September 2, 2016

Austerity Gardening Tips [With Patty O’Door]

If you're on the dole and struggling to feed yourself or add a bit of fresh flavour to a meal, then being able to grow some herbs or veggies is a great way to save a few pennies.

I’m fortunate because I’m living in a house with plenty of space for a garden. Sometimes though, chucking stuff straight into the soil doesn’t work, and I have better success with pots. Except when growing tomatoes.

The best way I’ve found for growing tomatoes (and I prefer the cherry ones), is by placing an over ripe cherry tomato straight into the soil, in no time at all you’ll have seedlings. Last season I didn’t even bother to stake them, I just let them sprawl over the ground and I called them ‘wild tomatoes’. You do have a bit of a problem with crawling insects getting to some of them, but the rain was the worst for me, the plants sucked up all the water and the tomatoes split or went spongy.

I always get way too many seedlings. And rather than getting rid of them, I wanted to share them about the neighbourhood. But I needed to find a way to get cheap seedling pots and I didn’t want to spend any money. So I did some research and found a great idea that uses something that we all have in the home, and you recycle at the same time. Cardboard toilet roll inserts, yes I know, who would’ve thought!

I’ve read that you can transfer the seedlings straight into the ground as the cardboard breaks down naturally in the soil, and it also protects the roots from insects etc. I had no trouble getting the seeds to grow in the cardboard pots. They’re fun to make too.

So here’s how you make them.

You take a cardboard toilet roll and you make four creases. Just flatten it until you get two creases and then push it out and flatten it again on the other side until you have four creases. You next take a pair of scissors and make very small cuts into the creases.

These are going to be tabs that you will fold over each other, much like the bottom of a cardboard box. You don’t want your cuts to be too big, as you won’t be able to overlap the flaps. It usually takes a couple of goes to get this right, especially the folding, I keep forgetting which overlaps which. But don’t worry! when you work it out it’s easy and it’s quite therapeutic. You’ll need a plastic container with sides high enough for the all the little cardboard pots to stand in. Once you’ve finished just fill them up with soil, place a seed in each one and water.

You’ll have seedlings in no time.


  1. Editor note: Great stuff Patty. Will try these in my own back-garden. Wish me luck.

  2. Great to hear, and I can't wait to see how they turn out. If you do some research on youtube you should be able to find instructional video's on how to to make them, if you need to.

  3. Will add such a link to the post.

  4. An austerity gardening tip that I follow is to look for roots when buying fresh shallots, leeks and garlic. All you have to do is chop shallots and leeks about 2 inches from the rooted end, and plant the cut piece into a pot of soil or directly into the ground. Put the roots into the soil and leave about 1 inch exposed to the sun. Ensure your plants will get the morning sun, water them every 2 or 3 days and in a couple of months you'll be able to harvest your crop. Shallots and leeks can be cut back regularly and they will continue to send out new growth for many months.

    You can grow a bulb of garlic from a single clove. Plant the clove deeply (about 6 or 8 inches) into friable soil, or potting mix with the roots pointing down, water regularly and wait. Your garlic plant will grow to about 30 cm tall and eventually flower. Wait until the plant eventually dies and shrivels up. Then carefully dig it up to find a whole garlic bulb in place of the single clove you planted. Garlic will take around 8 months from the time you plant it until it can be harvested.

    1. Thanks for those gardening tips colleen, they're great.