Clever Cooks, Gardening on a Budget, Second-hand Scavengers

Growing herbs for next to nada

According to Frugavore’s Arabella Forge, growing your own food saves time and money, as well as giving you access to the freshest of produce. Unfortunately, fruit trees and veggie plots are a big investment (time, space, money, etc.) but as I’ve explained before, growing herbs should be a ‘fiscal no-brainer’. After all, why pay four dollars at the supermarket for a sprig of herbs, when you can pay four dollars at the nursery for a plant that will keep on giving? In fact, why pay four dollars at all when you can grow your herbs for free?

  • Free herbs: Before the advent of nurseries, people propagated their own herbs by collecting seeds from dill, striking cuttings of rosemary, or dividing clumps of mint and oregano. Check out Gardening Australia’s excellent video and fact sheet on how to go about it.
  • Free homes for your herbs: The cheapest way to grow herbs is in the ground, but for those who don’t have the space, herbs can also be potted. Free pots are not very hard to obtain. Recycle your own, collect them during hard-rubbish week or from nurseries. Just remember to disinfect the pots before use. Otherwise, make your own plant containers out of wooden drawers, pallets, bathtubs, polystyrene boxes, teapots, or typewriters.

Sourcing free potting mix can be trickier. You can make your own with a combination of leaf mould and compost or worm castings. The leaf mould will bulk out and aerate the potting mix, whilst the compost or worm castings will contain the nutrients your herbs need. Ask Organic has some easy to assemble recipes. Just remember not to use soil straight from the garden or else you’ll end up with a mud cake and one unhappy plant.

  • Feeding your herbs on the cheap: Seasol, Charlie Carp, potash, blood and bone…these things cost mullah, but fortunately there are free alternatives. Liquid fertiliser can be made from weeds, Bokashi bin juice (not exactly free but fairly plentiful) or worm wee. Make your own compost with kitchen and garden waste and help reduce methane emissions while you’re at it. Try using wood ash instead of potash, and bone shavings from the local butcher (as per Arabella Forge) instead of commercial blood and bone.

With the right amount of sunshine, water, and nutrients, your free herbs will become a culinary resource that will outshine and outlast any supermarket alternative.

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