There is currently pressure on many household wallets, with people being furloughed, made redundant, or running small businesses that can’t operate. With that in mind, Equestrian Life are delighted to share a series of articles, written by Karen Potten, about how to save money.
In the first of the series, Karen is talking about the garden. With it normally being Chelsea Flower Show in May, that always spurs people into action and currently with the garden being a sanctuary to many people who can’t get out and about, it seemed the most apt place to start.
As Equestrians, we are naturally outdoor people and when not riding our horses, we can probably be found doing a spot of gardening to use up our time productively, plus with our free manure making machines, it is the perfect way to constructively use this bi product, but have we also thought about what else we may have on the yard or at the stables that we can re-purpose or save money with.
Karen says “Some of these are all real-life examples, as they are either what we do in our own garden or have been gleaned from people who have given these tips themselves.”
Make your own! Karen commented “I have a wormery – it gives you free fertilizer liquid and compost to dig in.” Alternatively, you could start a compost bin, it could save you about £100 per year. There are lots of websites that teach you how to do this, and its essentially brown and green mixes. You can also harvest and wash seaweed to use as fertiliser. Use your own horse manure and as some of you may also keep chickens, get some of that too. Chicken poo can be used straight away but horse manure needs to be put it in the garden for a couple of months to mellow then use in compost or garden as additional nutrition.
Comfrey! Well, what is Comfrey we asked? Karen said “I went onto the internet for this as I’ve never used it”. Comfrey is a large herb, native to Europe, which grows prolifically in damp places such as river banks. What is brilliant about comfrey is that it contains high levels of all the essential nutrients for plant growth: Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK) together with many other trace elements. Comfrey out-performs manure, compost and many liquid feeds for concentration of nutrients.
Mulch: Leaves can be cut and left to wilt for a couple of days before piling them around hungry plants such as potatoes and tomatoes as a thick mulch.
Dig in: Wilted leaves can be dug into ground that is being prepared for a new crop and will break down to give an excellent feed.
Liquid Fertiliser: Comfrey leaves can be crammed into a large container with a hole in the bottom with a small container underneath to catch the thick black liquid which will be produced in a few weeks. Weighing the comfrey down with an old brick will help this process and some people add rainwater but this does make the resulting ‘comfrey tea’ smell awful! Once produced, the liquid should be diluted 15:1 with water before using it as a leaf feed for plants such as tomatoes.
Potting Soil: Comfrey leaves can be shredded and mixed with leaf-mould to produce a balanced soil for plants in pots, although it is a little strong for young seedlings.
Compost Activator: Adding high-nitrogen sources is a great way to boost ‘hot-composting’ if you have the right balance of green and brown shredded material. Comfrey, being high in nitrogen, is ideal for this and should be well combined with the whole mixture rather than adding it as a layer.
Cuttings, seeds and plants
Swap cuttings, seeds and plants with friends and neighbours. The good thing about getting plants from neighbours is that you will have similar soil, so you know they will grow as well in your garden as it does in theirs. Take cuttings and do a local plant swap group for divisions and duplicates. Karen Karen says “During the Coronavirus lockdown, we have used our neighbour support group to do this. A pot of hormone rooting powder helps no end.”
Split plants to fill any gaps. If you start with one plant and propagate into two every year you’ll have 32 plants in 6 years. If you start with 10 plants and propagate them every year, you’ll have 320 in 6 years. Divide bulbs periodically and use throughout your garden.
A pack of carrot seeds goes a long way. Sharing seeds purchases with pals can be good too, who needs 400 lettuces!?
Let one plant go to seed and self-sew. One friend said “I haven’t planted lettuce in 4 years and have tons of it. I just pull out the little seedlings that are too concentrated and use them as baby greens in meals.”
Save seeds from your food and plant. This works well for tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash and watermelon. We also have a huge pot of runner bean seeds from saving the last few runner beans from last year, drying them out, and saving them in a brown paper bag. Cut the bottoms off celery, lettuce, cabbage, green onions, root in water and plant. Cut pieces of potatoes and plant.
Avoid expensive mistakes by knowing your garden conditions. A friend said “My go to book when choosing plants is ‘Perfect plants for problem places’ which is a very good guide to which plants are likely to do well in which types of soil. I think it was the renowned gardener Beth Chatto who coined the phrase ‘right plant, right place’; no better advice can ever be given!”
Under no circumstances, impulse buy, it’s often an expensive mistake!
Resist the online gardening catalogues. Often, Supermarket plants are just as good as garden centres and much cheaper.
You can also buy bulbs and seeds in places like Poundland and Home Bargains. Buy cheap perennials rather than annuals. Look for the half dead plants in the sale at places like B&Q. Just cut away the dead and give it a good feed and 99% of the time they will come back.
Use toilet and kitchen paper rolls as planters for sweet peas, sugar snap etc that need long roots. Use yoghurt pots to grow seedlings or maybe an old container from your tack box and kit and mesh or link fencing to create vertical gardens. Catering size tins of tomatoes etc can be painted as planters. I also use old metal items, paint them with Hammerite and use them as planters on my patio. Pallets make a great herb garden and tell me any Equestrian who hasn’t got a few pallets sitting around.
As well as using Comfrey, you can contact your local tree surgeon / professional gardeners for mulch. They often give it away as by-product from work. Use cardboard or newspaper from the house to keep down the weeds. Old carpets are really handy for this. Top Tip : you can pick them up from Freecycle and it keeps down weeds over winter, making it easier to dig next Spring. Also use carpet under rhubarb leaves to ensure the leaves are kept off the soil and don’t rot as quickly. Newspaper decomposes and becomes organics material in the soil.
Bits and bobs
The best way to keep in the know and find out all the top tips is to join a local garden club. Gardeners are very generous by nature and may offer you plant starters. Each club are likely to have plant sales or swaps.
Use white vinegar to spray on weeds. It is much cheaper and not harmful to the environment.
If at all possible, get a water butt for investment purposes, and if you don’t have one already at your yard which you use, they are well worth the investment as they can cut your bills significantly. Buy or acquire second hand where possible. Freecycle is full of them!
One last top tip : The pot that you buy for the plant cannot be pricier than the plant itself.
Saving money for herself and others is a way of life for Karen.
Karen runs two businesses that help householders and businesses save money on their energy, broadband and mobiles and has 9 years of experience in helping you save money.
You can find Karen at www.karenpotton.co.uk