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Saving money on your gardening costs

Lockdown has been an opportunity for many of us to spruce up our outdoor spaces. Here are some handy tips for keeping your gardening costs down.

Gardening and finance

Having to stay cooped up at home has driven many of us to take up new hobbies, or finally get to grips with projects we’d planned to do for years. For those lucky enough to live somewhere with some private green space, the last year has been a great opportunity to start some gardening projects.

Sprucing up your garden does not have to cost the earth though. Here are some tips to help you tame those hedges without breaking the bank. 

Easy ways to make your money go further in the garden

Seeds and equipment

Joining a local gardening group can be a great way to swap tips and even seeds, cuttings and plants with people nearby. Community gardening groups can also organise plant sales where you can pick up perennials and young vegetable plants for much less than you would find in a gardening centre or large supermarket.

Some groups even organise day trips to gardens and attractions that may offer group discounts.

A fun, easy way to get your hands on cheap or free gardening equipment is to join an online recycling network. The biggest names in this space include Freecycle and Freegle

While it might take a bit of searching, it’s possible to find some great equipment that someone else has decided they no longer want or need.

Separately, sites with classified ads like Gumtree can also be a great source of free or low cost tools and equipment.

Shopping online

COVID-19 restrictions have made it virtually impossible for budding home gardeners to get supplies from garden centres and nurseries, with many turning to online retailers.

But buying plants online can also net you some big bargains. It’s worth browsing a range of seed catalogues and nurseries before buying. 

Signing up to online newsletters from your favourite brands can also be a great way to get good deals, particularly as many run offers and discounted product lines for newsletter subscribers.

Composting

Want to get your hands on some free compost? Well, you can create your own. 

Your food waste is a great nutrient source for microorganisms under your existing soil. By feeding on the organic material in your leftovers these organisms can break it down creating a fantastic soil improver.

Grass clippings also make prime composting material - and it’s just as simple to drop them in the compost bin as the green waset one.

While some use large ‘dalek’-shaped plastic composting bins, you can simply place your food and kitchen waste in slightly adapted buckets and even cardboard boxes.

The Royal Horticultural Society has some great tips on how to create the best conditions for composting in your garden.

Does your council offer discounted products?

Some local councils offer discounts on compost bins and water butts to encourage residents to reduce waste and save water. These discounts mean that these products can be bought much more cheaply than elsewhere.

For example, the London Borough of Hackney offers discounted compost bins from as little as £5.50. Meanwhile Staffordshire County Council is encouraging its residents to recycle food waste by offering compost bins from £10 plus £5.99 postage. 

To check if you could be eligible for discounted composting products from your local authority, log on to the Get Composting site and type in your postcode.

Protecting your plants

One easy way of protecting your saplings and vegetable plants from egg-laying insects is to cover them with old net curtains. These mesh-based curtains can be a great cost-effective alternative to netting found in gardening centres.

Why not use old plastic bottles as cloches to shelter your plants? They create a warm micro -climate around very young plants and protect them from slugs and snails.

The easiest way to do this is to cut the ends off the bottles, unscrew the tops, plunge them into the ground and voila! Cheap, effective protection for your plants.

If you need a cold frame to protect and nurture your seedlings outdoors, you can save your cash by mounting an old window on some old bricks or wood. 

You should be able to get your hands on old window panes from scrap yards or reuse and recycling centres. Check if your local council recycling centre has a reuse shop. 

These places can be great, cost-effective sources of raw materials like wood, glass and bricks. 

Cold frames can be expensive to buy at specialist shops and garden centres, so making your own can save you bags of cash.

Landscaping and larger projects

If you’re looking to do more than simply tidying up your garden and planting some perennials, it’s worth thinking about your financing options.

Are you planning to install new fences, or perhaps completely re-landscape your back garden? 

Choosing the wrong way to pay for home improvements can be costly and place you in a difficult financial position. However, done properly you can minimise the amount of interest you pay, providing that you’re clear about how the finance product works.

Homeowner loans

If you’re looking to borrow money to fund your improvements, you may consider obtaining a homeowner loan. As the name suggests, you can be eligible to take out a homeowner loan if you own a home or hold equity in a property.

The key thing to note here is that you’ll need to think very carefully before securing debts against your home. This type of credit is a secured loan.

Full details on how secured and unsecured loans work

If you’re confident in your ability to pay back the loan without any difficulty, then this type of loan may be worth considering. 

The main features of these types of loans are:

  • You can pay the loan back over 1 to 35 years

  • You can borrow up to a set percentage of the value of your property

  • You have to pay interest for the duration of the loan term

  • You have to pass a credit and affordability check 

Like all loans, the cost of a homeowner is determined by the interest rate, but you also need to watch out for any fees charged on top of that.

Most secured loans are only available through a broker, so to get the best loan you need to:

  1. Decide how much you need to borrow: Work out exactly what you need to borrow. If it’s less than £25,000, you could consider an unsecured loan

  2. Work out your loan to value: You will need an accurate valuation of your property and to know the outstanding balance on your mortgage if you have one

  3. Choose your loan term: Work out what monthly payments you can afford and estimate how long you need to pay back your loan

  4. Check your credit record: Make sure there are no mistakes on your credit report and check if you have a good, fair or poor credit rating

  5. Speak with a secured loan broker: They take your information and search the market for the best secured loan for your circumstances

For full details on how homeowner loans work, read our ‘What is a homeowner loan’ guide.

Personal Loan

Personal loans let you borrow from around £1,000 to about £25,000 to be repaid in instalments over a set period.

Repayment periods are generally between one and ten years, with the interest rates fixed.

That means you will know on the day you take out the loan how much you will repay each month and for how long the payments will continue.

However, you might not get the deal you see on offer even if accepted - as providers only have to offer the advertised rate to 51% of people.

Some things to consider with personal loans:

  • For smaller amounts, under £5,000, the rates can be as high as a credit card - just without the flexibility

  • Applying for multiple loans can affect your credit score - where possible use an eligibility checker before applying

  • Paying off your loan early can mean extra charges are applied

  • If you have a lower credit score, it’s worth seeing if a credit union could save you cash 

Credit Cards

A credit card can be a helpful tool if you need to make a purchase on credit, but want flexibility in paying it back.

Some credit cards do not charge you interest on purchases for a set period too. If the garden work you’re looking to do is relatively low budget, generally not more than £5,000 or so, then using this type of credit card may be a better option for keeping your costs low.

Things to consider if you’re thinking of funding your gardening work this way:

  • If you can, ensure you can repay the debt within the 0% interest period

  • Credit cards can charge upwards of 20% APR once the introductory offer period ends

  • Ensure you do not borrow more than you really need on the card, given your project’s budget

  • If you’ve got a poor credit record you might be charged a much higher interest rate, get a lower borrowing limit, shorter 0% period or simply be declined

  • Apply for, then being decline a card can have an adverse effect on your credit score, so use an eligibility checker first if possible 

Compare credit cards

If you're looking to make changes to your garden, it is important to have the right financial protection in place in case something goes wrong. When comparing home insurance, be sure to check your contents insurance covers your garden.

While your landlord is responsible for your home, you still need to protect your belongings while you rent. Compare home insurance policies to find the right cover for less.