Grow your own food for ‘free’ – my top 10 tips

Some fruit and vegetables only need a bit of work to start growing

If someone asked if you wanted ‘free’ fruit and veg, you’d probably grab the chance with both hands… and mouth! But some fruit and vegetables only need a bit of work to start growing and you’ll have them coming back year after year, giving you virtually free fruit and veg forever.

And if you don’t think you can grow stuff believe me, if I can, you can. This summer alone I expect to save around £50 by growing my own strawberries, rhubarb, apples and pears.

So what gardening tips and tricks can we show you to help you produce “free” fruit and veg? We’ve compiled a list for gardening virgins.

If you’re no longer a gardening virgin and can help those who are with tips of your own or disagree with ours please share your thoughts below.

1. Got land? Any land? Use it

I don’t know about you but healthy AND cheap ticks several boxes on my list. So do you have access to a piece of land? Any piece of land? If you do, don’t waste it! It doesn’t have to be large – any space will do.

It could be a tray of salad shoots on a window ledge or pots on a balcony.

2. Start small

If you’re one of the gardening novices this blog’s aimed at you probably don’t want to splash the cash only for all your plants to die. So start off small so you don’t knock your confidence early on.

3. Good sources of “cheap” seeds, bulbs and more

There are stacks of places you can buy seeds and plants cheaply – they’re no longer the preserve of expensive garden centres. To help I’ve done a quick round-up of what’s available at the moment. Let us know if you spot any more.

4. Get “free” seeds from veg you eat

Back in the olden days my Grandad would grow vegetables from the veg’s own seeds. For example, using seeds taken from tomatoes before he ate them, growing potatoes from packs he’d bought in the supermarket, rather than buying the seeds from DIY or gardening shops.

This is a great cheap/free way of getting seeds.

Some gardeners still do this but some believe if you re-use seeds too much or try to grow supermarket-bought potatoes instead of commercially produced ones, it can produce diseased vegetables later on.

I asked our Greenfingered gardeners on the forum what they thought and had some interesting replies.

  • Forumite Mojisola says “Many seeds gardeners use, especially the more expensive one, are… cross produced from two specific parent plants. When you grow those in the garden, they will be open pollinated by unknown pollen so the plants from the next generation won’t have all the characteristics of the F1 plant, although that doesn’t mean you won’t be pleased with the results.”
  • HappyGreen says “I have successfully grown Kale and Mizuna leaves from my own seeds. I also have many self-seeders which I transplant later in spring if I need to, mainly Chards.”

5. Grow “cut and come again” fruit and vegetables

I love rhubarb. I love swiss chard. I love apples, pears, plums… Can you see where I’m heading with this? They’re all fruit and vegetables that, once planted, grow back each year without you having to do a load of work.

The technical term is “perennial” but it’s this kind of talk that makes it all seem like hard work and can put some people off getting started so we’ll leave it at that… My technical term, once initial plant costs are factored in, is “CHEAP”!

If Andrea can grow fruit & veg, you can too

6. Cut vegetables off from the stalk?

I’ve heard a rumour that if you leave the end of the cucumber on the stalk when you cut yours off a new one will grow from it. It’s not something I’ve tested (I’ve only grown cucumbers a couple of times and they weren’t very successful so I used my mini greenhouse for something else instead).

If you’ve grown cucumbers and tried it I’d love to hear if it worked? I might give it a go this year.

7. Even the experienced gardeners get it wrong sometimes

Just read the fab forum discussion Highs and Lows of growing your own dinner 2015 by forumite queen of cheap to see what can happen.

8. Read around

A few years back I wrote a gardening blog with tips and tricks to save on fruit and veg. Since then grow-your-own seems to have grown even more popular (pardon the rubbish pun!). So have a read around for more tips and ideas.

9. Get “free” water

Butt, butt, butt…. how? If you’ve given gardening a go and decided you like this free fruit and veg lark, install a water butt for free rain water. It’s a no-brainer – I have three; two in my back garden, one out the front – I wanted another but my husband pointed out we don’t have any more drainpipe I can use!

Don’t forget a stand and connector to link the butt to your water pipe. You can buy each part individually or get them all in a kit.

A standard size is 210L or you can get a slimline 110L.

DIY stores such as Homebase or B&Q etc sell them from around £30 upwards but also check for offers from your water company or council. SaveWaterSaveMoney is a good site to check too.

10. Make your own, “free”, compost

Want to save money on bin bags? Compost your cardboard, your scrap paper, egg cartons, kitchen towels, even cat litter if it’s biodegradeable. Just remove your cat’s poo first! Websites such as myzerowaste and The Rubbish Diet have good tips on composting and reducing waste in general.

Are you an experienced gardener with tips to help new gardeners start off without forking out a shedload of cash? Or do you disagree with any of my tips? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or on the forum.