Gardener's notebook: Anya Lautenbach's guide to making a London garden on a budget


Gardening can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.

In her book, The Money-Saving Gardener, Anya Lautenbach shares how she has created her own garden from scratch, with the self-sufficiency learnt as a child growing up in Poland, before moving to Berlin then London

Here are her tips for gardening on a budget.

1. Repurpose items

There are loads of everyday items around the home you can repurpose for gardening. From loo rolls to grow sweet peas in, to yogurt pots as plant pots.

When throwing things away, first think, can theft have a use in the garden.

“If you are shrewd, you can avoid buying any new plant pots.”

The small boxes fruit comes in can double up as seed trays, but it is important to make sure you make drainage holes in the bottom of containers to allow excess water through.

If you are shrewd, you can avoid buying any new plant pots.

But you don’t always just have to use your recycling. Keep an open mind and always be on the lookout for interesting objects that could double up as containers.

Items such as old tool boxes and drawers make excellent outdoor containers, herbs look great growing from old pots and pans.

2. Buy the right plants

When spring arrives it can be very tempting to rush to the garden centre and buy something in full flower and looking great.

But sadly they will only last a few weeks.

Foxgloves are a great example. We are drawn in by their tall spikes of white and pink flowers, but sadly the flowers end quickly, in a lot of cases, the plant dies. That’s £8 gone.

3. Go perennial

When buying plants, choose plants that are perennial — plants that live for more than two years.

These plants normally also be divided as they grow, giving more plants for free.

“Growing from seed is an even cheaper way to produce plants.”

Growing from seed is an even cheaper way to produce plants. From a single packet, you can often grow many times the number of plants for a fraction of the price you’d pay if you were buying the same plant from the shop.

4. Speak to your neighbours

Don’t be afraid to speak to your neighbours.

Join the community Whatsapp or Facebook, or post what you are looking for on platforms like Freecycle or Nextdoor. It is often surprising what people are getting rid of or willing to part with.

“I’ve had plants, tools, even a hose and a wheelbarrow from my neighbours.”

I’ve had plants, tools, even a hose and a wheelbarrow from my neighbours.

Help build a relationship by giving them something back.

5. Think wildlife friendly

The importance of creating a space that is wildlife friendly can’t be understated.

Not only are there the immediate benefits to improving biodiversity, and the joy of seeing your garden being enjoyed by a host of other living things, it has the potential to help you as a gardener too.

“By encouraging wildlife, you encourage the beneficial animals and insects.”

The aim is to create a balance, and that way avoid your garden becoming a battle ground.

By encouraging wildlife, you encourage the beneficial animals and insects that keep plants healthy and control problem pests.

6. Propagate, propagate, propagate

Nearly all the plants that grow in the UK can be propagated through cuttings, dividing them or collecting seeds.

All you need is a windowsill.

Ask friends if you can take cuttings, collect seeds or divide plants.

It is a great way to build a garden from scratch for almost no cost at all.

Over the period of about three years this is how I’ve gone from no plants to a garden full of plants.

The Money-Saving Gardener by Anya Lautenbach is published by DK.