During these financially-hard times and when interest rates are low, where can you get good returns on your savings, assuming you have any? Fortunately gardeners can still get an excellent return – percentage rates you could only dream about at your local bank or building society!Take a packet of lettuces containing well over 100 seeds. Assuming just 3-4 grow and mature, you have paid off for the packet of seeds (assuming you would have bought them). The money saved by a growing a few others would contribute to other costs you make in a year (tools, allotment rent, sundries, etc.). If you save some of your seeds from one year to the next, the costs come down further. Swapping seeds at community events like Trumpington’s ‘Seedy Sunday’ (sorry just gone!) improves the ‘interest rates’ even more. I think my father only bought one packet of broad bean or runner bean seeds in his gardening life, spanning several decades, since he saved a few every year for the next.
In the same tradition, some parsley I first sowed in 2009 is now self sustaining. When the plants eventually flower, go to seed and die (being biennials) I place the dead stems, with seeds attached, in the soil where I next want them to grow. The seeds drop, as they would do naturally, germinate around September time and produce a new progeny of seedlings for another year. All being well, I should never have to buy another packet of seeds!
Some blackcurrant and redcurrant bushes I planted on my allotment some 25 years ago are still going strong. Most years, each plant produces up to 1kg of fruit – all from a plants costing a few pounds several years ago. All I have to do to get this is mulch around plants with some home-made compost in February and do some light pruning, usually just after harvesting the crop. As a result, in the summer months the plants produce many more punnets of healthy soft fruits than I would have bought (and without all the plastic packaging!) and involving very little time. It’s still time to plant fruit bushes and trees this month until March (at the very latest) to ensure yearly ‘interest’ payments!
Rhubarb is also long-lived and gives high returns. Just find a friend who has a good clump and ask to take a piece of root (‘crown’) bearing one or more buds. The ultimate ‘high interest account’ is undoubtedly…..the Jerusalem artichoke, especially if you obtain a few from a friend who has a glut. Just one tuber planted now (they are very hardy) will produce 10 to 20 similar tubers by the end of the year! Swapping plants, seeds and garden knowledge not only keeps your ‘inputs’ (as farmers refer to) low but gives great satisfaction and an abundance of seasonal produce.