Grow your own food for free

Fresh home grown vegetables
Fresh home grown vegetables | Source

It is very rewarding growing your own fruit and vegetables, but the cost of buying plants, seedlings or expensive seeds, tools, compost, fertiliser etc can mean that growing your own can cost almost as much as buying the ready grown produce from the shops. However, with a little thought and preparation, gathering your own seeds for free, getting plants for free and making your own compost and fertiliser can make growing your own food a lot more fun and much more cost effective.



A home grown squash
A home grown squash | Source

Collecting seeds

This is the easiest way to start new plants for nothing. If you have an existing vegetable plot you can collect seeds from plants you have already grown. Be warned, however, that seeds do not always come true to type, especially if you have grown F1 hybrid varieties - these will often revert back to inferior varieties of the plant. Heirloom varieties are better in this respect. Peas and beans are very easy to save seed from, simply leave a few pods on the plants to mature, and collect and dry them out at the end of the season, ready for next year.

I often keep the seeds from vegetables that I have bought too. I have had great success from saving squash, pumpkin, sweet pepper and chilli seeds from organic produce that I have bought. I save the seeds, dry them out on a clean kitchen towel on the windowsill, and then store in a paper envelope until it is time to plant them for the next season.

Keep all seeds in a cool, dry place over the winter, or until you are ready to sow them.

Tubers

We have all had potatoes that have started to sprout in the cupboard before we got around to using them. Don't throw them in the bin - plant them up in your veggie plot or in tubs in your greenhouse for free potato plants!

Last year I had a nice surprise when some old potatoes I had thrown on the compost heap had grown out into the rich soil next to the heap and produced pounds and pounds of beautiful white potatoes for absolutely nothing - I didn't even have to plant them!

Another tuber or root that can grow into a decent plant is ginger. I had left a piece of fresh ginger root in a plastic bag in the cupboard, and noticed one day that it was sprouting green shoots. I potted it up and got some lovely ginger plants for free.

Home grown new potatoes, lettuce and herbs - just right for a potato salad
Home grown new potatoes, lettuce and herbs - just right for a potato salad | Source

Increasing stock from existing plants

Many perennial plants can be divided up to make more new plants once they are established. Rhubarb is a great example - after a few years the original plant will have multiplied, so that at the end of the season it can be lifted, separated into smaller new plants and then replanted for the following year.

A lot of plants create new runners - for example, strawberry plants - which can be potted up and saved as next year's plants. Raspberry plants will send up suckers from below the ground, which can be dug up and replanted.

Taking cuttings of fruit bushes is also a wonderful way to create new plants. Blackcurrants, redcurrants and gooseberries are all easily propagated in this way.

A lot of home grown tomatoes!
A lot of home grown tomatoes! | Source

Sharing

Sharing and swapping plants with friends and neighbours always works well. If you grow from seed you often get far too many plants for your own needs, so doing some swaps with other growers is a good way to increase the variety of crops that you grow.

This year I swapped some of my squash plants for some courgettes, some sweet peppers for some chilli plants and several varieties of tomatoes were shared around. My friends and I all ended up with a much greater selection of vegetables.

Other supplies

I could write another hub on other gardening sundries that can be obtained for free, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • make your own compost from kitchen and garden waste
  • get compost from your local authority recycling centre (many of them offer free compost in return for recycling your garden waste)
  • use recycled containers as seedling and plant pots - old eggboxes make great seedling pots, and yogurt pots are great for larger plants
  • make your own fertiliser from soaking nettles in water for a few days - a great nitrogen feed for tomatoes and peppers
  • good old-fashioned manure to improve your soil is often very cheap or free if you don't mind collecting it yourself from local farms or stables

© 2013 Imogen French

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Comments 20 comments

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

Very interesting and useful so voting up and saving. Enjoy your weekend.

Eddy.


Imogen French profile image

Imogen French 3 years ago from Southwest England Author

thank you, Eddy - have a great weekend yourself :-)


chefsref profile image

chefsref 3 years ago from Citra Florida

Hey Imogen

I've been following your advice for a couple of years now. Growing my own veggies and fruit gives me control over the toxins I use and saves me a lot of money.

