The empty wallet


Money may be too tight to mention, but there are deals to be had if you know where to look for them. SIMON TIERNEYfinds ways to live well with less cash


My most recent experience of gardening was when I lived in Highbury in London. My flatmate and I had been living together for four years. He asked if I’d be interested in us getting a plant together. “Are you sure we’re ready for this?” I replied. He urged me on. “I know this is a big commitment but I think it would be good for us. Plants grow. It would help us do the same.”

We bought a chilli plant. We watered it and cared for it. We argued about its well-being. We were there for its first flower. I missed its first chilli but that was okay because he recorded it on his camera. It was a special time.

March is definitely the month to get your green fingers out. There are some fantastic offers on free seeds and bulbs to get you started. If you fancy learning about growing your own veg, there are free classes too. Vegetable gardening can be a sustainable way to reduce your family food costs in the longterm. Why pay €2 for a bag of lettuce when you could pay less for a crop of it?

Free bulbs and seeds

Mr Middleton Garden Shop, 58 Mary Street, Dublin, tel: 01-8603837,, is giving away two free packets of seeds to every customer who quotes “Mr Middleton Seeds Offer”, from today until March 31st. This is a saving of around €6 or more so it’s a great deal – no choice on seeds, take what you get. Fernhill Plants Plus Garden Centre, Cornamagh, Athlone, Co Westmeath, tel: 090-6475574, is offering a free packet of bulbs or free packet of seed potatoes to the first 10 people to quote “Five Star Garden Centre Award Bulb Offer”. Garden World (9a Ellen Street, Limerick, tel: 087-3587795 is giving away a free packet of seeds to the first 10 customers to quote “Garden World Seeds Offer”. This particular shop is ideal for empty wallets as much of the stock is loose rather than packaged so you can buy as little or as much of stuff as you wish.

Free classes

Dangan House Garden Centre, Newcastle, Co Galway, tel: 091-524716, is running a series of free gardening lessons on Wednesday mornings at 10am. Next Wednesday, Brian Finan will be giving advice on bedding plants. There are regular free classes at Hosford’s Geraniums Garden Centre, Cappa, Enniskeane, Co Cork, tel: 023 8839159). On April 9th at 3pm, Michael Brennock will teach you how to grow your own vegetables.

Free equipment

Rather than forking out on expensive pots for your free seeds, make your own. Recycle your yoghurt containers. Just poke a few holes in the bottom. Your discarded toilet rolls, cut in half, are ideal for seedlings as they can be put directly into larger pots when they mature and the cardboard will rot naturally. To water your new seeds, clean out an old kitchen cleaning spray and fill with water. Margaret Linnell of Willow Field Garden Centre, Co Kerry, suggests seaweed as a free alternative to manure. Pick up some if you live near a beach and it will help fertilise the soil in your garden.

Last but not least ...

For some inspiration, take a trip to Kilmacurragh Botanic Gardens in Co Wicklow ( and Heywood Gardens, Ballinakill, Co Laois, ( Both are free to visit.

If you have details of free services/activities/ products, email Upcoming topics include food and cooking