Body, soul and gardening - money saving crops

When money’s tight, growing your own fruit and veg is a great way to help save the pennies, as well as keeping you healthy.  Here are a few tips to get the most from your plot on a budget.

First think about what you and your family eat most.  A supermarket bag of salad leaves is expensive and doesn’t go far.  But you can grow masses of leaves like lettuce, chicory, endive, sorrel, spinach and rocket cheaply from seed in as little as three weeks.  They’ll work in troughs and tubs as well as in beds - ideally away from hot midday heat.  Long season brassicas such as tasty cavolo nero or Swiss chard will keep you in healthy greens from summer into winter.  You can get ahead by sowing some of these now.

Focus on crops that are expensive to buy, such as soft fruit like strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and blueberries.  Now’s a good time to buy bare root plants or increase your existing fruit bush harvests with a prune and mulch. 

Growing a productive fruit tree is another low-maintenance, sustainable way of producing lots of money-saving fruit, especially if you plant early varieties such as Worcesters through to later apples that store well.  Plum trees such as Victoria plum can be laden with fruit, so be prepared to stew and freeze a glut for use over the winter.  You can also save money by dividing rhubarb clumps and giving them a good mulch to increase your harvest.

Heavy cropping plants such as runner beans and courgettes can keep you well fed over the summer months but try to extend the growing season with early spring cabbages, over-wintered leeks or hardy lettuces along with squash and pumpkins to keep you in soups into the autumn.  Successional sowing will also help maintain a constant supply of healthy and nutritious produce.

And by saving seeds and making your own compost, you could have this bounty with very little outlay.  Happy sowing and growing!