My Thrifty Kitchen Garden in June – 5 ways to save money

It’s almost halfway through June, which is just ridiculous. We’ve had rain, sunshine, rain, rain and more rain so far, which means that every day is a growing day. And once the hot summer sun returns, everything will explode and I’ll be out early morning and late evenings trying to retain some semblance of order.

veg plot in June

This year has been an interesting one so far, particularly since I forgot about the packets of annuals that I threw down at the end of last year’s growing season. I never usually have any luck with my slightly chaotic, slapdash method of chuck it in and see what happens. But this year has been different. The likes of larkspur, scabious and calendula have popped up, thriving alongside the usual self-sown suspects such as pink and purple toadflax, hollyhocks, lychnis, honesty and foxgloves. These are all plants that will continue to grow in number year on year, as I collect their seed and scatter them throughout my borders. Self sowing annuals are one of the thriftiest way to fill space, feed the pollinators, and delight the senses.

In recent years I’ve been looking at ways to gradually reduce costs of maintain, even growing my little kitchen garden. The self-sown annuals have been amazing; they thrive because the conditions are right, which requires very little input from me (win, win).

I’m all about saving pennies where I can. So here are five super-easy, basic ways I’ve been achieving low-cost growing at the Smallest Smallholding:

Make my own compost
I’m nowhere near 100% reliant on my own compost production, but I’m taking small steps to cut down the amount of money I spend on feeding my soil and improving soil condition. We have three large compost bins that house of all our green waste, and a lot of kitchen waste too (I’m vegan, my other half is mostly veggie and we have a lot of fruit and vegetable peelings!). The art is getting the compost mixture ratio right – dry/brown and wet/green in equal parts, and plenty of turning to aerate and give worms easier access to the good stuff.

Leafmould – a great soil conditioner – is also easily made from the ash, damson, dogwood, elder, apple, cherry, acer and sycamore leaves that fall in autumn. I pop them in reused compost bags turned inside out, leaving them for a few months to rot down into a crumbly consistency. Eventually we will create a dedicated leafmould bin as our paper birch trees grow and we have more leaves to compost!

french lavender


Softwood cuttings
Lavender, rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage and marjoram are all herbs that I can easily take softwood cuttings from. Late spring and early summer is perfect for taking the young green growth. The same can be done for any woody shrub like orange blossom or hydrangea. I’m surprised I didn’t take this approach much sooner as propagating cuttings is such an easy way to save money and nurture an incredible number of new plants to maturity.

Take cuttings earlier on when the shoots are turgid (full of water, hydrated). Make sure the cutting is taken from a lateral branch that isn’t flowering, and take around 10cm cuttings above a node (you can shorten them later). Keep the cuttings moist. Strip off the bottom leaves, leaving at least two sets of leaves on the cutting. You can also strip away a little of the softwood bark around the cut point.

Potting compost for cuttings can be a mixture of soilless mix (eg equal parts sand, coir, perlite/vermiculite), and after dipping and coating the cutting wound in rooting hormone, place it in a pot and wait for the magic to happen. Some plants can also be steeped in water to allow cuttings to root (like tomato shoots or geraniums) – just make sure you change the water every couple of days. Once roots appear, you can pot them onto into soilless mix, eventually potting on to more fertile growing medium.

blackberries


Brambles aren’t always bad news
We actually let about three or four established wild brambles grow like espaliers in our garden. I try and grow them as laterally as possible, and allow them to flower and fruit. The pollinators adore their easily accessible flowers, and we use the fruits in autumn for pies, crumbles and cakes, freezing whatever we don’t use.

They do require frequent clipping as they’re vigorous, almost thuggish growers, but other than that they’re pretty easy to handle. We also make sure to leave some berries on the plants for the wildlife – it’s only fair! You can cut them right back down to ground level in winter.

Making my own mulch
We use grass clippings to mulch the raspberries in late winter and early spring, chip the copious number of buddleia cuttings to make chunky mulch around the greenhouse and in the little wildlife area, as well as general homemade compost for mulching around our veg and flowers. Mulch is magic; it suppresses weeds where they need suppressing, helps the soil to retain water in dry spells, aids drainage in relentlessly wet conditions and also leeches some goodness back into the soil below. Mulch, mulch, mulch should be one of your gardening mantras.


Seed collection
As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve become a seed collector, squirrelling away little envelopes and packets of seeds for scattering in autumn and spring. Poppies, larkspur, nigella, hollyhock, lychnis, honesty, aquilegia, calendula and tagetes all happily grow from saved seed in my flower borders.

And providing you don’t have F1 varieties of fruit and veg, you can also seed save from many kitchen garden favourites, such as raspberries, strawberries, nasturtiums, tomatoes, chillies, peppers, beans and peas.

It’s quite straightforward to save seed from tomatoes, chillies and peppers, as the seeds are simply collected from the ripened fruits and stored. Peas just need to be left on the plant until the pods are hard and dry. Beans, brassicas and squash are a little trickier, as they can be pollinated by bees that have already pollinated plants from neighbouring gardens or allotments, so you can end up with a plant that’s a mixture of a couple of varieties of the same species. For now, I’m just sticking to the easy wins!

How do you save the pennies in your garden? Let me know!

 

 

 

 

 

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