I did actually keep within my budget his month, except for one costly but essential item: multipurpose compost.
When I started growing veg, I remember my mum telling me I’d get through bags and bags of compost and she’s been proved absolutely right. I like to use peat free compost, but this can be expensive. For example, I’ve already spent £12 on two small bags this year, and I’ve not really got underway with seed sowing.
Making My Own Potting Compost
Subsequently, I want to cut down on my use of multipurpose compost. To do this, I’m trying a few new ideas, including making some of my own (pictured).
I’ve made a start on this, sieving and mixing together a batch of equal part kitchen compost, molehill soil and leaf mould – all free components easily created or collected if you’re prepared to put some time in.
One problem with making my own potting compost is not being able to sterilise it, so some weeds will always appear. I’m therefore going to trial using the homemade compost when growing bigger, easily identifiable seedlings, such as peas and French beans. I’ll pull the weeds out as they emerge.
Buying Cheaper Compost
However, making enough might also be a problem, especially as I’m becoming more and more interested in growing certain veg in containers. Container growing is soil thirsty and using expensive multipurpose compost seems extravagant, so I’m giving the Wickes peat free bargain bucket stuff a go. This is priced at £4.07 for 60L, but the bags are on offer at £13 for 4. After asking around, I’ve found a mate who is willing to try it too, reducing the cost to £3.25 per 60L bag.
I can’t deny that the compost looks alarmingly like smashed up pallets in woodchip, but I reckon for unfussy potatoes it’ll be fine. Given that potatoes will be taking up a lot of my containers this year, the Wickes compost could prove a bargain.
Mixing Good with Bad
For other container crops I’m trying, like peas, carrots and parsnips, I can always mix in some of my own potting compost to improve the Wickes compost. I’ve already done this with a long planter of greenhouse strawberry plants, layering the container from bottom to top with some of last year’s multipurpose compost, kitchen compost, and fresh multipurpose compost. The plants are looking really healthy, despite being tiny runners that were overlooked for my garden strawberry patch because of their size.
Making the Compost Go Further
I’ve also been experimenting with squeezing more seeds into pots when growing seedlings to plant out. The 14 broad beans plants planted out in my March Patch From Scratch update all came from just 4 pots (pictured), and I’ve also successfully transplanted 18 pea seedlings that were grown in 5 pots.
I’m planning to continue this experiment with French beans, runner beans and even more peas (I’m addicted to peas this year), as well as a sowing of squashes and courgette seeds for comparison.
I’ll never be self-sufficient in potting compost, nor cut out the use of it, but to try and make what I do have go as far as possible will contribute significantly to keeping my costs low and affordable.