Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Beyond compost: 4 other ways to save money at the allotment

I don't know about you, but money's getting tight around here. So I've been thinking, how can I save money at the allotment? Let's qualify that. I'm looking to spend no more than £5 per month on allotment-related stuff.

Luckily, I'm not the first person to ask this sort of question. I've done a bit of research, and I've found some actions that should keep me under my limit. Maybe they'll help you if you're looking to trim your gardening budget.

1. Cook a pot of nettle soup

Why buy fertilizer when you can make your own from stinging nettles? Yep, those stinging nettles. The ones you used to fall in as a kid. They're redeemed. Here's how:

  1. Fill a bucket half full of nettles
  2. Top it up with water
  3. Leave your the nettle soup to mature
  4. When it starts to smell (believe me, you'll know) drain off the liquid into a watering can
  5. Water your vegetables when you would have added liquid fertilizer

Each batch should take a few weeks. Soup-er.

2. Deploy eggshell defences

Slug pellets aren't cheap. Last I heard they weren't very organic either. So why not try egg shells instead?

Rinse them out, crush them and store them in an old margerine tub. Once you've got enough, sprinkle yourself a perimeter around your courgettes. Apparently the slugs head home with new insecurities. Plus, the minerals in the egg shells improve your soil. I'd like to see a slug pellet that does that.

3. Cover your embarassment with cardboard

You know that corner? The one that you haven't managed to put to good use? If you're not careful, it'll be invaded by weeds. You want to mulch. Trust me. But why spend money on some evil-looking black plastic, when you can mulch for free? Here's how:

  1. Acquire a corrugated cardboard box (the bigger, the better)
  2. Peel off any sellotape and any labels you can
  3. Remove any staples
  4. Break the box down and lay it on the offending patch of land
  5. Be sure to overlap the sheets of cardboard so that weeds can't squeeze through the gap
  6. Weigh down the cardboard with stones/bricks/small children

Mulching with cardboardCardboard won't wreck your organic soil, and will rot down eventually. I learnt this money-saving tip from Jane Perrone's excellent book.

4. Pot-up in The Sun

Apparently, plant pots are the new plastic bags. They cost money as well. Not very much, but money nevertheless. But guess what? You can make your own, out of newspaper. Here's one I prepared earlier.

  1. Grab a straight-sided glass and a couple of sheets of newspaper
  2. Lay the newspaper sheets flat, on top of each other
  3. Fold the newspaper over so it forms a long strip, which is 4-5cm wider than the height of the glass (trim the newspaper if necessary)
  4. Roll the glass up in the newspaper, leaving about 1cm of newspaper poking over the top
  5. Fold the top of the strip over the rim of the glass
  6. Wiggle the glass downwards, out from within the ring of paper
  7. Now hold the glass above the ring of paper and push in into the centre, until the top is level with the folded rim
  8. Fold the bottom of the paper ring onto the bottom of the glass to form the base of the pot
  9. Pull the glass upwards, out of the paper ring
  10. Fill the pot with compost, and you're away

If you had problems following that, try watching this instead:

There you go: a quartet of ideas to reduce your expenditure and recycle things you'd otherwise throw away. And not a mention of greens or browns. Any other ideas for saving money at the allotment?


  1. Hi,
    I’m really enjoying your site! Here’s a couple more money saving / bleedingly obvious gardening tips.

    Use dead leaves, clippings, pulled and dried weeds, old newspapers, receipts, straw, sawdust from the hamsters’ cage – anything organic, to cover your beds and surround your plants. It’ll break down in place to enrich the soil and supply minerals and nutrients. It’ll also create a nice environment for beneficial microbes, keep the soil moist and protect the roots from strong sun. It’s also a great way to reduce what goes into the rubbish.
    Urine is great for the garden (as long as you are relatively healthy and you’re eating from your garden and not popping big macs and steroids). Add it to your compost or dilute with water and feed to your plants for a quick nitrogen boost and long term growth . Carrying it to the allotment will also guarantee you a single seat on the bus.
    And while we’re in the bathroom . . .
    Toilet paper. A lot of the world doesn’t flush paper but bags it and either composts it or chucks it in landfills. It may sound a little strange at first but it breaks down nicely in the compost bin and adds some good stuff to the soil. If you use recycled toilet paper and not that strange perfumed and coloured type it biodegrades quickly and doesn’t end up polluting the oceans. Try it for a week, instead of flushing put it in a wastepaper bin in the bathroom, you might be surprised at how much you’ll have. If you don’t like the thought of putting it in your compost you can burn it and add the ashes. It’s all good stuff. I use mine on my bananas and when I’m making new beds.

    You mentioned nettle tea for fertilizer and as a general tonic. Comfrey must be even better. Every garden should have a patch of this pretty and amazing plant. Adding even a little to your compost will speed up the composting process and enrich your nutrient content. Comfrey is also a good medicinal for all sorts of physical aches and cuts. Yarrow is another wonder herb which will do wonders for your compost and your garden. And it grows everywhere!

  2. Cheers Ancel, glad you like my witterings. Thanks for sharing, one person's bleedingly obvious is another person's shock discovery.
    I knew about comfrey, but I'd never considered my, er, natural resources.

    Bananas eh? I'm feeling a little dull by comparison.

  3. let me know how those natural resources are going . . .


  4. Thanks for sharing. Very useful information that I will definitely take with me to the 'playground' :)
    But the bananas part.. ehhh a bit TOO interesting


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