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What do gardening and saving money have to do with each other? Potentially quite a bit.

By gardening I'm not meaning the purely aesthetic pleasure of creating botanical works of art, quite possibly with a few artificial structures thrown in. While a great source of pleasure for many, this kind of gardening can cost a lot of money, not save it.

I'm referring to a much more utilitarian form of gardening of the edible kind. If you're really clever you can make edible pretty as well.

Growing your own food can be a great way to save money if you're ruthless about how you assess what to grow. To achieve maximum savings, you need to have an idea of how much vegetables or fruit cost to buy, how much space they take up, how long they take to grow, and how easy they are to grow.

You achieve the highest savings growing things that take the least space, cost the most, are easy to grow and grow quickly.

Leafy greens often tend to fit this category. Lettuces, rocket, mizuna, cress, spinach, beets for example. Spring onions and chives are pretty good too, as are most stir-fry veggies. Strawberries are pretty good as far as fruit are concerned.

One of the reasons these crops can save you a lot, even when they're easy to grow is that they are highly perishable, and once harvested have quite a limited shelf life, so supermarkets will have to allow for losses. Grow your own, and you can pick just what you need when you need it and let the plants go on producing.

Depending on how much space you have and what sort of climate, there are many other plants that can represent good value for money too.

Growing from seed can produce greater savings than buying plants, but you need to make sure you look after your seedlings.

Often a pack of seeds will have more than needed for one family for a season, so if things are really tight, share the cost of a packet of seed with friends or family.

Don't get carried away and buy too much seed. Seed perishes after a while, so you don't want to have unopened packets sitting around that have expired, otherwise there goes your savings.

Some produce like pumpkins and capsicums have viable seeds, so if you do buy produce, you can save the seed to plant some of your own.

Old margarine pots with holes in the bottom save buying plant pots for raising seeds. All sorts of things can be used as containers to grow plants if you don't have much garden space, even things like old tyres.

Savings aren't necessarily just in money. If you have the space to grow a reasonable amount of food, you may be able to reduce packaging and trips to the shops as well, and the produce that's easiest to grow is also really healthy.

The old saying is that money doesn't grow on trees, but if you have fruit trees, or vegetables, or any kind of fresh produce you grow yourself, the money you don't spend can be put aside and allowed to grow. Or, if you are struggling financially, you can afford to eat much better than you would otherwise.

Do you agree with these tips?

Written by Christopher Cookson. First appeared on Stuff.co.nz.

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