and will stand up to some stark weather conditions. I implore you though – please, PLEASE don’t go for the day-glo bright heathers found on supermarket shelves!

5. Cyclamen
These will come back year after year – you can opt for Autumn-flowering Cyclamen hederifolium, which will create pockets of colour and charm, as well as decorative foliage once the flowers die back. Just make sure you mulch well around the young plants when you put them in the ground. 

Want more winter colour? Check out this link for inspiration for winter planting flowers in containers!

Save Even More on Inexpensive Autumn and Winter Planting

Of course, truly the cheapest way of adding colour to your autumn and winter garden is to pre-plan, buy seed and sow your flowers months or weeks ahead of the season! But be sure to check the seed packets for best time to sow (so you don’t miss your window), and whether your chosen flowers and plants are annual, perennial or biennial. If they’re biennial, then you might have to wait a few more months to enjoy the spoils of your labour. But trust me – you’ll be glad you did. 

October Frugal Goals

October might just be one of my favourite months of the year. I can hide in big comfy cardigans, I can cook dozens of bowls of hearty soups, and we can start lighting the open fire once again, to keep us toasty and warm.

Autumn leaves in the sunshine

This month we’ve taken another little leap forward. We’re looking at a mortgage and I’ve been working hard on reducing my debts, as my finances have really been under the microscope. I had a bit of an epiphany a few weeks ago as to the state of my finances and how I’d got to where I am (ie, less than ideal, need improvement, could do better etc), and realise now that nothing I earn can be classed as ‘profit’. Until I am debt free, every penny I can spare goes back into reducing my debt, paying my bills and looking after my child. I come second to all that.

I am now committed to really living frugally – no little shopping splurges here and there – and taking everything in hand. Some days it feels like a never-ending battle, other days more like a challenge that I feel I can rise to.

Autumn apple harvest

Luckily for me, October is also a great month because so many of my favourite foods are in season. We are still harvesting:

– Fresh raspberries
– Autumn King carrots
– Lettuce
– Strawberries!
– Apples

In the veg patch, that means FREE food to enjoy, and at the market and supermarket, that also means affordable, fresher, seasonal food is available. Cheap soups, stews, pies and bakes can be eaten in abundance.

Strawberries ripening in October

Here are a few of my fuss-free, go-to Autumn recipes:

Butternut Squash & Lentil Pie (Vegan)
Easy Apple Tart (Vegan)
Instant Pot Butternut Squash Soup (Vegan)
Pumpkin Bread Rolls
Spicy Parsnip Soup (Vegan)
Spicy Autumn Soup (Vegan)
Vegan Shepherd’s Pie
Patatas a lo Pobre
Thrifty Veggie Slow Cooker Chickpea & Sweet Potato Curry
Easy Leek & Potato Soup (Vegan)
Crusty Bread Bloomer
Vegetarian/Vegan Lentil Bake

My daughter is now 13 and a half months old, and is eating three good meals a day, plus extras! So to keep up, and make sure we’re keeping on top of some sort of shopping budget, I’ve become a real fan of meal planning… more about that in my next post!

October Aims

I just wanted to summarise my October aims, in line with my focus on frugal living:

  • Earn at least £200 extra on top of my normal salary
  • Don’t put ANYTHING on credit cards this month
  • At least 15 no-spend days
  • Harvest the rest of the carrots in the veg patch
  • Make my own sloe gin in time for Christmas!
  • Batch cook more freezer meals
  • Spend no more than £60 at the supermarket each week (a tough one)

Let’s see how this month goes…

Thrifty meals: Instant Pot Spicy Stew

Black bean and sweet potato spicy stew

Black bean and sweet potato spicy stew

I recently bought JL Fields’ Vegan Pressure Cooking – Delicious beans, grains and one-pot meals in minutes, because I needed to experiment a bit more with my Instant Pot. Pressure cooking is great for one-pot meals, and – being someone who happily could eat out of a bowl with a spoon for almost every meal – stews, soups, chillies and curries made in the Instant Pot are definitely my thing.

And as my due date creeps ever-closer, my mind is turning to maternity leave (finally booked!) and surviving on statutory maternity pay. I have squirrelled some savings away, but it’s still going to be tough going. So pressure cooking for me will help keep the bills down and the nutrition up when it comes to making my meals.

Vegan Pressure Cooking - JL Fields

I adapted JL Fields’ sweet potato and black bean stew recipe to my own tastes, and according to what I had in the cupboard. And it turned out great (see top pic)! I only had half a sweet potato in wrapped in foil in the fridge, so I used some maris piper potatoes* instead of one full sweet potato, and swapped out the chopped tomatoes for some leftover passata I had hanging about. Thankfully all the other simple ingredients I already had to hand – celery, carrots, onions, garlic, veg stock, garam masala, ground cinnamon and a tin of black beans. I have a feeling it’s one of those recipes that can easily be adapted, depending on what you have available in your store cupboards. For instance, I didn’t have bay leaves so I just left them out… it was fine!

The recipe calls for dried black beans – and although I’ll be having a go with these in the future (dried pulses are inordinately more frugal than tinned) – I used pre-cooked beans and just adjusted the water/stock ratio and tweaked the cooking time to roughly half. It all worked out really well… although initially a bit watery, the floury potatoes broke down to thicken the sauce. I also find with pressure cooked food, I need to at least triple the amount of spice, especially if it’s aromatic. So I did just that, and added in a generous kick of cayenne pepper, because I like a nice spicy bite to my food.

Served with rice cooked in a steamer, I’d say all in all this double large portion of food probably cost well under £2.50 altogether. I could have easily made it into two hearty meals and added some green veggies (cheap!) for extra healthy eating points. When the growing season gets going I’ll also be able to cut costs with my own homegrown veggies.

Here’s the original black bean and sweet potato recipe – I’m looking forward to developing my own frugal but oh-so-tasty recipes and sharing them with you in the future 🙂

*pressure cooked floury potatoes are just the best – creamy, crumbly and full of flavour!