The cost of living crisis is dominating all of our lives at the moment and everyone’s budget is being squeezed in ways we have not seen in recent times. Saving money wherever we can has become a priority, and with this in mind I wanted to give some simple tips on how to make the most of your garden design on a limited budget.
You can create plants for free by dividing the perennials that you already have, and autumn is the perfect time to do it while the soil is still warm. It is also good for the health of the plant, cutting out woody or congested centres, and splitting the new growth to make new plants.
Position your new plants so that they are naturally dotted throughout your flowerbed. This repetition creates rhythm and cohesion, letting your eye be drawn through the space. If you have a large border, put three or even five of the same plant together so you are planting in blocks which keeps to the scale and proportion of the space. Any spare plants can be shared with a friend or neighbour – you could even do a plant swap which introduces more varieties into your garden for free.
Grow Your Own
Designing your garden to have an area for growing vegetables is something I would recommend if you have the space. It saves on your weekly food shop, as well as creating an enormous sense of satisfaction for the grower, and is a good activity to get children interested in gardening. It is also a chance to experiment with more unusual or heritage varieties that may not be grown commercially.
It is not just vegetables that you can grow however, do not forget about fruit – plums, apples, rhubarb, soft fruit, and berries all do very well in our Scottish climate and can be costly to buy each week from the supermarket. If space is limited then training fruit trees to grow in espalier or step over form is a very productive way to have high yields in a limited space, and looks great from a design perspective too, creating a living fence to zone an area. Soft fruit can also be grown as cordons which restricts the space they take up.
And finally having a cut flower patch is another way to save money. For the cost of a few packets of seed, a variety of annuals can be grown which provide you with buckets of flowers to bring into the house from spring until late autumn. Nothing beats the bold aroma of a vase of sweet peas when you walk into a room. Some of my favourite annuals to grow include Lathyrus odoratus (sweet peas), Cosmos, Centaurea cyanus (cornflower), Nicotiana, and Ammi majus.
Now is the time to collect seed, and this provides plants for free for you next year. It could be the annuals that I have listed above, drying out tomato seeds, harvesting peas or beans, or saving the distinctive seed pods from Lunaria (Honesty).
For a lower maintenance approach, you can also let plants freely self seed in the borders and then once they germinate, move them to new positions to create new plants without needing to pot them up. Prolific self-seeders include Alchemilla, Hypericum perforatum, Digitalis and Silene coronaria.
Hard landscaping is often the most expensive part of a garden design, and making a few minor amends can save a lot of money.
Choice of Materials
Choosing stone that is local to your area means on a design level that your garden is sympathetic to your surroundings and fits in with the wider landscape which is so important. Financially, you are not importing the product, so it will cut down on transport costs and you can also often find reclaimed or second hand stone in your area.
You can make further savings by the form of material, for example gravel is a much cheaper option than paving slabs so this can really help your budget. You may opt to have gravel paths and then paving for the seating area rather than slabs throughout. Do not however, mix and match too many different materials as it will feel disjointed – ideally keeping to two hard landscaping materials is preferred, or a maximum of three in a larger garden.
Use Plants To Create a Structure
If you are planning a pergola, an arch, or other basic structure, then using trees to create a similar effect is a much cheaper option – and no concrete required! A quadrant of trees can replicate the same structure as a pergola would, and the trees’ canopy will create an intimate, sheltered space. Trees can also be bought to be trained in an ‘umbrella’ shape (also known as roof or parasol trees) for a more formal feel.
Similarly a hedge can be grown instead of a fence. If pets need to be kept in or livestock kept out, then a cheaper and less attractive looking post and wire fence could be used if needs be and then concealed with a hedge. The most cost effective way to plant a hedge is to buy bare root whips and plant them over winter, so it is an ideal time to do this right now.
Some great results can be achieved with a touch of creativity combined with some good old DIY. This could be up-cycling or repurposing a container to make a water bowl, a bird bath, or a planter. Or if everything is looking a little tired, then painting all your existing structures (fence, shed, garden bench etc) in the same colour will create cohesion and give your garden a real refresh. I recommend using a very dark green or off black to make the planting really pop out against the dark colour.
Hopefully one or more of those ideas will help you cut down on the costs in your garden, so that you can still improve your garden design even in the current financial climate.
Katie runs Katie Reynolds Design which offers garden and interior design services across Aberdeenshire and the North East of Scotland. She is qualified in both sectors, having trained at KLC School of Design in London and the National Design Academy. Follow Katie for more inspiration on Instagram and Facebook.