success and failure

The £5 a Month Veg Plot in February – Success and Failure!

A month ago I publically declared my attempt to spend no more than a fiver a month on my beloved veg growing hobby.

Since then I’ve spent a total of just under £25 on seeds, replacement greenhouse panes, and multipurpose compost. That’s me left red-faced.

I’ve offset the seed spend a little by swapping surplus seeds on Twitter. In came broad beans, celeriac, and courgettes in exchange for other packets I’d never had used. I was also donated a water butt by a nice man at work, after chatting to him about gardening.

In practise, a fiver a month is a tiny amount but one I’m glad that I’ve set. Although I might not keep to the budget, I’m challenged to innovate and think about what I’m using.

Squash Bottles, Margarine Tubs, Bubble Wrap and Football Nets
Whenever you go to do something, you ask yourself is there an item you already have that you can adapt. I think this is healthy not just for a garden, but as a human being. Silly things like pricking holes in the lid of a squash bottle rather than buying a fine rosed watering can, and covering early sowings with bubble wrap instead of horticultural fleece not only save money but prevent otherwise redundant materials from going to landfill too.

I also made 30 plant labels from a 500g tub of margarine. There wasn’t much room for free-flowing italics admittedly, but 2 more tubs should see me through the sowing season.

If you don’t have a suitable item to hand, your mind is inspired to find a solution. What alternative could work? Who might have some of these? How can I get them for free?

I applied this to my vertical squash growing ambitions. I need strong netting to support the fruits and came up with the idea of football nets. A quick chat with a gentleman who looks after the local pitches, and I was on my way to pick up a couple of old nets that had been replaced a few weeks before.

Having measured out, I’ve got enough netting to wrap around my pea wigwams too.

Experiments and the Scavenger Instinct
You start to experiment as well. With an increasing interest in container growing, I’m conducting my own little trial, growing potatoes, carrots and other veg in a mixture of homemade compost and molehill soil.

The emergence of a scavenger instinct is also entertaining. Any walk is peppered with glances in skips and thoughts of ‘what could I use that for?’ Hoarding becomes a danger. As my wonderful wife so succinctly put it ‘yes, Jono that’s fine, so long as the garden doesn’t become a dumping ground for toot’.

She may or may have not been referring to the entirely unsuitable but awesome sleeper that she found in the boot of the car…

Gardening is a Wonderfully Inexpensive Hobby
Despite all this frugality, I’ve begun to appreciate that one of the great things about gardening is that as a hobby, it is relatively cheap. Just a few pounds worth of seeds arriving in the post can provide that heart-missing-a-beat sensation.

Regardless of my massive first-month overspend, I’m going to stick with my £5 a month challenge, but instead, use the budget as a guideline to encourage and inspire me to make do and mend.

The £5 a month challenge was intended as a money-saving initiative, but more than anything I’m learning that resourcefulness is good for the soul as well as the wallet.

5 thoughts on “The £5 a Month Veg Plot in February – Success and Failure!”

  1. Hi Jono,

    what an excellent post – I feel inspired to pop down to my local footie club right away to see if they have any old nets going!

    I like the idea that you’re going to keep the fiver a month challenge going – I’m going to make more of an effort to trade seeds with a few friends this year, always end up with far too many not being used.

    Food for thought.

  2. Thanks Tracy. I’ll get a photo up of the nets as soon as I’ve built the structure. At the mo I’m trying to think of free things I can hang them on!

  3. I feel your pain – I promised myself I would keep the allotment economical this year – and have promptly gone out and bought £30 of raspberries. I fully intend to do the same for asparagus too. Still I’m hoping both of these will pay themselves back many times over.

    I’m fortunate in that I’ve just discovered a free compost supply too – are there any schemes like this around where you are, or are we a special case in east anglia?

  4. Hi Chris, thanks for your comment.

    I did the same with soft fruit, but saw it as an investment. Like you say, they’ll repay you many times over the coming years. I was in profit with my gooseberries within 2-3 years.

    Not sure on the compost front, as I tend to use my own homemade stuff. I’ve seen Naomi from posting about free compost she gets in London.

  5. nice update. It is always going to be hard spending only £5 a month unless you have all the hardware you need already.

    Those of you that get free compost are so lucky! I am not aware of anything like that here in Cornwall.

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