Budget Guide to Cultivating

I get it, gardening is expensive.  In fact it’s extremely expensive.  Plants, seeds, tools, mowers, soil, containers, more soil…

The list is endless and it all starts to stack up, especially after a hoot round the garden centre with barely much to show for it.

That’s all very well and good but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Gardening doesn’t have to cost you the earth (see what I did there?!), which is just as well because if it did I’d be stone broke by now!

A little planning goes a long way.

This guide is for the savvy folk who don’t want to spend out but wish to spend time having a go at digging, planting, wedding and talking to their roses (and yes I do talk to my chilli plants occasionally), To try getting their hands more dirty than not in soil while not having to spend wads of cash to do so.

Like anything in life money should never be an excuse not to give gardening a go, or cultivate your own plot.  Gardening should only ever be about three things:

  1. Having fun
  2. Learning new things
  3. Reaping the benefits (harvesting, or having a special area just for you, feeling good, eating well, enjoying the sunshine)

So with that in mind everyone, EVERYONE, can enjoy and get planting:

The Budget Guide to Gardening


  • 1 spade
  • 1 fork
  • 1 hoe
  • Hand fork/hand spade
  • Rake

Cost £35/free

Forget all the fancy gizmo’s.  All you need to be able to maintain your patch of land is the above tools, but they are the main essentials for cultivating so will most likely be your biggest purchase and investments.

There are four main considerations when it comes to buying tools:

  • How long will it last Vs cost Vs how often it will be used
  • How/where will I store it
  • Is it ergonomic to me (for shorter people like me it’s better to find tools that fit my size!)
  • Can any parts be repaired?

I can tell you right now that I’ve had both expensive and cheap tools in the past and both can work as well because when buying I’m looking for the following:

  • Weak points – where the head of the tool meets the pole it’s attached to
  • What material it’s made from

When it comes to gardening tools the second hand option cannot be beaten.  Some gardening tools from the late 50’s are still in use today and were created well enough that they’ll last another 100 years.  So just spend a bit of time searching (freecycle, online bidding/selling sites, car-boots and newspapers, antique shops) for tools and you’ll pay far less for better quality tools.

Having said that don’t completely rule out bargain shops.  Sometimes their hand tools are better quality than a garden centre stock at 1/3 of the price.

You don’t need to buy all tools at once.  If you only get 1 tool today make it a fork.  That way you can get cultivating straight away.

Containers/Pots/Raised Beds:


When it comes to actually growing things what you sow them in can be as creative or as detailed as you like.  But there are places where you can either reclaim old materials (tyres, pallets etc), or build your own.

Other essentials

Soil & Potting Compost:

Cost £5 to £300 depending on size of beds and number of containers

It didn’t always come direct from a garden centre and there wasn’t always the huge variety so again don’t be swayed by the intense marketing ploys given on the packaging.  You can opt to buy the cheaper option at the garden centre and supplement it your own way with nutrients.

You can of course make your own and I’d highly recommend it but if you want to start your plot/raised bed off and haven’t got enough to begin with then the other option is to either buy in bulk and share the cost with fellow gardeners/allotmenteers or ask your local council if they have any to sell.

Be wary of buying bulk top soil from online suppliers as you can’t guarantee the quality and might end up with further problems down the line with nutrient deficiency or even worse Japanese Knot weed.

Another good place to look for top soil is on the recycling/money saver online sites.

Or just take a walk around your local neighbourhood:
People are very often digging up their gardens or lawns to make way for driveways (shocking) or ponds, or other new ideas and rather than skip it which will cost them a fortune, offer to take the excess off their hands.

The good news about soil is that once your pots and beds are filled they will only ever need topping up in future seasons.


Cost £20/free

Ultimately the best way to make free compost is to make it yourself.

Some councils offer composter kits at discounted prices so be sure to ask.  Failing that build one using reclaimed pallets, mesh and even bin bags.

Watering butt:

Cost £20/free

It’s very much worth buying or making a watering butt because not only do you not want to have to transport water from your kitchen tap every time but it will save you money big style!

Plants and Seeds:

Cost £1 to £5 per packet or plant/free

In reality you need never spend money on either as long as you can keep flexible in your growing plans and you learn the basics on how to propagate from cuttings.

Best way to get free seeds are either to ask your neighbours, friends or join some seed swap groups.

Once you’ve got your plants in your plot save some of the flowers or pods to develop so you can collect the seeds from them for next year.

Total to spend:

Low range £65, mid range £101 and higher end (with most spent on compost £400

Or to put it another way that’s just £5.50/£8.40/£33 a month which is exactly less than your TV subscriptions and far worthier of your time 🙂

That’s it!  That’s all you need to start growing your own veggies and fruit.

Don’t spend out on anything unless your sure you’re going use it regularily.  If in doubt about buying it, leave it for another 24hours.  After which time if you really want it you’ll make the extra effort to track it down again.


Cover photo courtesy of Steenbergs


4 responses to “Budget Guide to Cultivating

  1. Local councils might have a nursery where they sell cut-price plants. Mine even sells wood chip at a very low cost.

    As for seeds, I would say you always get back.far more than the cost of the packet, as long as they germinate.

  2. When I had my allotment in the UK, I loved how you could just stick stuff in the soil and it would grow – the soil is so good! now I live in Perth I’m only just realising how lucky I was! Perth soils are really sandy and rubbish, so improving the soil is very expensive (need to add clay and bentonite and zeolite). In fact, Perth Bassendean soils were voted the worst in the world : /

So, what do you think?

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