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Woman holding basket of home-grown vegetables

Gardening on a Budget

Want to create a great garden for less? Award-winning garden journalist and garden consultant Deryn Thorpe shares her favourite tips. And yes – even those new to gardening can give these a go.

Consider a garden consultant

It might sound like the fastest way to spend money, but hiring a garden consultant right from the start can save you in the long run. "A good consultant will ask questions about what you want your space to look like, sketch out how the area can work, and provide a list of plant choices that will thrive in your soil and climate conditions," Deryn says. "You will save a fortune in not replacing dead plants that were wrong for the conditions, or time having to deal with plants that grow too big," she adds. A consultant should also write a list of jobs and landscaping ideas so you have a ‘batting order’ of when to do each task. Deryn says a gardening consultant fee is around $250 – to find a consultant, trawl through the 'trades' section in your community newspaper or visit Hipages.com. Through the home improvement site you can request quotes on your job from tradies in your local area.

Look around for what you need

Visit markets and local garden clubs for cheap plants, though take care to only buy plants in potting mix as soil can introduce pathogens into your garden. "Most family-owned garden centres will also offer a discount if you buy a big order of plants, but you will need to ask in advance," says Deryn. Pavers, pots and garden equipment can be found at bargain prices online and in second-hand stores. Looking to save even more? Gravel is a cheaper option than pavers – especially when you factor in laying costs – because pavers require a well-prepared foundation to stay in place for the years to come.

Take from cuttings

"Plants like pelargoniums (geraniums), salvia, ornamental sweet potato and rosemary grow very readily from cuttings,” Deryn says. “Nab from friends or family, or buy one plant and pot it up in 10cm-long cuttings." How to take a cutting? Remove all but two leaves and dip the stem in untreated honey, then put into a pot filled with potting mix or coir peat. "Plants like gazania, arctotis, aster and bird of paradise actually need regular dividing to keep them contained. The divided and removed section, which should have some root on the plant, will establish easily," she says. Flowers, vegetables and herbs grow well from seeds, which are cheaper to buy. Parsley, chive or sage can create useful and pretty borders, while oregano and thyme are fabulous groundcovers. While they cost as much as other border plants, backyard herbs do double duty by flavouring your meals!

Do ground prep for a better strike rate

"Don’t put a $10 plant in a 10 cent hole” is Deryn’s top money-saving tip for the garden. All soil needs improving with compost or soil improver. Sandy soil also needs the addition of clay; sand plus clay creates a soil which holds onto water and nutrients so plants can establish well. This tip also applies to potted plants – always use premium potting mix for your containers. Don't be shy about asking for a discount if you're buying all (or a lot) of your gardening gear from the same place. You should also look around for free or budget gardening options. "Coarse, chipped street-tree prunings are sometimes available free from your local council,” says Deryn. “Also, mulchnet.com delivers free mulch, though you have little control of when or how much will be delivered. Mulched garden beds retain water and repel weeds, saving you money on your water bill." Along with the street-tree prunings, many local councils also offer residents free mulch with its availability and pick-up locations listed on their websites.

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