Stretching your rand one veggie at a time

If the cost of vegetable seedlings has put you off growing your own, think again. Jane Griffiths shows us how to reduce costs in a home vegetable garden

19 March 2023 - 00:00
By Jane Griffiths
Wherever possible make use of recycled or found material. Egg boxes are perfect for making your own seed trays.
Image: Jane Griffiths and Keith Knowlton Wherever possible make use of recycled or found material. Egg boxes are perfect for making your own seed trays.

 

In the beginning

When starting, don't be over ambitious. Vegetable gardening isn't rocket science but it can be demanding and the best way to learn is through experience. Start with one small bed before turning your whole lawn into a vegetable garden. This way you will learn how to manage your resources, time, energy and harvests without wasting them.

Perennials such as artichokes, asparagus, runner beans, rosemary, thyme and chives require little maintenance and provide harvests year after year.
Image: Jane Griffiths and Keith Knowlton Perennials such as artichokes, asparagus, runner beans, rosemary, thyme and chives require little maintenance and provide harvests year after year.

Cost-effective tips

  • For the price of eight seedlings you can buy hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of seeds. Planting from seed offers a much wider choice too.
  • Share seeds. There are usually far more in one packet than a home gardener can use.
  • Get together with fellow gardeners and buy seedlings in bulk at wholesale prices.
  • Plant what you’ll eat. Don’t be seduced by photos on seed packets into planting vegetables you and your family don’t enjoy.
  • Grow what’s expensive at the greengrocer. Plants like rocket and basil are ridiculously costly but really easy to grow and provide abundant harvests.
  • Plant perennials such as artichokes, asparagus, runner beans, rosemary, thyme and chives. They require little maintenance and provide harvests year after year.
  • Food gardeners often experience a glut of one crop, which can lead to wastage. Swapping and sharing harvests with friends reduces this.
Instead of leaving plants to self-seed, you can save the seeds, to be sown later or shared. Dry thoroughly before storing.
Image: Jane Griffiths and Keith Knowlton Instead of leaving plants to self-seed, you can save the seeds, to be sown later or shared. Dry thoroughly before storing.

Plants for free

Many herbs and vegetables produce seeds enthusiastically and, with a little bit of help, will continue to plant themselves, providing free plants season after season.

  • Select the strongest and most vigorous plants to go seed. If you are happy for the plant to self-seed where it is, then leave it to do its thing. If you want plants to grow in another place, pick the seed-bearing stems, break them up and scatter them where you want them to grow. Press the branches into the ground a little.
  • Some herbs and vegetables (amaranth, fennel) can self-seed a little too enthusiastically and become weeds. Manage these by cutting the flowers off before seeds form. Control fruiting self-seeders (tomatoes, gooseberries) by harvesting fruit regularly and not putting the fruit in the compost.
  • If a plant seeds itself too vigorously, leave the seedlings to grow about 10cm to 15cm high, slash them down and chop up the leaves and stems. These rot down, adding nutrients back to the soil. With edible ones such as amaranth, eat them as nutritious and colourful microgreens.
  • Instead of leaving them to self-seed, you can save the seeds, to be sown later or shared. Dry thoroughly before storing.
Borage and fennel going to seed.
Image: Jane Griffiths and Keith Knowlton Borage and fennel going to seed.

Re-use, recycle and reduce

  • Wherever possible make use of recycled or found material. Willow and bay branches can be woven to make supports or fences. Bamboo is excellent for tripods, and simple logs or recycled bottles can be used as bed edging. All organic gardeners have a healthy junk pile of “stuff they might use one day”.
  • Invest in a rain water tank.
  • Make your own seed trays and pots using recycled newspaper or egg boxes.
  • Establish a compost pile, set up a worm farm and buy a Bokashi bin. Recycle all your kitchen waste and garden refuse through these and provide your vegetables with nutritious free fertiliser.

Grow your own fertiliser and pesticides

  • Plants such as yarrow and comfrey are extremely nutritious. They can easily be made into a fertilising drench or spray.
  • Plants such as tansy, feverfew and artemisia are good pest repellents.

Jane's Delicious A-Z of Vegetables. Jane Griffiths. Sunbird Publishers www.janesdeliciousshop.co.za


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