THE GOOD LIFE

How TO...GET CROPS FOR FREE

Country Living (UK) - - Contents -

Prac­ti­cal ideas and advice for would-be small­hold­ers

The cost of stock­ing a veg­etable patch with new plants can soon mount up, but it’s sur­pris­ingly easy to get them for free just by sav­ing seeds from this year’s crop or by prop­a­gat­ing cut­tings. You don’t even need to have the plants in the first place – you can get them from a friend or neigh­bour’s gar­den (with per­mis­sion, of course!). Cross-pol­li­na­tion means saved seeds can dif­fer from the parent plant, but they may be bet­ter adapted to the mi­cro­cli­mate of your gar­den – plus it’s ex­cit­ing to see which vari­a­tions may have oc­curred.

STRAWBERRIES

In­stead of con­sci­en­tiously pinch­ing off the off­shoots, known as run­ners, that straw­berry plants send out, al­low a few of them to take root. Gar­den­ing books of­ten talk about pin­ning them down in pots of com­post, but there’s no need. Leave them at­tached to the mother plant and then, come early spring, dig them out to plant else­where or give away.

FRUIT BUSHES

Rasp­ber­ries like noth­ing bet­ter than pop­ping up new shoots all over a plot so, chances are, if you know some­one with rasp­berry bushes or canes, they will be more than happy to dig out the of­fend­ing plant and hand it over. Goose­ber­ries are more re­strained, but you’ll of­ten find that any low branches start to take root in the soil – leave them to do this and you’ll have a new plant in early spring. When it comes to prun­ing black­cur­rants and red­cur­rants, in­stead of com­post­ing the cut­tings, sim­ply make a nar­row trench in the soil in a shel­tered spot and lightly cover the stems (cut end down). You’ll be amazed how many have taken root when the grow­ing sea­son be­gins.

RUN­NER BEANS AND PEAS

The peas and beans that have be­come too fat and woody to eat are per­fect for trans­form­ing into next year’s plants. Let them ripen and dry on the plant, then re­move from the pod; dis­card any that look blem­ished, too small or mouldy, and store in an air­tight con­tainer.

SALAD LEAVES

Let the last of your sum­mer crop flower and run to seed. Snip off the seed­heads and hang up­side down in a pa­per bag, so the seeds can drop out. La­bel the bag. Keep in a cool, dry place and, in a month or so, sep­a­rate them out and store in a la­belled en­ve­lope.

TOMA­TOES

If you opt for heir­loom va­ri­eties, you’re more likely to get seeds the same as the parent plant. Choose healthy, ripe fruits, slice in half around the mid­dle and pick out the big­gest, fat­test seeds. Space them out on a cof­fee fil­ter and dry in the air­ing cup­board for two weeks – do the same for chill­ies. Cut up the fil­ters to make seed discs ready for plant­ing. Store in an en­ve­lope in a cool place.

Stock your flower bor­der with free plants, too. Col­lect seeds from dried sun­flow­ers, fox­gloves, pop­pies and aqui­le­gia.

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