Would you like to grow your own vegetables to save money and avoid consuming harmful pesticides? Are you worried about the start-up costs? You don’t have to spend a small fortune to start enjoying home-grown salads. In fact, you can have a raised bed vegetable garden for very little out of pocket. Here’s how:

Building Your Raised Beds

You can purchase pre-made raised bed frames, but they tend to be pricey. Instead, ask your local garden centre or superstore for a few of their unwanted pallets and make your own raised beds. You don’t need to have any specific experience to make raised beds with pallets as it’s quite simple, but ensure you make your raised beds deep enough for the type of vegetables you want to grow. Root vegetables need a depth of at least 60cm, while herbs and strawberries do fine with a soil depth of 15cm.

Soil And Fertiliser

Filling your raised beds with bags of compost from the garden centre isn’t an option when you’re on a shoestring budget. Instead, dig up topsoil from your own garden, use a garden sieve to remove weeds and grass, and combine it with equal parts of horse manure or kitchen waste compost.  

Horse manure is a good source of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. These nutrients are essential for successful vegetable gardening, so visit your local stables and ask if you can take some of their manure.

Once you have some established vegetables in your raised beds you’ll want to add a layer of mulch to the soil. Mulch helps conserve moisture, protects the roots of young plants from heat damage, and improves soil health as it breaks down. If you are able to build up a large enough compost pile in your garden you’ll be able to use that as mulch, but if you have several raised beds you’ll probably need to purchase at least some of your mulch.

You should add 2-4cm of mulch to your raised beds at the end of the main growing season and once you have well-established young plants in spring, so it’s more economical to buy wholesale mulch from a supplier like Mossrock Mulch than several small bags.

Obtaining Seeds

Seeds often come in packs of several hundred and it would take years to use them all, so reduce costs by hosting a seed swap with like-minded friends and neighbours. It also pays to know what seeds you can save and grow from shop-bought produce, and what plants you can take cuttings from.

When saving seeds, ensure you allow the seeds to dry in a single layer and keep them out of direct sunlight. Once the seeds are dry, discard any that show signs of mould and store in an airtight container until you want to plant them. Try saving seeds from the following vegetables:

  • Courgettes
  • Pumpkins
  • Melons
  • Aubergines
  • Sweet peppers
  • Tomatoes

When taking cuttings from existing plants, ensure the cutting is at least 12cm long and shows no sign of disease. Dip the cutting in rooting powder, place it in a glass of water until the roots are established and then plant it in your raised bed. You can take cuttings from the following plants:

  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Coriander
  • Cucumbers

Once your shoestring vegetable garden is in full swing you’ll save money on fresh produce and have a frugal hobby. Now you just need to decide what you want to plant.