How to save money with a vegetable garden

6 July 2024

Connie Cao and TV show host Narelda Jacobs on set of The Brighter Side
  • Connie Cao is saving her family money by growing her own fresh produce at her home in Melbourne
  • By cultivating a variety of seasonal vegetables, Connie ensures a steady supply of fresh, nutritious food throughout the year
  • Connie shares her tips for starting an edible garden and what tools you’ll need

Connie Cao has come up with an innovative way to combat the rising cost of grocery bills – she’s turned her Melbourne backyard (and front yard, for that matter) into an edible garden. Her thriving space – or ‘food forest’, as she calls it – is feeding her family with daily harvests of fresh seasonal fruit, herbs and vegetables. 

“I filled my entire backyard and it’s feeding my family,” Connie says. She has flowers, berries, annual veggies, dwarf fruit trees and a greenhouse for tropical produce, as well as a load of chillies. While Connie hasn’t calculated the dollar savings from growing her own fresh food, she has seen the difference at the checkout. “We don’t buy much fresh produce anymore, so I think we save quite a bit,” she says.

Video: Narelda Jacobs gets a tour of Connie Cao’s verdant vegetable garden on The Brighter Side

Connie’s top tips for edible gardens

Think about pots

To maximise your use of available space, think about what produce can thrive in pots. “I have capsicums in a garden bed but they grow really well in pots, too,” Connie says.

Start small

Don’t try to go too big too fast or you might set yourself up for failure. Connie says, again, pots are a good place to start: “Growing in pots is a really easy way to start and you won’t feel so overwhelmed,” she says.

Save your own seeds

“Seeds that you save from your garden are more adapted to local climate conditions and you’ll save money.” To get started, choose seeds from your healthiest plants, dry them thoroughly and store them in a cool, dark place for future planting.

Connie’s urban garden essentials

Compost system

“I love using compost tumblers because they’re elevated from the ground, which helps keep rodents out.” To make the most of your compost tumbler, regularly rotate it to ensure even decomposition and maintain a balanced mix of greens (kitchen scraps) and browns (yard waste). 

Vertical support

“Growing things vertically is really good for small spaces. It takes the fruit off the soil so it’s less likely to rot.” The most basic way is using a stake. Additionally, try using trellises to maximise space and improve air circulation around your plants.


“I love to plant my flowers both in my veggie patch as well as around it,  so I can bring as many bees and pollinators into my garden as possible.” For best results, choose a variety of flowers that bloom at different times to ensure a constant presence of pollinators throughout the season.

Seasonal vegetables: what to plant when

Here’s a general guide to some of the seasonal best. Because the climate varies across Australia, you need to look into what grows well in your region to know exactly when to plant.

Vegetables to plant in winter

  • Coriander
  • Beetroot
  • Cabbage
  • Broad beans

Vegetables to plant in spring

  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Mint
  • Lettuce
  • Leeks
  • Tomatoes
  • Passionfruit
  • Strawberries
  • Bananas

Vegetables to plant in summer

  • Chillies
  • Eggplant
  • Capsicum

Vegetables to plant in autumn

  • Asian greens
  • Broccoli
  • Garlic 

Things you should know

This article provides general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as personal financial product advice. The views expressed by contributors are their own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of CBA. As the information has been provided without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs, you should, before acting on this information, consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement and Terms and Conditions, and whether the product is appropriate to your circumstances. You should also consider whether seeking independent professional legal, tax and financial advice is necessary. Every effort has been taken to ensure the information was correct as at the time of printing but it may be subject to change. No part of the editorial contents may be reproduced or copied in any form without the prior permission and acknowledgement of CBA.