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Have you done your ‘spring clean’ yet? I expect this tradition came about after a winter of closed windows, smokey fires and muddy boots. In those days, carpets were not fitted and were taken out regularly to be hung over the line and the dust beaten out of them (along with curtains and sometimes furniture). With the advent of central heating and vacuum cleaners, perhaps the activity of the traditional spring clean has lost some of its original ‘oomph’ (a bit like buying a ready decorated tree at Christmas). At the first sunny Sunday in March, what we see now are troops of home owners battling their way through the nearest DIY superstore or garden centre to buy plants, compost and pots for their ‘insta-garden’. (Have The Sims taken over reality here?)


So what is the environmental and financial impact of all of this? Ok, well let’s start with the obvious – compost. Most compost and grow bags use peat, it’s cheap, looks good and grows stuff. What’s not good about it is that it takes years and years to replenish naturally – 1000 years for a 1 metre deep stretch, it soaks up CO2 and it forms the habitat for many wild flora and fauna.  Why not get peat-free compost, or even better, make your own. Unless you only have a window box, any sized garden can fit a compost bin in the corner somewhere. For composting tips, look at the Recycle Now website. For quicker composting results, buy some compost accelerator, or for a free option, use some wee (watered down). I’ve used guinea pig bedding, chicken droppings as well as kitchen waste cardboard, shredded paper, paper napkins in fact, anything made with something that was once of vegetable origin (not meat or fish). What I have 6 months later is as good as the stuff from the local DIY store that will break your back when you haul it in and out of your boot. Home ‘grown’ stuff is free, it’s good for the environment and it’s great for your garden.


Alongside the bags and bags of peat-based compost at the ‘local’ DIY superstore, the other thing that irks me is the selling of overpriced vegetable seedlings. The seedlings themselves seem to be the same price as buying the fully grown and harvested produce from the local farmers market. As well as the cost, they are often sold in polystyrene containers using peat based compost. It’s a lose:lose situation and an expensive way of feeding slugs and snails. I don’t know about you, but clearing the ground in winter, sowing the seeds in spring and taking care of them till they are big enough to take care of themselves is all part of getting in touch with your vegetable patch and with mother nature. Shoving in some mass-produced overpriced plantlets into the ground one frenzied weekend and expecting wonderful ‘best in show’ produce 6 months later just doesn’t quite cut it with me.


Lois Prior