A garden is a great resource for cooks and crafters alike and, says Adrienne Wild, with a little work, you can become self-sufficient and make money at home
Homegrown veg can be a real money-spinner, especially if they’re organic. Consider getting an allotment, as your plot could provide enough food to feed 20 people when in full production. This means you’ll have plenty to spare – and you can even donate to those in need if you wish.
For maximum profit, concentrate on easy, hardy types, such as beetroot, carrot, cauliflower, leek, onions, turnips and peas to make up weekly veg boxes for local customers and you won’t go far wrong.
Invest in a greenhouse and you could grow some gourmet varieties, too, which will earn you an even higher price. Tomatoes are definitely worth the effort and the Heirloom varieties come in unusual colours, such as yellow, orange and purple, or have green and red stripes.
There are purple and ruby-red potato types and multicoloured cauliflowers, too, plus a massive range of chillies to trade, as well as edible blooms, such as pansies, nasturtiums, courgettes and roses that will help grow your savings if sold to restaurants and delis in your area.
With a bit of effort, you could also bake your way to the bank and even turn gluts into tomato sauce and salsas, as well as chutneys, pickles and piccalilli, and sell them at farmers’ markets.
When growing your own recipes for Italian classics like pasta sauces, choose the almost seedless Sicilian Paste tomato varieties such as ‘Roma’. When it comes to pickles and chutneys, you’ll find that ‘Barletta Silverskin’ onion, which is mild flavoured and crisp, and ‘Giant Zittau’, a traditional brown skin pickling onion that’s full of flavour, will jump off the shelf.
Pumpkins are particularly useful for adding to your coffers – especially around Halloween when they can be sold as lanterns. The variety ‘Becky’ is a good medium-sized pumpkin, which if sown in the warmth in mid-April will provide fruits that are perfect for elaborate carving by October.
Alternatively, you could try hollowing out the easier-to-grow, much hardier swedes into ghoulish faces. For good-sized, globe-shaped roots, grow the variety ‘Best of All’ and sow seeds direct in sunny, free-draining soil about the third week of May to begin harvesting in early October.
Along with lanterns, you will always be able to cash in locally on unusual varieties of pumpkins like ‘Blue Hungarian’, ‘Baby Blue Hubbard’and that supermarket favourite ‘Waltham’ butternut squash, which is ideal for making heart-warming soups and the all-American classic – pumpkin pie.
Dried ornamental gourds are especially popular for crafters as they can be dried and made into birdhouses, bird feeders, storage pots, utensils and musical instruments.
Traditionally, the hardshell types are grown for crafting but, as they take between 110-135 days to mature, it’s not always possible for the fruits to fully ripen in the UK.
More reliable is ‘Harrowsmith Select’, which is a mixture of small-fruited warted pears, dumplings and patty pans, and other shapes in a range of colours, and are ripe and ready in 20-80 days, depending on your areas growing conditions. Gourds make good decorations, are edible and also have medicinal benefits.
Herbs, which can be sold in pots or dried and bottled, are not only useful for flavouring food and drinks but can be made into natural air fresheners, household cleaners, first-aid remedies, aromatic beauty and bath treats and tonics, all of which have a high price tag and make great gifts.
Lavender is one of the most useful herbs, so plant plenty and sell bundles of blooms, or dry them and put them in pillows and sachets to be used around the house. It has a lovely scent and is not only a relaxant but also has insect-repellent qualities. Other valuable herbs are wormwood, bee balm and tansy, which thrive in the same dry soil conditions and lots of sunshine.
They can be dried, combined and fashioned into decorative door wreaths and swags. You will always earn money at your gate by selling cut flowers, but you may find you can also sell popular garden flowers, like sweet peas, direct to a local florist, so do your research and consider making a dedicated cutting patch in a sunny spot.
In April, sow seeds of long-stemmed annuals and perennials, as well as those with daisy blooms, as these will combine well with lots of other flowers. You’ll find that dahlias, gladioli and sunflowers also bring in a good return.
Make the time to pick blooms regularly and deadhead those that remain and become faded, so that supplies last longer.
Grow varieties that can be hung up and dried for winter arrangements or pressed to make flower pictures. Include hops, too, for these make great garlands and if you choose a commercial brewing hop variety like ‘Fuggles’ or try a dwarf variety such as ‘Prima Donna’, they make a great craft beer.
Don’t forget to fill borders with some foliage plants, too, as these can be cut to add texture and colour to both fresh and dried arrangements. Ornaments made from pine cones are especially saleable during the festive season, as are evergreen wreaths embellished with berries.
Homegrown apples, peaches and cherries trees, as well as strawberries and blackberry, raspberry and other bush fruits, will provide a supply of fresh and stored fruit all year round, especially if you turn them into wines and gin, jams and jellies, chutneys and other treats, and they make great gifts, too.
With all your creative juices flowing, you’ll soon begin to find a use for virtually everything your garden produces. You’ll no doubt cash in on saved seeds and see the worth of shrubby prunings, which can be turned into trendy, high-value plant supports and even furniture.
Compost bins, too, will not only turn out rich garden compost and mulch, but also buckets of worms – a must-have for anglers.