This is the first article that I wrote for them last January so I thought that I would repost it here now that a couple of months have passed. I won't usually repost but wanted to let you know that I am writing over there as well as continuing over here on my blog.
Gardening – the original frugal pastime.
Amongst gardeners there has always been an unspoken rule that it should be cost cutting and it is only in recent years that it has become an expensive hobby. Thanks to the birth of the Garden Centre and TV shows that inform you how to ‘transform your garden in a weekend’ we have somewhat lost the way and want instant results with none of the patience.
True gardening is, I think, an exercise in patience and that has always been the joy of it for me, instant gardening while giving you impressive results is expensive and a lot less rewarding in the long run.
The first garden centres opened in Britain in the 1950’s and up until the 70’s they were still few and far between. My grandmother had a wonderful cottage garden and never visited a garden centre in her life. Instead she relied on collecting seeds, taking cuttings and swapping all sorts of these with friends and neighbours. I have memories of her porch, always filled with wonderful red pelargoniums with their rich scents. She never bought new plants when she lost one, rather she took cuttings and produced more so she had a constant and free supply. Nowadays it has become the norm to visit the garden centre and buy 4 trays of these lovely plants every year, throwing out last years. Taking a cutting from pelargonuims and many other plants is child’s play and you could easily have more than you could use with just a little time, effort and patience.
Growing from seed is a pure joy.
There are two occasions in the gardening year from which I gain a special happiness. One is in late Autumn when I start thinking about what I want to grow from seed the following year and the next is in Spring when the seeds I have planted begin to show their first small shoots. Instant garden centre planting means you completely miss out on this joy. With the latest advent of online seed shopping and seed swapping it has never been easier to get your hands on relatively inexpensive seeds in varieties you could never buy as plants, however hard you searched. The brilliance of it is that at the end of a season you can collect the seeds and start the whole process again for free the following year. There are also plenty of people online willing to swap seeds (or in fact just give them away) for the price of a stamp. Just a quick search on the internet for ‘seed swapping’ will find you numerous results.
So next time you are thinking of going to a garden centre to spend plenty of money take a moment to think if, with some patience, you could grow the plants from seed or from a cutting instead, the satisfaction is unbeatable. You don’t even need a greenhouse, they can be started off on a window sill or you can get (or make) yourself a small cold frame. You just have to think a little in advance of Summer and start them off around March or April.