Ideas for everyday living

Top five fruit and veg to grow and help cut down your food costs

Garden or no garden, here’s how to produce some nutritious fruit and veg on a budget.

With veg such as leeks and French beans costing more than £2 a pack in the supermarkets, it’s worth trying to grow your own. And while a garden or large patio are ideal, a small, sunny spot will also do the job nicely.

Your cost-saving kit list

  • Make seed trays by adding a few drainage holes to plastic food trays, while yogurt pots are perfect for seedlings.
  • Look out for local seed swaps or cuttings giveaways on social media, or share the cost and contents of packets with friends.
  • For compost, growbags are often better value than regular bags, and some local councils offer it for free.

Money saving tip 1: Grow your own strawberries

Buy a couple of small strawberry plants to get you started – ‘Elsanta’ and ‘Sonata’ are sweet and juicy – then propagate extras for free. Cut off any ‘runners’ (long, skinny stems) that appear before your plants have produced fruit, but after berries have been picked, ‘peg’ the ends of the runners into the soil with U-shaped wire. Once these new plants have grown roots, separate them from the parent plants and replant.

Top tip: If you end up with a strawberry glut, cut them in half and freeze for breakfast smoothies.

Money saving tip 2: Grow your own leeks

If seed sowing sounds fiddly, trays of baby leek seedlings from the garden centre can be unexpectedly good value. Carefully divide each clump into single seedlings and gently untangle the roots before planting in late spring. 

Top tip: If you’re growing leeks on a patio or balcony, choose a large pot or bucket – ideally 40-50cm deep and wide – and keep them well watered. 

Money saving tip 3: Grow your own French beans

Super-easy to grow from seed in late spring or early summer, you’ll get kilos of beans from just a few plants. Choose from purple, green or yellow varieties – dwarf versions, such as ‘Mistik’, are ideal for small spaces, while climbers (try ‘Blue Lake’ or ‘Neckargold’) can be grown up canes. The more you pick, the more beans you’ll get; any surplus can be blanched (briefly boil in water) and frozen.

Top tip: Leave some pods to dry naturally on the stems in autumn and re-sow them next year. 

Money saving tip 4: Grow your own kale

Grow this nutritious green veg from seed in summer and harvest it in autumn and winter. If space is limited, sow in large pots, lined bread crates (adding drainage holes) or a growbag. If you have flower borders but nowhere for a separate veg bed, choose the colourful ‘Redbor’ or ‘Cavolo Nero’.

Top tip: Use young leaves in stir-fries and salads and shred larger leaves for soups and stews. Keep cutting to encourage new leaves, and shred spares for freezing.

Money saving tip 5: Grow your own mixed lettuce leaves

For less than £3, you can buy mixed lettuce seeds in their thousands from Seeds of Italy and produce all the leaves you need. Or try Mr Fothergill’s. Sow quite thickly in the ground, a container, a growbag or a lined crate. Then, when the leaves grow to a decent size, just cut what you need when you need it, and it should keep growing back for 6-8 weeks.

Top tip: Leftover seeds should still be fresh enough to sow again next year, or share a packet with friends.

For hands-on veg-growing tips, follow Rekha's Garden and Kitchen on instagram, visit Jack Wallington or find a secondhand copy of RHS Step-By-Step Veg Patch by Lucy Halsall.

Aileen Scoular

Aileen is a garden writer and designer, with a small vegetable patch at her home in Dundee.

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