Frugal Garden: recycling, compost, self-seeding

frugal garden - meadow
Ox eye daisies in the meadow

The frugal garden has been somewhat neglected due to health problems here this year. But nature carries on regardless. Things still grow. And now a little catch up is happening, slowly, as can be managed.

Frugal Garden: Polytunnel

Life goes on in the polytunnel. This was built of pallets and food hygiene plastic discarded by a food factory. Cardboard box path.

frugal garden: polytunnel built from recycled materials
Polytunnel interior

You can see nasturtiums which self-seeded from last year and lettuce seedlings from a cheap pack of Lidl seeds which we just scattered onto a layer of homemade compost (see compost post here). Last year’s winter lettuce, kale and cabbage are still providing copious leaves. Some beans have been planted in the gaps. And some things have grown out of the compost by themselves:

A sturdy butternut squash grows among pak choi seedlings. Some tomato plants have come up like this too.

Upcycling

The latest upcycled pallet project, a corner seating unit, just in need of facings:

frugal garden: pallet furniture

Our favourite place to buy seeds (apart from Lidl!)

Thompson and Morgan because the seeds (and plants) are super high quality and always grow.

Other frugal garden posts and pages

Frugal Holidays

House sitting and/or pet sitting can be a simple way to get really cheap holidays or maybe even free ones if you don’t have to travel far. TrustedHousesitters have owners registered in over 130 countries, from townhouses in London to renovated farmhouses in Tuscany, apartments in New York to beach homes in Hawaii. They connect pet and home owners with reliable sitters, saving costs for both home and pet owners, and sitters looking to travel and stay somewhere new. You can register as either a sitter or an owner on their site with a range of membership options available.

Growing a Food Forest: lawns to food

a herb garden in the food forest
Herb garden of oregano, lemon balm, self-seeded borage, lovage, sage, bronze fennel, chives, parsley, rocket.

Growing your own food forest does not have to be hard work, nor do you have to own a massive garden to achieve it. You work with what space is available – you can even make a mini ‘forest’ of herbs and sprouts on a windowsill – and do what you have time for.

We’re gradually changing the grass/food ratio in our own garden. We built some raised beds out of old roofing tiles.

Sunflowers, kale, turnips, and flat leaf parsley that basically went rogue.

Kale is one tough cookie. It does well here in Northern Scotland and continues to produce leaves for two years.



A cheap packet of lettuce seeds from Lidl was sprinkled all over this (non-raised) new bed this year and two courgette plants were popped in among it. They’re doing really well. We use the lettuce in a ‘cut and come again’ way as you get a higher yield that way. It just keeps going.

bed of lettuce and courgettes (zucchini)
Lettuce, courgettes and nasturtium.

Potatoes are a really easy crop to grow. This year we planted mainly shops ones that had sprouted at the back of the fridge so they really didn’t cost anything and they have produced well. Admittedly, the Pentland Javelins we bought as seed potatoes have been somewhat more abundant.

Pentland Javelin potatoes freshly dug up
Freshly dug tatties.

Thompson and Morgan offer high quality seed potatoes, often on offer here.

Potatoes can also be grown in containers or even a bag of compost. We know one lady who threw some old sprouted ones into a half used bag of compost and left them all summer to find masses of lovely new tatties in the autumn.

Russian Red Kale – self seeds all over the place once you have it, and produces leaves like crazy.

We like to mix things up and plant a few flowers between. They’re good for attracting bees. Nasturtiums are also edible. Pallet bench in background…

Beets, carrots, cauliflower, parsnips, sprig cabbage, chard, black kale, savoy cabbage growing in the food forest
This thickly planted bed contains beets, carrots, cauliflower, parsnips, spring cabbage, chard, black kale, savoy cabbage (all grown from seed straight in the ground) and even a few strawberries.

Fruit bushes and trees are well worth the initial investment as they go on giving forever more and create shelter and the ‘foresty’ aspect of your food forest. Birds seem quite good at ‘planting’ the blackcurrant seeds; we’ve had some new ones come up in odd corners of the garden. They’re very low maintenance.

Apples and red and black currants in the food forest.
Apples and red and black currants

Latest seeds planted:

Planned next in the garden: a polytunnel to be constructed of recycled pallets and reclaimed plastic, and a big patch of Jerusalem Artichokes!

Also see our articles Free Food for information on foraging and Making Compost, Reducing Waste, Saving Money for more gardening advice.

A Secret Garden

The Secret Gardening Club is a free to join club for seasoned and beginner gardeners alike. They supply a huge range of high-quality plants at up to 70% discount. Subscribers can sign up and subsequently receive notification as soon as new stock is available.

The prices are so low due to their close working relationship with a number of reputable plant nurseries across the UK. They take any over-supply and pass the considerable discounts on to customers.

