Daily Archives: April 23, 2012

Recession friendly plant supports

In these times of austerity, it is alarming how much a quick trip to the garden centre can cost. All the bits, bobs and gadgets you think you need soon add up.

There are lots of ways to save money:

  • Our local garden centre has a 10% off day every Wednesday. You may only save a couple of pounds but over a whole summer of weekly trips this soon adds up to a substantial saving.
  • Larger chains also have some great deals and 10% off weekends. Keep a note of what you need and wait until you can get a discount.
  • Try growing your own flowers and veg from seed rather than buying plugs or garden ready plants. I calculated I saved over £180 by buying a packet of livingstone daisy seeds for £1.99.
  • Make your own compost.
  • Rather than buying cell trays for plants, save up yoghurt pot and tins, small and large and make some holes in the bottom.
  • Use the inside of a toilet roll for starting long rooted plants such as sweet peas or beans. The cardboard can be planted into the ground without disturbing the roots.
  • Subscribe to gardening magazines to save money on the cover price and benefit from the free packets of seeds they all seem to be giving away with each issue.
  • We have a local “freecycle” website where people advertise anything they want rid of. The purpose is to try to stop items being sent to landfill but quite often people will advertise excess plants or garden equipment they are giving away. It’s worth a look. I got rid of over 100 jerusalem artichoke tubers this way.
  • Look at what you have lying around that would do the same job. Instead of spending £6 on a dibber and dobber use a pencil and a fork!

Anyway, I digress.

This year we promised to make more of an effort to stake up all of our plants that need support. This means supporting plants as they are growing rather than sticking a bit of wire in the ground and wrapping some string around the plant when it is already lying at a jaunty 45 degree angle!

We have a clump of beautiful blue delphiniums and every year they just flower, then it rains and they fall over. They are about 12 inches tall at the moment, so bearing in mind our resolution to do the right thing by our tall plants I started to look at websites and magazines to see what kind of plant supports were available.

Let me tell you there is very little for under £10…and we need quite a few! Mr Mac promptly advised me there was no way he was spending £10 on some bent wire and disappeared off to his shed.

He came back with some lengths of wood (2×2 I am reliably informed), some fence paint, some fence wire, a pair of pliers and 2 screws.

This is how he did it

 

The wood was cut to the required length then painted with fence paint.

Dennis helped

A stake was hammered into the ground either side of the delphiniums. They grow against a wall so no support was needed at the back. The fence wire was bent and each end looped with the pliers to allow the screws to fix the wire to the stake.

The finished article. As the plants grow they will cover the stakes and more wire can be attached to support them when they grow taller.

The plants will grow around the stakes so you will never see them. I was also impressed that Mr Mac has pre-prepared 2 more lengths of wire to attach to the stakes as the plants get higher. This is so he has no excuse for not adding support as the plants grow, defeating the purpose of have a support in the first place.

I asked Mr Mac what he thought his plant support cost. He worked it out and it cost less than £1!

Speedy compost and decoys

Well what a week it has been. I spent most of the time doing the greenhouse hokey kokey…in, out, in, out, have a cup of tea…trying to dodge the showers.

The good news…

It was time to turn the compost for the first time since creating the new bays. I timed Mr Mac and it took just over 30 minutes. A huge improvement on 2 years! He just used a fork and lifted the compost over into the empty bay. I ripped up some cardboard and threw it in too to add some carbon. I have also learned that adding cardboard can also stop the compost heap smelling! We shall see….

The middle bay was full and ready to be turned into the bay on the right.

30 minutes later..all done

All of the new waste is now on the bottom and lots of air has been introduced to help it break down quicker.

And the not so good news…

The pigeons got the blame for eating the chard and the tulips. However, we then noticed the rasberry canes had all been stripped of shoots and leaves up to a height of about 3 feet. There is no way pigeons could have done that. Perplexed, we spent the day building frames to support nets over the raspberries and at 5am the following morning, Mr Mac got up before any of the birds, set a trap and sat at the back door Elmer Fudd style…waiting.

Mr Mac

Do you know what it was?

It was the pheasant! He has been wandering around for a few weeks now but we had never seen him in the garden. He makes a very loud “caw, caw” noise, followed by flapping his wings so you can hear him, even if you can’t see him.

One morning he woke us up and I even joked that he was so loud it sounded as if he was at the bottom of the bed! That was probably the same morning he ate all the tulips!

Fear not! He is still alive and well but we are following his movements closely and if he comes anywhere near the garden he gets chased away.

We are still not convinced the pigeons are entirely without blame for all the damage. I watched a programme recently about the London Underground. They have so much bother from pigeons at depots and stations that they employ a hawk which scares away the pigeons.

I half joked to Mr Mac that perhaps we should get a hawk to scare away the pigeons. He told me I was a genius and went next door to see Wallace. His real name is John but I call him Wallace because he was the inspiration for Wallace and Gromit. He is always designing gadgets from bits and pieces lying around.

Anyway, this is what they came up with…

Our decoy hawk - terrifying!

He is made from plywood and is attached to a bendy bit of metal so he “wobbles” in the wind.  Wallace is currently designing some form of swivel mechanism.

Apparently, a second decoy was also produced but he looks more like tweety pie!