Tips from Alys Fowlers, The Thrifty Gardener

No matter how painful it is, good soil is 100% necessary. Yes, yes, we know you can grab the no name brand stuff for 25% cheaper and soil is soil right? Nope. It isn’t. Your garden will thank you for the months to come if you just invest that few extra dollars/euros/pounds now. As Alys Fowler says (my personal gardening hero) “The secret to any lush, bountiful garden is good soil.” So there. She is a professional so listen to her.

Image via here.

To save a few bucks to spend elsewhere outside (pots, plants, accessories) – try to catch one of the 3 for 2 specials that most garden centers do. It pains me to say it but the expensive The Scott’s Miracle Gro stuff really is good. And it is available everywhere (Canada, US, UK, Ireland). Shop around – remember that different shops offer different specials – so if you are going to invest in good soil, look for a good price.

If you just simply cannot afford to buy good soil and want to work with what you have – go for it… but be prepared for it to be a lot of work. You can compost yourself and ‘feed’ your soil for free this way. Again to refer to Alys Fowler, your own compost really is the best stuff you can get because then you know exactly what is in it… But being a city dweller like myself, we don’t have anywhere to plunk down a big old composting bin – so it is just not realistic for us right now. One thing that we do is save our tea bags and egg shells. Once a week all the tea bags are emptied into a bowl which we spread over our soil.

Proof of ground tea leaves in our garden!

Likewise with the egg shells, we crush them up and spread them around the roots of bushes.

Image via here.

So we have some confessions to make. We have been trying to grow our own plants – and it has not gone super duper.

This was a few weeks ago. Those are tomatoes. Healthy little beasts….. But they seemed to have stopped growing. Maybe they hate us? Maybe me + seeds = never going to work?

More evidence… Lots of lively sprouts there huh?

Today’s crops. Now… it may be hard to see but let us reassure you there is not much to look at there. Some have died off.. Some are completely halted there growth. Gah. So much for that idea.

So last night we throw in our hats and went to B&Q. 12 young plants for £3 really is not a bad price….We have said this before but always check out the reduced price area of the garden center. You will often find perfectly healthy plants there. Keep your eyes peeled for young plants as they are cheaper than full grown ones and actually often establish better than mature ones in flower!

We also picked up some snap peas which we love! Don’t forget to shop around when looking for plants! It is surprising how much the price can vary from shop to shop. Even in our neighbourhood we have spotted 3 different price points for primrose – anywhere from 75 pence to £1.50 a plant! that is a huge amount of variance on ONE STREET!

Based on our decision to not put ‘too much’ money into the garden, we are always on the look out for discounted plants, vegetables and herbs… Look at this snag:

That there? Oh no big deal, just 6 healthy herb plants for £4. Half off. No biggie… Even the cashier said “Wow that’s a good offer”. Ha! This is one of the benefits of checking out big box stores like Homebase once in awhile (although it pains me to support them).

Based on Alys Fowler’s recommendation to use wood containers, like champagne boxes (impossible to find let me tell you) or fruit boxes, for container gardening – we have collected a small gaggle of ugly fruit boxes from our local Asian grocery store.

We still need to pickle them (our term not hers) also known as preserving the wood. She recommends Danish oil. We forgot to pick it up last night. Oops. Because the wooden boxes are openings at the side, we are going to have to fill our boxes with some sort of sack before we can plant all our vegetables in there.

In an attempt to get creative with our containers and places to place flowers in the garden, we headed out for a country field to scavenge for objects that could be re-purposed. We found 3 things, 2 of which have made it back to the Row House.

This is an old chimney pipe… We know it looks weird now but when beautiful flowers are SPILLING out of it this summer – it won’t be so weird!

It looks a little bland now, but once we spraypaint it white and place a funky pot on top – magical!

We keep mentioning Alys Fowler and her stellar book, the thrifty gardener, so we thought it would be a good idea to take it out from the library again and share some of the photo spreads from the book to give you a sneak peek!

We call those chickens and eggs. Which obviously is not there real name. Since we have so many oldie bricks around the front courtyard, we are definitely going to do this idea – haven’t seen any sempervivums (who even says that name anyways?) in the garden centers yet.

The pretty little champagne boxes that are impossible to actually find.

Like this idea but again vintage cans of olive oil – not the easiest to find. Everything is in plastic these days, which is such a shame.

This picture makes us SO happy! All the thrifty gardener pictures are from Ms. Fowler’s  book which is available from Amazon: