“Using kitchen scraps for new plants and using them in worm farms and compost bins ensures that all the money spent on top-quality produce is not wasted, ” Habitat garden columnist Trevor Cochrane said.

The key was to get them off to a good start, usually in a pot or tray. “Starting potatoes off from peel or sweet potatoes from off-cuts or eyes can be done easily using matchsticks, cotton wool and a glass of water, ” he said. “The matchsticks run through the vegetable acting like a plank (across the top of the glass), holding the vegie atop cotton wool so water is only in contact with the bottom. The same principles apply for plants like celery tops and carrot tops, although pineapple heads can go straight into potting mix.”


Just like our parents and grandparents knew, Masters green life buyer Ann McKeon said one of the best thrifty tips was to collect seeds and sow them at the appropriate season.

Mr Cochrane agreed, adding that seeds from pumpkin, watermelon and rockmelon could be collected now and sown in October for best results. “A great one to plant now is avocado seeds, ” he said. “The seedlings often take much longer to fruit than a grafted plant but … it’s top-quality fruit you will enjoy.”

Nurseryman and sustainable gardening advocate Steve Wood said heirloom varieties were a good seed-saving option as they were open pollinated, meaning the seed could easily be collected and sown each season.


Another tried and tested way to get plants free was by propagating, said Mr Wood.

The secret to successful cuttings was to keep them small (under 5cm), watered daily and kept in a shaded location. “The best medium to strike the cuttings in is pure coco peat, also known as coir, and a root system will start to develop in seven to 10 days and at 21-28 days, the cutting is ready to plant out.”


Beyond Gardens’ Garry Heady said there’s no better — or cheaper — garden tonic than home-grown worm castings, liquid fertiliser and compost.

“My first bin was a 44-gallon drum with a lid. I would fill it with kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, shredded newspaper and whatever I could find, moisten it with the hose and with the lid firmly on, roll it out onto the lawn and back again every day for two weeks and so had my very own homemade version of what later in the 1970s became known as a compost tumbler but mine was free.”

Ms McKeon said mulch was particularly easy to make yourself. “You can create great fine-leaf mulch using a lawnmower over deciduous trees leaves, while a shredder will make light work of small branches after pruning.”


“By far the most reliable and probably the most environmentally-friendly form of pest control is exclusion netting or some other form of barrier, ” Mr Heady said. Kitchen scraps placed in strategic locations could also help. “Many bugs are eating seedlings because they are hungry, so give them food away from the seedling and many will be diverted away.”

Helen Martin-Beck, of the WA Horticultural Council, said home-made pest solutions could be just as effective as store-bought products.

Try making an all-round insecticide from four onions, two cloves of garlic and four chillies, all chopped. “Mix together and cover with warm, soapy water and leave it to stand overnight, ” she said. “Strain off that liquid and add it to five litres of water.”


Another way to get plants on the cheap is to scour markets or verge pickups, said Jo Taylor, of Taylor Landscaping. Mr Heady warned it was also important to ensure plants or seeds were from a reliable source to avoid importing diseases into your garden.


IMAGE: Papaja pot, $1.95, and IKEA PS Vallo watering can, $1.95, from IKEA, Innaloo, 9201 4532,; aluminium plant tag, $6.30 (set of 25), from The Diggers Club, (03) 5984 7900,; tin caddy, $19.95, from Spotlight, 1300 305 405,; brown paper bags, $13.50 (set of 10), from Antedote Living, Mt Hawthorn, 9444 4826; Kraftig chopping board, $29.95, from IKEA, Innaloo, 9201 4532,; other props, stylist’s own. Picture: Iain Gillespie Styling: Meghan Plowman


© The West Australian

More Home and Garden at thewest/lifestyle/home