Nifty Thrifty Vegetable Gardening: Tips for growing your own food without costing the earth

About this project to publish a booklet on low-cost fruit and vegetable growing for people on low income
This booklet is being produced to support an initiative of Greater Manchester Poverty Action to help reduce food poverty in Greater Manchester. In March 2019 they invited a range of organisations to make pledges through the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance to reduce food poverty in the region. I have offered to independently, and for no financial gain, compile a booklet to support individuals on low income interested in growing some of their own food at minimal cost, and in their own personal space. Whilst there are a number of fantastic projects that get people involved in growing food in community groups settings, this resource is aimed at people wanting to grow veg in their own personal space. It will be provided in print form free of charge to as many interested low income people as possible. It will be available online to anyone interested. No financial gain is being made by anyone involved.

Nifty Thrifty Veg Gardening is a booklet that will help people grow fruit and vegetables on a limited budget. As well as giving basic growing advice, it will be full of tips and tricks on how to keep costs to an absolute minimum. The aim it to encourage anyone interested to have a go at growing their own food without being scared off by the potential costs, or lack of knowledge. I’ve seen so many gardening articles claiming people can save money growing their own veg because they will need to buy less at the supermarket. However they totally bypass mentioning the cost of all the items they then show being used in the same article: seed trays, compost, plants, seeds, raised beds or containers, labels, watering cans, fertilisers, protection from pests and diseases, spades, trowels, pruners, netting and lots more. The costs of growing your own can easily mount up!

This booklet will provide real no and low-cost ideas and practices: it will help people to grow fruit and vegetables at absolute minimal cost, offering resourceful ways to obtain plants and materials, so they can maximise crops with minimum expenditure.

Whether it starts as a bit of a hobby to add some extra food to the table or enables the grower to become more self-sufficient, Nifty, Thrifty Veg Gardening aims to provide an introduction to growing fresh food in ways that don’t cost the earth. People who have thought they don’t have the know-how or money to grow their own vegetables and fruit will hopefully be enthused with the joys of gardening, enjoying time spent in the fresh air, getting their hands dirty and, of course, getting that thrill of eating something that you’ve grown yourself.

*** Input from other gardeners is most welcome, including tips and pictures.  Find out how you contribute. ***

Nifty Thrifty Veg Gardening will contain the following chapters:

  • The basics for getting started at low or no cost
  • Options for where to grow: inside, outside and container gardening including repurposing household items as growing pots
  • The growing medium: how to make your own compost; what to grow with minimal compost
  • Creating new plants: how to grow from seed, cuttings and division. Saving seeds for next year. Growing from kitchen scraps.
  • Low cost, high return: recommended fruit, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers to grow, with tips for how to grow them successfully and maximise production
  • Tips on harvesting and preserving crops
  • Feeding plants for healthy growth: making your own mulches and fertilisers at no cost
  • Dealing with pests and diseases in free and nature-friendly ways
  • Keeping on top of weeds, including eating them
  • Foraging for free edible plants
  • How to swap plants and seeds with other growers
  • How to create or get free items. From re-using general household items to using free online sites like freecycle. For example, cutting up laundry bottles to make plant labels, using food containers to grow plants in, starting off seedlings in egg cartons, turning a plastic bottle into a watering can and so on.
  • Links to useful organisations for gardening (eg allotments, community allotment plots), cooking etc

During spring and summer 2019, I have been creating content and taking photographs of thrifty growing practices. However I know there is a wealth of information out there, and gardeners are incredibly helpful, generous people. So contributions are most welcome! Here's how you can contribute.

My own experience comes from enjoying many years growing fruit and veg in my garden, with the usual  mixed bag of successes and failures. I’ve found there’s always something new to learn. Professionally, I created and ran the WEA’s first online distance learning organic gardening course in 2003, and have delivered gardening workshops focused on food growing. I wrote a booklet for parents on gardening with children, sold to raise money for a school grounds development. Since 2008 I have run a plant swap group in south Manchester, Chorlton Plant Swap. I run a small business, Rubbish Revamped, focused on recycled crafts including some in the garden. I am making this contribution at no cost because I think growing your own food is a fantastic activity for health and wellbeing, and no-one should feel they can’t have a go.

It is hoped to get funding or in-kind support to print the booklet so it can be distributed as a free resource by local organisations in Greater Manchester, including at food banks and by organisations like Cracking Good Food who work in locally communities teaching people to cook. It will be available online to everyone.

Danielle Lowy August 2019. Please check out how you can contribute or email me at [email protected]