Environment experiment.

by Value hunter  

I've heard so much about "Climate change" recently and with the upcoming conference, probably will, a lot more yet!

I'm seeing it in sprog2's homework, it's on all the social media feeds, the news and where I work, etc.
I'm also seeing it in my household bills. £130 increase in electricity and £80 a year extra on the gas bill. Petrol is also on the up.

Now I'm not really interested in "Climate" at all.
I don't see how a single household can affect the Earth spinning on it's axis, sunspots from our nearest star and the Earth moving poles. But many do, each to their own.
Climate has and will always change. It's more about adapting to those changes, whether you believe the changes are mostly natural or not.
Where I have long been concerned, is in the area of waste!

I have a low paid job, refuse to fork out over the top prices for things, don't believe in fashion items (this is probably an age thing).
I recycle more than most. I recycle around the house, I recycle food waste (there's not much) I use our log burner more than central heating where ever possible, I recycle old appliances when I can get away with it.
The driving factor for stingy old me and my poor family, is the need to keep costs down as much as possible.

The reason I started this website years ago, was to reference what I could do to reduce my outgoings. I didn't change things from day one, all changes are gradual. Small changes, going without the latest phone, eating home cooked food, keeping waste and energy use down as much as is physically possible. Reducing my family's costs.

Anyway I've strayed off the theme a bit.

So I was thinking.
Following on from using food and garden waste in my compost and around my plants (fruit & veg), what about my plastic?

Well all this goes into landfill, there probably can be something done about it, even old stingy careful me has plastic in their waste, but the odds of my household plastic waste going into landfill are pretty nailed on I'd guess.

So I started a small experiment.
I took a large cardboard box, put in all the old paperwork as per, threw in teabag outers (over 400 a month from my composting experiment), all the crisp packets, outer wrappers, inserts, milk tubs and lids and various old clothing that's full of holes and not even good for scraps, etc. You get the picture.

I saved up three weeks worth, I have to say, there was a lot!
Even as careful and buying fresh as we do, even old meat went into a tub at the bottom of the fridge, the amount of rubbish was huge!
So, alongside the logs, into the burner it all went over three days, even the old out of date meat and waste fat.
The result?
About a fifth of a black bin liner of ash.
Straight on to the compost heap!
Amount of waste going into the general waste wheelie bin?
Almost nothing!
Our general waste bin wasn't even half full after two weeks.

Reduced the landfill - reduced our contribution to gas leaving the landfill - reduced our waste further (improving our compost heap in the process) - heated the home without using gas (saved on bills).
Happy days!

One pack of tea bags waste

by Value hunter  

Using just one single 240 bag of teabags, I recycled them in my compost heap.
Over two weeks, I've used the teabags to make brews, left them on a tray to dry out a bit (usually a couple of days), then ripped them open and tipped the internal contents into the empty packet (re-sealed).

Then I've put the empty teabag "rappers" into a paper towel and burnt them along with wood on the log burner.

The sheer weight of the used tea is staggering, all spread on the compost.
Why burn the teabag outer wrappers?
This is because most teabag wrappings/outside, contain plastic.
If you put used teabags on your compost heap, they go mouldy and take ages to break down.
If you burn them (along with wood) then the ash can be put on the compost heap also.

Loose tea (so to speak) breaks down much quicker, the ash also helps and the empty packet that you can reseal can be used as a mini compost collector in the kitchen, time and time again.

Total waste = nil, nothing, zilch, nowt.

Ash of bags and loose tea = great.

I wondered then, as I noticed the sheer weight of loose tea and we use two packs per month, this is 24 packs of teabags per year, that enriches my compost heap and doesn't go into landfill.
Better compost for my garden next year, better for the environment, heat from burning, which breaks down the plastics in the wrappers.

Now imagine how many households use teabags every week, month and year?
That's some saving of landfill on one product line!

Two essentials for your garden...

by Value hunter  

Starting a new garden or taking one over, throws up many things to consider.

Do you grow veg or flowers or both?
Put trees in? Have a lawn?
Raised beds? Fencing?
The list is endless.

Two questions, for me, stand out by a country mile.
1, How will I feed it?
2, How will I get rid of the rubbish?

