Low Cost Gardening - Top Tips

Windowsill propagators

Created from Tetrapak juice cartons, this is a brilliant recycled method for raising seedlings on your windowsill. The shiny silver lining of the carton bounces extra light onto your plants.

First, lay the carton on its side (see pic) and carefully cut a flap using a sharp knife. Puncture drainage holes in the bottom. Fill with seed compost, water, allow to drain, then sow whatever takes your fancy.

You can keep the flap closed while the seed germinates to retain moisture, but open it up the moment they emerge. I’m not sure who came up with this idea, but all credit for their brilliant invention.

Home-made seed compost
The steep prices of commercial seed composts can soon add up. But there are many recipes for making your own. As a rule of thumb, you can mix leaf mould or coir (a by-product of the coconut industry) with horticultural sand in a ration of 5:1. A handful of organic fertiliser, such as ground seaweed, will help the seedlings on their way. More recipes are on the City Leaf website.

DIY watering cans
Garden Innovations (www.garden-innovations.co.uk) sell watering devices that screw onto the top of plastic drink bottles. These work ok, and have a lovely fine rose. But I find that the plastic mould often cracks. Make your own by carefully drilling tiny holes into a bottle cap, then you’ll have a recycled watering device to last a lifetime.

Using scissors, cut label-sized ribbons from washed plastic pots. Invest in a permanent marker, as it’s annoying when the ink washes off in the rain.

Seed saving
Saving seed is a most ancient human skill, but we’re in danger of forgetting the methods. It’s really quite straightforward for most crops. For expert advice, lay your hands on the book ‘Back Garden Seed Saving’ by Sue Stickland. Swapping seed also keeps costs down.

Swap online
Various websites promote the recycling and swapping of garden kits. Try Freeycle (uk.freeycle.org) and Garden Swap Shop (www.gardenswapshop.co.uk).