Economic Gardening – Ideas for Saving Money

economic gardening - ideas for saving money

Economic Gardening Ideas

With all the research and planning done for your new garden design, it is time to think of construction and to find the necessary materials. If you are gardening on a tight budget you may find that many of these may be already on site, but in disguise. The pile of builder’s rubble by the back door can provide bricks for walls and hardcore for paths and terraces. Earth excavated to make a pool or lay drains can be used in raised beds or to change levels. If you are making a sunken garden, the earth removed can be spread over the raised area to double the depth in half the time.

If you get the go-ahead to cut down a tree, slices from the trunk can be used as an informal woodland path or as ‘stepping stones’. Straight branches, cut into varying lengths and trimmed, will make stakes for trees and shrubs. Cut into even shorter lengths, about 45 to 60cm (18″ to 2ft), they can be hammered into the ground to make an informal retaining ‘wall’ for a raised bed or banks. In a cottage garden, the smaller branches can be used for ‘rustic’ screens, fences and arches. The twiggy branches will make poles for peas and beans, provide unobtrusive support for straggling plants and can be placed as a small protective circle round frail young plants to give them a chance to get established and to prevent accidental damage. The trimmings of prickly shrubs, such as Bèrberis, gorse and holly, can be used to repel cats.

It is quite usual to find old cinders and clinkers when digging over neglected gardens. These are left over from the days of solid-fuel fires and boilers. Save the large clinkers for hardcore and the cinders to make a cordon sanitaire round young plants that the slugs might fancy.

Fat sections of the tree trunk, cut into short lengths, can make the supports for an informal seat which can be made from an old plank, an oblong of paving, (either stone or concrete) or perhaps the marble top of an old washstand. These turn up surprisingly often in gardens. If they are large and unbroken they will make a splendid top for a garden table, as will those large slabs of slate that were used to roof the outside toilet. Slate slabs can also make an attractive centre to a paved area or a useful roof to the dustbin hide. A stone cutter can be hired for this purpose quite easily.

I am sure you can find some great economic gardening ideas for paths – almost anything can be used to make paths and terraces when you are using economic gardening methods. In large areas, a mixture of materials can be very effective, if carefully designed. Round up all the odd bricks, quarry tiles, bits and pieces of stone and slate, cobbles, flints, pebbles, and gravel that you can lay your hands on, as well as wooden battens, sliced tree-trunk and old railway sleepers. All can be pressed into service in some way or other. If there is not enough material in your garden, search through skips, the council tip and odd corners of builders’ yards and demolition sites. Roofing slates can be used to retain soil or to make a damp-proof course when planting beds are made along the walls of the house.

Black-Eyed-Susans Builders, electricians and plumbers will leave all sorts of useful odds and ends behind them. Lengths of white flex or bell-wire can be stretched between wall nails as plant supports on a white wall, black or brown flex on brick walls. Lengths and off-cuts of wood can be used for a wide range of garden projects – containers, fencing, trellises, summerhouses and far pavilions. Old floorboards will make a robust tree-house. Pieces of 5 x 2.5cm (2″ x 1″) timber, treated with preservative, would make a strong ‘decking’ over a tatty bit of terrace or roof garden. Even the flimsiest of battens can be used to make a lightweight trellis for decorative purposes only, or to support one of the more delicate annual climbers (Morning Glories or Black-Eyed-Susans; anything more thug-like would destroy it).

Bits of plastic plumbing can be used for water gardening, if well hidden by lush planting, while stripped-out iron piping will make very strong supports for all sorts of plants. Plastic sheeting could be used to make a garden pool; it might not last for ever but would serve for a while. It would also do duty as a cheap and quickly dismantled paddling pool, or as a lining to all sorts of improvised containers (remember to punch some drainage holes or the plants will drown in wet weather or from over-watering). Plastic sheeting can be used under areas of paving and gravel, to suppress weeds, and black plastic can be laid between newly-planted shrubs to keep the weeds down while the shrubs get established. Hold the plastic down with bricks or stones. Builder’s sacks, cut open at both ends, can be used round a twig frame, as a wind-break or frost guard, popped over a frail plant. Use these sacks to store compost and fallen leaves so that they can rot down in odourless comfort.

Economic gardening ideas for container gardening is simple – chimney pots, clay or earthenware drain-pipes, disused sinks and lavatories can all be used as containers and are great ideas for saving money. Galvanised water-tanks make capacious and handsome planting bays. Raise them up on a few bricks, to help drainage, and paint them to match the walls or woodwork. This is probably the cheapest way to grow a tree, large shrub or vigorous climber in a container, as they will hold the amount of soil needed to provide the plant with a good root system. Old tin trunks, baths and large barrels are other possibilities.

Do not be tempted to use left-over heaps of builder’s sand for the children’s sandpit. It will stain their clothes a nasty dingy yellow. Silver sand is the one for this job. Use the builder’s sand to spread over hardcore, under paths and terraces, or to line the garden pool to make a smooth base for the plastic liner. Half-bags of cement are often left behind and, if these have not ‘gone off’, use them to make a mortar for walls and terraces. If they have gone off, use the lumps for hardcore. During the war, sacks of cement mix were piled up to make road blocks. They hardened off beautifully and, when the sacks rotted away, were often white-washed. This would be one way to construct walls in utility areas. Odds and ends of paint can be used to paint walls, containers and woodwork. Use Universal Stainers to shade them the colours you need.

garden ornaments When gardening on a budget, and having used up all the bits and pieces that are lying around the house and garden, turn your eyes further afield for, as I have said before, skips and tips are the obvious places to start. Ask the builders or the council workmen, if they are available, for permission before carting off your ‘find’. The most likely discoveries will be soil, bricks, timber and containers of all sorts, but in time you may find turf, tiles, paving, statues, garden furniture and every kind of plant from trees to water-lilies. Many houses that were built before the First World War had floors of York stone, especially in cellars and basements. These are still being broken up and thrown into skips so that a concrete screed can be laid over a damp proof course.

If you see a house that is being gutted, you could ask the workmen and maybe, for a few pounds, they may well dig up the slabs unbroken and load them into your boot. Do not take too many at a time or they will wreck your car, which will not be much of an economy. The men will usually agree to save them for your next trip. If they have thrown the broken pieces in the skip, fish them out and either use them as crazy paving or stepping stones in the lawn and flower border, or hire the stone cutter and trim them into regular shapes for steps, coping or paving. Some councils have old paving stones or granite setts to sell, but more often they sell them in bulk to large garden centres where you can buy them at a price.

Demolition sites and yards are good hunting grounds for construction materials, if you can get there before everything is burnt or carted off to be dumped. Businesses specialising in ‘Architectural Salvage’, that is bits and pieces from such sites, are all over the place and are worth searching out. Of course, things will he more expensive there than ‘buying a drink’ for the demolition gang, but you can still find a good buy.

gates and railings For ornamental items and containers, auctions (especially in bad weather), jumble sales, church and village fetes (the white elephant stall) and car boot sales are the places to look, if you cannot find what you want in the skip.

Scrap-metal yards are worth visiting if you want gates, railings and balconies, amongst other things, while postcards in the local shop and small ads in Exchange and Mart or the local papers will reveal endless bargains.

If you live in the country, you may find exactly what you need in hedgerows and ditches, while town-dwellers find the most amazing things abandoned on the pavements.

04. October 2010 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Container Gardening, Garden Landscapes, Gardening Ideas, New Gardens | Tags: | Comments Off on Economic Gardening – Ideas for Saving Money


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