How will I feed my garden?

Luckily, mother nature has many solutions.
Comfrey (knitbone), nettles, etc. can provide ample ingredients for the soil and feeding your plants.
They are numerous and free, simple root pieces for comfrey, and nettles are abundant.
Pull off some leaves, leave on top of your beds where you want feeding, they will rot down and feed your soil.

How will I get rid of the rubbish?

Once again, frugal ways to get rid of garden rubbish and waste comes in. The good old compost heap!
Grass cuttings: A compost heap can be started anywhere, on grass, soil, even cardboard.
My favourite way of disposing of grass cuttings is to dig a small hole in your garden, mine is in between a young plum tree and a weedy rhubarb plant, fill in with grass cuttings and leave it. The following year, the rhubarb that was struggling is now growing like a good 'un!

Using the compost heap, green on top of brown remember to mix it up, is working wonders.

Household food waste: Uncooked fruit and veg, weeds, grass cuttings, cut tree wood, etc. are all very good for the compost, but add in household waste and the heap really takes off.
Eggshells, used tea (ripped open from used teabags), potato peelings, carrot scrapings, even old out of date fridge veg, cut into small pieces, all work.
Then we have plain brown paper bags (given out with fresh veg from a proper greengrocer), cardboard (corrugated), newspaper (ripped up), ash from the log burner, packing paper, etc.

Pile it all on, cover over, let it go.

Many areas have the "Brown" bins, but councils are now charging for them to be emptied (£35 a year here), why give your perfectly good waste away, when it can be turned into food for your garden with very little effort?

Not only have I now got a place to put garden waste, but also removing lots of household waste and feeding my garden for free into the bargain, it's a win/win!

Happy gardening...

Strawberries in short supply?

by Value hunter  

Word from my local farm shop / come garden centre, is that strawberries are in very short supply this year.

"We've tried everywhere for strawberries, no suppliers have them!"

They normally have a half of a poly-tunnel full of them, up to five layers high. On my visit on Tuesday, they were just selling their last three.
So what can you do to improve your strawberry plants this year?

You've missed the boat this year, ask neighbours if they have smaller plants they don't want/need.

Existing beds:
Your plants should have been starting to come through in the past couple of weeks. Separate them and get them fed on compost.
Weed those beds out early.
You could even move their bed for this year to a different area of your garden, this may improve the yield.
I have been told a few times, that strawberry beds should have new plants mixed in every other year, as over three seasons growing, the plants grow weaker and smaller fruit may come off the crop.
This is why I let mine shoot off and push in the off shoots, so new plants come for free.

One tactic I won't be using this year, is to apply stray/hay around the base.
Under the guise of, "It helps protect the fruit," I tried it last year, all it did was provide plenty of hiding places for slugs!

Happy growing.

Comfrey cuttings to plants

by Value hunter  

Comfrey cuttings into plants must be one of the easiest ways to feed your garden.
If nature didn't make it, someone would have invented it.

Dig out root, break into 2 inch pieces, plant horizontally, cover with compost, water well and leave it alone.

Some say better to dig up in Autumn, but I've dug it up and planted at all times of the year, without issue.

Leaves can be added to water-butt, stirred and (a bit smelly) but break down nicely to provide watering feed (1 to 100 parts water)
Leaves and stems can be cut, left to dry out for a day where potatoes are being planted, covered with compost and feeds well.
Leaves and stems can be cut and laid as mulch around tomatoes/potato plants, providing good feed.
Flowers are a great attraction to bees and other pollinators.
Slugs I've found, are not a fan of comfrey.

Don't buy it!
It can grow in dry and wet conditions, have a look around ponds, etc.
(I've seen comfrey cuttings advertised for £5/£6 - it's readily available for free, naturally)

If watering veg is a problem, then it's a great way to feed.
Some cut leaves and shred them into a drainpipe with some broken stones, so rain water runs through the pipe and into water butt, I've always added leaves directly to water butt.

It's also great for keeping down wild grass as it provides ground cover (ideal for around a pond) and helps prevention of ponds that dry out, where frogs hang out.

The comfrey roots deep, drawing minerals from as deep as 5 foot down, bringing it to the surface in it's leaves, which can provide natural food for plants.

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