Growing your own fruit and veg can be a great way to cut your food costs.
Of course, it all depends on how much you spend on gardening. Investing in a greenhouse to grow tomatoes will make them rather expensive!
Even packets of seeds that only cost £2 to £3 a pop can soon add up if you’re buying several varieties. The good news is that there are loads of ways to buy seeds for less or even get them for free.
When we moved from London to Suffolk, I had great intentions about growing some of our own food. I made the odd attempt in London, keen to show my children where food came from. Despite our postage stamp of a garden, I had a tomato plant on top of the fridge, some strawberries in a hanging basket and a few beans growing up the garden fence.
Getting hold of seeds is the first step to growing your own food, so I’ve been investigating ways to buy them for less.
Cheap packets may contain fewer seeds than fancy packs from big brands. However, if you don’t want to plant huge quantities of the same thing, and get stuck with a glut of courgettes / lettuces / radishes, then why waste money buying more than you need?
With the bank holiday fast approaching, it’s a great time to get out in the garden and sow some seeds. I might even get round to planting some of the stash of packets down the side of the radio!
So here are my top 8 places to find seeds for less.
1. Dive into discount stores
Simple enough really – if you want inexpensive seeds, try inexpensive shops.
Wilko sells packets of veg seeds starting at just 25p for lettuce and parsnips, with more than 40 different veg seeds for 75p or under. When they’re so cheap, you can afford to get the children involved in chucking them around the place and watering them over-enthusiastically.
Over at Poundland, you can get three packets of Mr Fothergill veg seeds for a £1. Poundland also stocks seed potatoes and onions sets at (you’ve guessed it) £1 a pop, plus fruit canes like raspberries, gooseberries, blueberries, red currants and black currants for £1 each. It’s worth inspecting the fruit shrubs in the shop though, as they can be a bit unloved. (Scroll to the end of the Poundland bulbs & seeds section to see examples).
If you can find them in store, Aldi sells seed multipacks usually with a whopping 8 different varieties of veg for just 99p.
Choose from Herb Garden, Vegetable Patch, Mediterranean Seed, Spicy & Aromatic and Salad Bar Classics Multipacks, all with 8 different varieties, or get four different types of seed in the Pea & Bean Collection Multipack. (More details on the Aldi website, look out for the brown packets).
2. Snaffle freebie promotion seeds
At this time of year, just as spring has sprung, watch out for companies offering free seeds in publicity campaigns.
Our local East of England Co-op has also just started offering free Goodness Gang Garden mini seed pots if you collect stickers with your shopping. You get one sticker for every £5 you spend until 28 May, and need 4 to claim a teeny seed mat, mini cardboard pot, soil tablet and plantmarket (as shown in the photo). There are 20 different herbs and veg to collect. You may only get a few seeds in each, but I’ve had fun with my kids following the instructions and seeing the soil tablets expand when watered.
3. Stock up on seeds with a magazine subscription
Lots of the gardening magazines include free seeds on the cover, but often the magazines themselves aren’t cheap.
The best bargain I’ve seen is the chance to subscribe to Kitchen Garden magazine for a fiver.
You not only get 3 issues of the magazine, normally £4.99 each, but 20 packets of veg seeds on top. You’ll even get extra seeds with each copy of the magazine.
The only catch is that you’ll need to cancel your subscription before your discount issues stop, or you’ll end up paying £20 every six months.
4. Sign up for magazine mailing lists
On simliar lines, I somehow ended up on the mailing list for Gardeners’ World magazine. Every so often, I get emails with assorted offers, such as the chance to claim a free potato growing kit. Worth keeping an eye out, but beware that the “free” offers normally inolve paying chunky postage. Check out current offers here, and consider signing up for email newsletters from other gardening companies and magazines too.
5. Order from online seed specialists
I’ve ended up with more cheap and free seeds than I know what to do with from the sources above.
However, I have seen recommendations for the website MoreVeg. It sells small packets of seeds, rather than saddling you with more seeds than you could sow or your family could eat. It promises more than 500 varieties at just 50p per packet, but also does special offers bundling packets even cheaper. Postage is free for seed orders over £10, but is still only £1.35 if you’re spending less than a tenner.
6. Stalk garden centre sales
Watch out for offers at your local garden centre, particularly end of season sales. If you go shopping for seeds in September or October, you may be able to grab seeds for pennies rather than pounds ready for next year.
7. Join a gardening club
If you are feeling sociable, and join a local gardening club, you can often find organised seed swaps or other gardeners willing to share seeds. As an added bonus, you might get to hear talks about the likes of bonsai gardening, weaving with willow or garden photography, if the example of Hadleigh & District Gardening Club is anything to go by.
Similarly if you have neighbours who are keen gardeners, or sign up for an allotment, you may find similar souls willing to swap unwanted seeds.
8. Grow from cuttings or existing plants
While these aren’t strictly seeds, I’ve had minor success in getting cuttings to root in a glass of water (by accident, admittedly). I also bought a few cut-price yellow-stickered herb pots from the supermarket. Despite my doubts, the parsley and chives are still going strong in the herb patch.
So now over to you – any other great sources of where to get seeds for free? Where to pay less for seed packets? I’d love to hear, so do share your tips in the comments.