Okay, this is not my naughty blog. So, I don’t mean that literally. But I do feel that the current crisis caught me unaware. That before this I was merely playing at preparedness and especially at grow-my-own.
The truth is that last year half the stuff I grew rotted on the vine or went to seed or both. And this year, I was so caught up in planning and stressing over the wedding that wasn’t that I had not even begun to seriously think about my garden – and it was the middle of March?!?
Yes, I was definitely caught with my knickers down on this one. And as a result, I spent money needlessly, just trying to catch up.
So, I thought today I would share with you those garden purchases that with some forethought and planning could have been minimized or eliminated. And some that were just a pure waste of money.
Let’s begin with pure waste…
Yes, this is one item that not only do you not need for your garden, but I have found mine to be completely worthless.
I got roped into this one with the whole ‘rose’ thing. If you don’t know what a rose is, it is the head of the watering can with its tiny holes in it. The idea is to mimic rain by creating a gentle spray of water that is better for your tender seedlings.
But it does not work that way. The holes are much too large. If it is meant to copy rain then it is a downpour and not a gentle shower.
In the end, I took off the roses and use them just to pour the water around the roots. But I have found them so heavy and awkward to hold that more often than not I use upcycled milk cartons and 2-liter plastic bottles instead.
Cost of my mistake = £23.94
So, last year one of the mistakes that I made out of ignorance was not feeding the plants that I grew in containers. It was one of the first things that I learned as I got more serious about things this year.
Of course, being sustainable is still important in our @HomeCrazzyHome. So, I wanted natural fertilizers. That left me with three basic options:
So, I began to hit the buy button on Amazon. Oh, what a disappointment! The total cost of this mistake £65.72.
First of all, those prepared liquid feeds all came in plastic bottles – which sort of negates the whole sustainable thing. Especially since according to the instructions, the contents of those bottles when mixed as the instructions suggested would only provide one feed for a garden my size! At between £7 and £15 per bottle and feeding the recommended once per week – well, do the math. It was not viable.
So, back to the internet, I raced. I discovered loads of natural alternatives I can make at home. From weed tea (yes, you read that correctly) to bananas, eggshells, coffee grounds, and dozens of more options. As well as instructions on how to make those others myself.
I am going with a mix of all of them including manure tea. Soaking a bag of manure in a drum of water for a few days. My vegan friend is against the use of manure and I respect that. But there are so many other options that I could write several blogs on this topic alone. Speaking of which, the final one in this category is…
As a writer, it pains me to say that. But after purchasing a dozen of them at a relatively modest cost of £54.48, I found only one that was a clear, concise, and enjoyable read. Many of them were poorly organized, confusing, and assumed a level of gardening expertise that many people, myself included, lack.
Besides, when you have a question, most of us these days do not want to wade through a book looking for an answer. We simply type it into Google and have a hundred-thousand responses. Gardenings websites, blogs, and YouTube are all free and much more useful.
I will admit though that I am finding a dearth of reliable information on urban farming. So many of the YouTubers and blogs that I find are from people who own plots well outside of the city and many have corporate sponsors whose products they are forever flogging. So, beware.
Okay, so those are the ones that were a complete waste of money. But there are others that if I had been prepared better before the shit hit the fan, I could have gotten much, much cheaper, or even FREE. What are those?
When you are growing your own seedlings and container gardening, you go through compost almost as quickly as water. What is more, container gardening, in particular, is hard on the soil. It drains and leeches the nutrients from the soil within four to six weeks, which is why you have to feed your plants so often.
That means that you need to recycle the soil and compost every year, replacing with new, while you add new nutrients to the old tired stuff. The other option is, of course, to make your own compost from kitchen and garden waste, but quite frankly on the scale I am dealing with this year that is not viable.
Nonetheless, buying compost can get expensive. Especially on the scale of an urban farm such as @HomeCrazzyHome. I have spent in the hundreds, if not thousands of pounds for enough compost to fill four new raised beds, over fifty containers, some of which are as large as 80 liters, and to sprout thousands of seedlings.
As I said making my own on this scale is not realistic. Of course, I can and do try to reduce my reliance on others by doing as much composting of leaves, grass clippings, kitchen and garden waste as I can.
A couple of options that I will use in the future to reduce or eliminate the need to purchase compost are:
- Acquiring those raw materials such as leaves, grass clipping, and waste from friends, neighbors, and even local businesses. I can even barter/trade fresh produce for it if necessary.
- Our council though provides ‘free’ compost made from the garden and kitchen waste it collects to residents. I put free in quotes because you have to collect it yourself which unless you own an old work van or pickup truck is a messy, time-consuming process. Since neither Alan or I drive this will not be easy.
- Buy bulk. This is perhaps our best option. Many garden centers will deliver 1,000 liters of topsoil or compost in canvas bags that can be reused for growing potatoes. Unfortunately, the area of our garden we usually use for that was already filled with wood chips and sand. It will need to be cleaned and rearranged before next season. Because this is probably the one that makes the most sense on the scale that we are working. It can reduce the cost to less than £200.
This one might sound strange. Don’t you need seeds in order to grow things? Of course, you do. But that does not mean you need to buy them. There are better, cheaper options, such as:
Grow from store-bought produce – You have to be careful with this one. Many of the items you purchase in the grocery stores have been so genetically engineered that its seeds are virtually useless. Some will not sprout at all and others may grow but won’t produce a significant yield. Nonetheless, with a bit of research, this is always the first place you should begin.
Save seeds from things you grew last year – This one is your absolute best option – and my long term strategy for @HomeCrazzyHome. I want to be completely self-sufficient in terms of seeds within five years. I can probably do it in three for most things. But as with the one above, you have to be careful. F1 and other genetically engineered varieties of seeds do not save well. I have invested in heritage and heirloom varieties of many plants that I will plant out next season. I don’t want to do so this year lest they cross breed with F1s.
Seed swaps – Getting involved with neighbors, friends, and/or community gardening groups will allow you to expand not only your expertise but your seed collection by exchanging any of your surpluses for varieties you may not have. This year I have not been able to fully utilize this option due to social distancing, but have done a bit with my friend…and more importantly, I have donated all my surplus seedlings of which there were way too many to others in our community. And if you don’t have a local group? Start one.
I did much better last year with repurposing old containers and even buying most of my others second hand in charity shops. Even an old baby bath and dog bed made wonderful planters. Even raised beds can be constructed from repurposed items like old bricks from construction sites and pallets.
Unfortunately, I got caught with my knickers down as I said. So, I spent thousands…yes, THOUSANDS on the new raised beds and all those containers. But in lockdown that was the only option I had in order to scale up. And these should last between three and seven seasons. But I promise you, I will be looking for recycled options long before they wear out.
So, those are my regrets. The things that I would do differently…if I had only known. But I don’t regret the decision to scale our @HomeCrazzyHome from a garden to an urban farm. As I have said and will keep saying, this thing ain’t over yet. Our governments, businesses, and families are too deeply in debt. Our economy cannot withstand this additional shock.
And one thing about me, I learn from my mistakes. I won’t be caught with my knickers around my ankles next time. Preparedness and self-reliance, at least as much as possible, are new core values of our @HomeCrazzyHome. I hope they are for yours, too.
May the Goddess bless you with Her abundance,
From our @HomeCrazzyHome to yours