I will add one tip.

I buy dried beans at the grocery, doesn't matter which kind but;

Look for the longest shelf life so I get the freshest beans.

Then just plant them all over the place. Legumes will set nitrogen in the soil and improve the structure of the soil when they decompose.

In a month or two we will have a frost that will kill the bean plants so I don't have to till them in and the dead plants will act like a mulch to suppress weeds for the next crop.

I'm hoping that if I do this for a year or two the soil will be rich and need little or no fertilizer.

I still have two favorites that demand hybrid seeds; sweet corn and watermelon. Everything else that I grow comes from saved seeds of heirloom varieties. (buy one pack of seeds and you get a lifetime supply!)

Oh, (guess this makes 2 tips) I no longer remove plants from the garden, after harvest I chop the old plants up with an edger (the manual kind) and leave them in place to decompose into the soil. I don't have to build, turn and lug compost around and the soil is getting better. Florida soil is little better than beach sand but my soil is improving

Voted up

Lee


tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 3 years ago from California

Excellent idea.


Imogen French profile image

Imogen French 3 years ago from Southwest England Author

Hi chefsref, thanks for your comment and for adding your tips. Green manures (such as peas, beans, clover and blue lupins) are a great way of naturally fixing nitrogen in the soil, like you say - that is great advice. I grow everything organically, and then I know exactly what is in the food on my table.

Adding leaf mulch - or seaweed if you have access to it from your local beaches - is another good free way of enriching and improving the texture of dry sandy soil.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

Imogen, a very useful and informative hub. I also like to exchange seeds and cuttings with friends and family to improve my stock. I've tried the nettle compost but it stank terrible so I didn't repeat it. Brilliant ideas, home grown always taste so much better.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean

Very good help from you and Chefsref--both in nutrition and finances. Thank you very much.


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

Very useful and informative hub!

I love kitchen gardens and have done this. Nothing like growing our own vegetables, provided you have space.

Thanks for the wonderful suggestions!

Voted up and pinned!


Imogen French profile image

Imogen French 3 years ago from Southwest England Author

thank you for your kind comments tobusiness, msdora and chitrangadasharan, I appreciate you stopping by :-)


Writer Fox profile image

Writer Fox 2 years ago from the wadi near the little river

Home grown food is the best for so many reasons. Even people who don't have a garden can grow many things in containers, like herbs and tomatoes. Enjoyed and voted up!


WriterJanis profile image

WriterJanis 2 years ago from California

This is really such a good idea. I should try this. I love the idea of the veggies being so fresh.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 2 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Excellent hub with lot of practically useful information. Hope to put of these tips into action. Thanks.

Voted up and shared.


midnightbliss profile image

midnightbliss 2 years ago from Hermosa Beach

Last summer my neighbor bought a tower garden and now I get fresh veggies all the time. I love it! Seriously, if you haven't considered a tower garden you should take a look at the design concept; totally efficient and easy to manage, move and store.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

A very helpful gardening Hub! Thanks for sharing this!


Imogen French profile image

Imogen French 2 years ago from Southwest England Author

I haven't heard of tower gardens before, midnightbliss, but they sound like a wonderful idea for smaller gardens. thanks for sharing the tip.


tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California

Sharing seeds does indeed make for good variety. Would you mind if I link this hub to mine one budget gardening?


Imogen French profile image

Imogen French 2 years ago from Southwest England Author

I wouldn't mind at all, tireless traveler, what is your hub called?


tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California

Thank you Imogen ,

Gardening Ideas On A Budget would be the hub title.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM

Great ideas for growing a vegetable garden. Thanks so much for your ideas and your tomatoes look gorgeous. You have quite the green thumb.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

We have quite the urban farm going here, with fresh veggies, fruits, berries, herbs....I'm loving it, and the more articles like yours that are written, the better for all of us. Well done.

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