Sunday, February 13, 2011

Recyle and Keep Out of the Garden Centre

Two weeks before Christmas, this particular Santa Claus found himself running hither and tither, criss crossing with other Santas -  all of us on a frantic last minute scramble to bag that one elusive item. Top of this Santa's hit list was a Sims 3 for Nintendo DS, a game which allows your child to sit on the sofa all day and live in a virtual world. As numero uno on my eight year old lad's letter to Santa, Sims 3 was a must get.

Santa's Sims hunt very quickly determined that not only were stocks cleared out of Sims at the really big toy stores, but also at the middle and small sized ones. The specialist game stores were also devoid of Sims. With worn shoe leather and a heavy heart, some facts began to dawn on Santa.

First: Those elves who run computer game counters are not very good at their jobs. How else could every single one of the world's five top favourite computer games be out of stock a full two weeks before Christmas? Santa also learned that he harboured a rather pressing urge to alter the geeky, smug countenances of these elves...perhaps with a wheel brace.

The SIMs - where are they when you need them?

- "Sims 3? Ha ha! That was like, SO out stock even FOUR weeks ago!! Ha ha."
-"Art Academy?"
-"THREE weeks ago ha ha."
-"Latest Mario?" "Ha ha, just last week."
-"I want to kill you."
-"Excuse me?"
-"You're out of every single one of the five most popular games for the busiest two weeks of the year - your shop loses out because you didn’t order enough stock! What are you so pleased about?”
-"Yea, so? Anything else?"
-“I’m going to make you eat that "shit happens" t-shirt."
-"Excuse me?"
-"Nothing thanks."

The greater spotted game counter elves...hopeless at Christmas

Santa finally bagged his Sims 3 at a video rental shop which also sells some games and obviously where no one else had already thought of looking. But it was a close shave.
While their elves are generally much nicer, the other big offenders for being regularly out of stock “in season” are the DIY barns and garden centres. During tomato staking last year, the local big barn was out of bamboo poles so I grabbed eight non priced plastic coated metal poles - they came to sixty quid at the till.

"How Much?!!!! Are You Guys For Real?"

They’re also hugely expensive - sometimes horrifically so. My own favourite price shocker from a DIY barn chain was eighty quid sought for four planks with grooves cut in them - marketed as a slot-together raised bed. Ahem.

While they're ok for emergency buys, if you do insist on buying all your garden supplies at the Garden Centres and DIY barns,  your food growing efforts will cost you more money than you'll save. Also, when you turn up to buy something that’s out of stock you’ll inevitably end up spending more on something else you don’t need purely by being there and getting tempted by what's on display. What's more - DIY barn staff, particularly those in the garden section,  are notoriously devoid of plant and garden knowledge. Ask them for advice on what plant or product you need and you'll not only spend a fortune, but you'll end up spending it on the wrong thing altogether!!

 It works like this: Buy a plastic bucket in a supermarket and it costs five quid. Stick it in a garden centre or DIY barn and call it a "planter" and now it costs thirty. For this reason, I never, ever buy large plastic planters at DIY barns. Instead I beg, use and reuse large catering size mayonnaise and coleslaw buckets. Paint them up if you want them to look better.

A mayonaise bucket yesterday

Plants from barns are also hugely expensive. Expect to pay so much for some that they're just not economical. Three quid for a strawberry plant that night grow a quid's worth in it's lifetime is not an unusual offer of theirs. But even if you're growing from seed you'll still get ripped off.

I used to buy my seeds from barns and garden centres but somehow they've doubled the prices over a three year period - cashing in on the "grow your own" boom. Now the thing is this, seeds are great value even at that price, but you can still do much better than get ripped off at the barn where you'll end up overspending by twenty or thirty quid if you're buying twenty packets in a season, as I might do.

These days I grow absolutely everything from seed and I'll only buy the very occasional mature plant. And because a lot of my plants last year were heritage varieties, I can also reuse my own saved seeds every year for free. My remaining seed needs will be sated from the internet - not only are online seeds half as cheap, but a Which? survey in the UK some years ago showed that those from well established providers were of a far higher quality than shop bought stocks.

Spring is the time of year when I get stuck into just the sort of heavy recycling that keeps me from the clutches of the barn in the months ahead. Down come the old tomato canes and cucumber frames. They get a good cleaning and are put in the shed to dry off. The wire twists that held the vines and other taller plants to the poles are all unravelled and stored away for reuse. And those twisty ties that come with children's toys and make liberating Buzz Lightyear from his box on an exercise in heavy engineering on Christmas morning, are also saved up for the same use.

All of last year's white plastic pointed plant labels are gathered and boiled in water and bleach to remove the old indelible ink writing, readying them to be reused again. Plastic flower pots are cleaned and stacked.

Toy ties - they Keep Buzz in his box but are also perfect for tying up Woody plants

The timber you will use for staking and building raised beds, also costs a fortune at the barn, so I save all the timber scraps I find. I've even made good on the property crash by building raised beds out of redundant scaffolding planks. The thicker woody prunings that I take from the garden and allotment at this time of year are also trimmed down, stored and used later in the year for pea supports. The insides of toilet rolls are kept for bio degradable seed pots, particularly for sweet corn seeds and their resulting sprouts. Compost making will also save you cash and so I compost everything, newspapers included.
My dismantling of a ten year old timber garden shed late last year to make room for a metal office/shed presented a dilemma when no one wanted the old one. I've since sawn it up and stored the floor panels to reuse as raised bed supports. But lacking the space to save the rest, I’ve had to hire a skip -  because you should remember that disposing of things you can’t recycle costs you as well. Knackered garden furniture and planters are to be found in almost every skip.

Now I have to fend off another type of Santa Claus - spring cleaning skip haunters who visit clandestinely to deposit their own “presents.”
Indeed a family member known for his feverish recycling of timber for the domestic fire came around and took a few choice sticks from the skip. But then he subsequently offloaded an old acid filled car battery into it!!! That’s the sort of recycling I can do without.

Not recylable!!! A SIM tries to dump an old car battery on a family member

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