Recommended reading:

‘How to Grow Your Own Food: A Week-by-week Guide to Wild Life Friendly Fruit and Vegetable Gardening’ by Dirty Nails. This fabulous book takes you through the year, detailing what you can be planting, preparing, harvesting etc. each week. Humorously written, lots of information on wildlife is given throughout such as facts about badgers, woodpeckers and cuckoos. The book is very well indexed and has some lovely fruit and vegetable recipes too. A user-friendly title that’s sure to help you maximise your garden’s food production. Buy UK

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‘Forest Gardening’ by Robert A de J Hart. Here the author details his garden – a miniature forest filled with an abundance of things to eat. This is low maintenance gardening once established with trees, bushes and perennial plants which provide both shelter and food. Included are recommended plants for different regions of the world – this book is a huge resource of information and inspiration. Buy UK

Creating a Forest Garden: Forest gardening is a novel way of growing edible crops – with nature doing most of the work for you. A forest garden is modelled on young natural woodland, with a wide range of crops growing in different vertical layers. Unlike in a conventional garden, there is little need for digging, weeding or pest control. Buy UK


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Making Compost, Reducing Waste, Saving Money

making compost in recycled pallet containers
Making compost in recycled pallet containers

Making compost is a great way to reduce waste and nourish the soil. It also saves money if you are in the habit of buying ready made compost. And it’s easy.

Making Compost in Triple Bins

Above are our triple compost bins made from old pallets. They are the perfect size for hot composting (faster composting) as you want your pile to be 3 feet wide x 3 feet high to make sure it heats up in the middle. You can, of course, just make it in a pile or heap. The idea behind having three bins is to have one that you’re adding material to, one that’s being left to rot down (usually for 6 or 7 months) and one that’s finished and being used in the garden or pots.

making compost from kitchen scraps and other materials

What to Put in the Compost

  • kitchen scraps of raw vegetable origin (cooked food will moulder)
  • used tea bags
  • coffee grounds
  • grass cuttings
  • leaves and twigs
  • weeds that have not gone to seed
  • garden waste such as dead or finished plants
  • seaweed
  • hair and nail trimmings
  • the contents of your hoover bag/bin
  • ripped up cardboard, the lower quality the better

You’re looking to get a good variety of layers in there to balance the nitrogen from green things and the carbon from brown things.

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Doing It Wrong Can Be Right!

When we first started composting we did it all wrong in this container:

making compost in a plastic container

We used exclusively kitchen scraps which went a bit smelly and gooey. However, after about a year the goo did return to being basically soil and proved to be an exceedingly rich food for the plants. The ones that had a layer of this fertiliser in their pots or beds grew significantly larger than the ones that didn’t. So it can be done like that, even if you don’t want to use it for growing; it still reduces waste and returns veg scraps to the soil. The ground around compost bins always becomes beautifully rich, as you can see with the nettles above. And we don’t mean to knock the plastic bins – they can be very handy for smaller spaces.

making compost and growing squash

We intend using the wee boxes at the base of our pallet bins above to grow squash in next year.

No Dig Potatoes

Another use for cardboard in the garden is to lay it down on the ground to prepare the soil to be used in a “no dig” manner. The grass will rot away and you’ll be left with bare soil. We’re doing it over winter for next spring’s growing. We’ll then lay the seed potatoes on the ground without digging and cover them in a thick layer of grass cuttings which we will replenish throughout the summer. Potatoes should grow well in that – we will report back!

no dig poatatoes
Weighed down with old roof tiles.

Related posts

sunflower
A sunflower growing by the upcycled polytunnel (more to come on that later).

The Secret Gardening Club always have great offers of overstock from nurseries:

Bargain Alert: plants and bulbs!

Thompson and Morgan have a sale on their high quality plants and bulbs at the moment. With up to 75% off, it’s a great way to pick up some bargain plants! There’s a lot of flowers in the sale but some fruit bushes and rhubarb too, and those just keep on giving year after year.

This is the sale link valid 12th to 18th of August 2021, but if the offer doesn’t go through at checkout, use the code TM_TAW60W.

bargain plants

This is the time of year that many shops and garden centres reduce certain items so keep your eyes peeled for bargain plants elsewhere too.

Related posts:
Growing a Food Forest, lawns to food
Bargain Alert: cheap seeds and grains



Newsletter: food forests and frugal gardening

frugal gardening

There’s a new article up on site about growing a food forest, turning lawns to food, though this concept can be as small as a windowsill of herbs and sprouts. See the article and read about our frugal gardening ways here.

Super Cheap Food
We also posted about some really cheap seeds and store cupboard grains we found in Asda here (still there last weekend).

Clearance food outlets Low Price Foods and Approved Foods are well worth a regular check as they get new products in often.

Cheap Clothes
Everything5Pounds: exactly what it says, though there are still some items in their £2.50 sale.

Featured Seasonal Recipes:
Bramble Chocolate Chip Cakes
Radish Top Soup
Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage
Apple Pie

May the August sun shine brightly down upon you and your frugal gardening!

All at Frugal Living in the UK
http://www.frugal.org.uk

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